CHRIS FOULDS: Games of our wireless youth

Board games have plenty of redeeming factors, despite the lack of electronics

In the end, Mr. Body was bludgeoned to death in the salon with a candlestick wielded by Mrs. White, the cold-blooded killer who looks no more dangerous than a kindly librarian.

The savage act was deduced by my 12-year-old son, who joined me and his big sister in that night’s detective hall of fame. Three rounds of the board game Clue and three different Sherlock Holmes solving the mystery.

In this age of heads tilted and eyes fixated and thumbs tap-tap-tapping on smartphones and iPods, unplugging from the video addiction and tossing the dice on a good old-fashioned board game offers a refreshing reprieve.

But, as video-game violence and associated mayhem on the Internet gets much press, I looked at the board game on the table and the stacks of board games in the closet — and realized we have always been tied to real-life scenarios, even when trying to escape the same in games, be they board or video.

Take Clue, for example.

It’s a fantastic game that forces players to draw on their powers of deduction, but the central theme is murder — in various violent ways.

Hangings, shootings and blunt-force trauma take the life of hapless Mr. Body again and again and again.

The carnage litters various elegant rooms in a grand mansion frequented by an assortment of wealthy and high-ranking people. There’s a professor and a colonel among the killers.

Clue is not alone in board games that replicate the uglier side of real life.

Risk mimics that which we all profess to wish would be eradicated from the face of the earth — war. The goal is to have your troops kill all the other troops in battle and conquer the territories of your opponent, invading and, presumably, enslaving the populace.

Monopoly is the most popular board game of all time and the goal is to become filthy rich while bankrupting all others.

In Monopoly, as in real life, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class don’t have a chance.

Sorry is a simple game in which you race others to the finish line while doing everything you can to thwart their success, each time saying you are sorry despite not meaning it — not unlike the recent provincial election campaign.

Even the venerable Game of Life, which was unveiled in 1860, the very year the U.S. Civil War began, has managed to stay relevant with society’s ever-changing values.

The game I remember from my childhood had players choosing to go to college or get a job, the latter being a decision that would likely land a player in the “poor farm;” the former being a choice that would likely see the player retire in “Millionaire Acres.”

In the 1990s, the game was updated with such virtues as recycling and helping the homeless added to the play.

The latest version of The Game of Life, which we purchased a few years ago, had me baffled as I studied the board.

On a spot just over the second bridge was a commendation for helping African orphans — something definitely foreign to The Game of Life of my youth.

Of course, the next updated version I buy will likely have us landing on spaces that gift us 20 per cent pay hikes as city administrators, or spaces giving us 100 per cent medical and dental coverage, courtesy of taxpayers in The Game of Life.

Hey, it happens in real life, so why not in The Game of Life?

Video games and 3D movies do not have exclusive domain over virtual reality.

It’s right there, in our closets, on boards carrying memories of your youth.

Do yourself a favour — drop the Wii remotes and dust off Battleship.

It will feel good.

Christopher Foulds is editor of Kamloops This Week.