Apples to Apples

It was a surly weekend, dear readers. Maybe the surliness was about having so many revisions still to do. Or maybe we’ve been staying up too late. I don’t generally talk about my surly days, because I think they’re a little boring. But sometimes at the center of surliness lies truth, or something true anyway, or maybe something sort of amusing — who knows, maybe when I get through with this post the surliness will have evaporated.

Our little family is probably the worst family in the world at playing games together, a terribleness in inverse proportion to how badly the children in this family want to have family game nights. The troubles are many. First, I refuse to play Risk, a game that goes on forever, is not very interesting, and has a goal I think less than admirable (world domination). Second, THEY refuse to play Scrabble, a game that does not go on forever, because I always win, and has a goal everyone but me finds less than admirable, namely my domination of them, word-wise. Third, that leaves pretty much only games nobody likes to play, so we end up watching a movie together, which is fine, but not as fine as playing a game sometimes.

Anyway, a few weeks ago they were at their aunt’s house and played a game they loved, Apples to Apples. A lot of fun, mom, they promised. You’ll like it because it’s about words

For the few remaining people on the face of the earth who haven’t played this game, basically, you get seven cards with nouns on them: funeral, Mata Hari, firefighter, George Bush, haunted house, for example. And then a person designated as the “judge” (a rotating position), turns over another card, which is always an adjective. Funny, cool, outrageous, sadly misguided, stupid. You lay down the card that you think is the most like the card that’s been turned over.

Fair enough. So, you’d think that the person who wins would be the person who has the good luck to have the noun that best matches the adjective — I mean, really, we all know which card goes with “sadly misguided.”

Sometimes, the cards don’t match up perfectly, and there the judge has to make the best call he or she can make.

The trouble is that people don’t always WANT to pick the best card. Sometimes they pick the dumbest comparison. Or the exact opposite. Or the one they’re pretty sure their brother put down, because they want to do something nice for him since he’s just picked THEIR card, which wasn’t anywhere nearly as good as mine.

Okay, so I’m a grump for not being amused by what is, by all accounts, a fun party game. But, really, what good is a game when there’s a judge who gets to be subjective about something that’s not actually all that subjective? Maybe the trouble here is that I work for a bunch of judges and I’m just not able to let go of my strong feeling that judges are supposed to do one thing: get it right. Or  maybe the truth is that I just hated losing.  Especially when I had the George Bush card.

16 thoughts on “Apples to Apples

  1. Lily! I am so glad to know that you aren’t amused by Apples to Apples either. My sister told me what FUN GAME THIS IS and so I was forced to play it over the holidays last year. I did not find it fun at all and have refused to play ever since. I like Scrabble too. And, I remember many evenings at DGL’s house when everyone wanted to play a game and I sat on the sidelines, feeling like there was something kind of wrong with me for not enjoying this form of entertainment.

    That being said, I will vouch for the fact that you hate to lose. And, you hate it when you lose and the other person doesn’t really care all that much that she won. Kind of makes the losing even more painful, yes? But I think I mentioned this once before, so I won’t go into it again.

    One final note, the George Bush card? Ewwwwwwww.

  2. Oh, I despise Risk. My son loves it. I refuse to play, because a) my attention span is too short and b) he cheats.

    My daughter loves Apples to Apples Jr. I can stand that one for short periods of time.

    I love Scrabble but the only person who will play with me is my mom, and she always wins!

  3. Well what a relief to hear that you also have surly days. I don’t know Apples to Apples but it sounds like it would render me surly in minutes. Scrabble, however, is a different game. I love it, even though I usually lose.

  4. The judge definitely seems like the weak part of that game. I love Scrabble, of course, but also tolerate Pictionary, which I will play once a year with the extended family. No more than that!

    Our “family games night experiment” was a disaster: screaming, crying, accusations, slammed doors. Getting four extremely competitive people to try and “have fun” when three of them are going to lose is a BAD idea.

  5. Surly to bed, surly to rise…

    Since I cannot spell, my wife and I had to start playing “phonetic Scrabble,” in which the only rule is that you have to explain what you’ve laid down, and the goal is to make each other laugh. So “oimdun” is a word because it spells, “Oh, I’m done.” It took my wife a little while to get on board because she is a first born child who likes order and rules (and she likes to win). She’d do well in France where they have an academy to keep everyone in line. But she has a good sense of humor and likes to laugh, so phonetic scrabble has more or less replaced the regular kind at the Casa Daniel.

  6. I’ve never heard of this game, but I’m sure that it would be one of those games that wouldn’t be played to the end because someone would quit in anger. If the only adjectives were the ones you listed except for funny and cool, you’d always win with the George Bush card, right?

    Yes, we expect judges to do the right thing, but imagine how hard that must be sometimes. I once had a job where I was designing software for a court management system. As part of my research, I shadowed a judge one day and was able to sit at her bench during some hearings. There were many quotes taped up at the bench, (put there, she said, by her fellow county judge) reminding the reader to have patience, to not be surprised by man’s capacity for stupidity and ignorance, etc. I think I would have to have reminders like that too in order to be fair and sometimes not to burst out laughing at how ridiculous some people are. Expecting young, competitive boys to be judicious during a game and not play favorites with their brothers must be harder than not laughing at the meth-mouthed ex-con with open warrants who earnestly thought he’d hide out from the sheriff at the town’s only tavern (town pop 10,000) by getting involved in a drunken brawl — with the sheriff’s brother. No, I could never be a judge, I’m afraid.

  7. Cam, I was thinking about this very issue today when I was reading an article in the New York Times about the DC Circuit court basically saying that the people the Bush administration has been holding as enemy combatants are not, in fact, enemy combatants. The NYT had, after each judge’s name, a little thing where they said whom the judge had been appointed by, as though that made a huge difference in the outcome of the case. Okay, sometimes it might. But in the vast majority of appellate cases, there’s just an answer — one that has nothing at all to do with personality or politics. It’s one of the things I like the most about my job: we really are in the business of getting things right and for the most part if you apply yourself, you can do that.

    Ben, This sounds like so much fun. Especially now that I’ve recovered from my surly 48 hours.

    Rhiann, I did not mention the overturning of game boards, the crinkling of cards, the accusations of impropriety, the running upstairs shouting because I thought it would be bad to so out myself here on the blog. I’m glad to hear mine is not the only house where this kind of thing takes place.

    Charlotte, I see that the answer is to play scrabble with fellow bloggers. I once spent a considerable amount of time playing online scrabble with a friend at a place called the pixie pit. And although you can send insulting messages to your opponent, you can’t actually talk to them, which means that the whole thing goes pretty smoothly.

    Yogamum, My mom always kicks my butt at games too. And she is gleeful, which I think is very undignified for a parent, except I am the exact same way, which might be why no one will ever play with me. The thing is, though, that when I was a child gleeful winners only made me want to win more badly. It didn’t make me give up. The young these days: soft, soft, soft.

    Debby — It’s my own version of OCD behavior — I hate losing and I want the person I beat to care. Now is that really so bad? Oh. You’re right, it’s sort of uncool. Thank goodness you’re still my friend, even though I have this major weakness. I’ll play scrabble with you sometime. Maybe even phonetic scrabble.

  8. You’re simply expecting the wrong thing out of the game. Apples to Apples is less about words than it is about personality and reading people. You’re not playing to the adjective, you’re playing to the judge. Some judges are literalists, some are opposites and some play the stupidest card there is. I like Apples to Apples as an icebreaker with new people simply because it helps you to get a read on a person’s sense of humor and personality.

  9. Hello Elyse and welcome. You have put your finger right on my trouble this weekend — surliness takes away your sense of humor! Anyway, I can see how this would work beautifully among a group of nice people who want to flirt with each other and make friends. That, however, does not apply to my family, where the only ice that breaks in a game like this is that which has been flung at a sibling who hasn’t chosen the proper card. Judging in a family, as opposed to judging among a group of social peers, is all about revenge.

    But I think I do see how this game could be used and will save it for the right occasion.

  10. Clearly, I am out of touch — I’ve never heard of Apples to Apples! But I can see how the subjectivity of it would not be appealing to the Scrabble-personality. I love Scrabble, but I’m not very good at it — I tend to sacrifice points in order to play more interesting words…

  11. I used to be in that family. We played the same games with the same results and I felt about it all in exactly the same way. But that was several years ago. Now we’re all adults and the ones who were smaller then are adults now. They still come around and we meet up from time to time, all of us together again, and you know what, they bring out the games.

  12. I was already thinking half-way through, “This is about judges, isn’t it?”

    Scrabble was nearly the end of supermum and me. It was grim enough that she used to always win (superior technique) and used to sulk. But when I started winning, we had nigh-on knocked over scrabble boards, tantrums, arguments that would go on all night…

    Of course, we’ve both grown up a bit these days. And we hardly ever play Scrabble.

  13. I think I feel a Scrabble post being written in my brain while I deal with the mundanities of my job today — and it all revolves around one word. Actually one thing, and several words for it. Hmmm….it might even touch upon the heretofore untitled (to me) Phoenetic Scrabble mentioned by Ben. It’s been awhile since I’ve written a ‘Words on Wednesday’ post. Maybe later today…

  14. Oh, yes, we’ve had some rousing Apples to Apples games in my family. We also used to have rousing games with that old one called Scruples, where players get to vote as to whether or not they think you’re lying. For some reason, though, we still bring out games whenever we all get together.

  15. Emily, I want to be part of your family — you guys sound like you have so much fun together.

    Yay Cam! I’ll go check that out in a moment. And, goodness, I want to do a words on wednesday post too!

    U-Dad– I never, ever, ever would have guessed that about you! You seem so… sane. So…British. Still, there’s something about word games that brings out the unexpected.

    Dear John, I’m so glad to hear this. My thought is that if we just keep at it, we’ll eventually find some common ground — even if we have to wait until the little guys become adults, and the adults become mature adults.

    Marie, More proof that you are a poet!

  16. Well, with these judges you did not take advantage of your upper hand. As mom, you provide many services that can be bestowed or withheld. Bribery, in my experience, is the most effective way to sway these so-called judges.

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