My father is colloquially known as “The Game Man.” He has garnered such a reputation as a collector of games that now he no longer ever needs to collect them himself. New games just fall into his lap from benevolent donors, whether they found them and wanted to buy them more than keep them, just had them laying around, or for whatever reason. These donors are right to share these games with my father because he plays them.
This weekend, my family played CraZmates and Quelf. The former is apparently designed for helping children learn about what is and is not appropriate in a dating partner, the latter may be a torture device of some sort.
CraZmates is a game designed to help young people learn how to manage relationships. The idea is that from the trait cards and the situation cards, one can stimulate a conversation in a mixed-gender group and give the players a safe space to explore what to expect in a dating partner.
Granted, we’re not remotely the target audience, but here’s how it played out in practice. Right from the start, my father eschewed the deck and selected a picture of my mother from our photo album to be his dating partner. The effect was lessened when he landed on a “makeover” square and pulled out a card named “Selena,” whose portrait he put over my mother’s face. Then he wondered aloud why she was dating this “Jerome” character instead of him.
My partner was someone’s name I don’t remember. I kept landing on “makeover” spaces and changing her appearance until I realized I, too, could take a photo out of the photo album. My father insisted that people’s names didn’t change when you give them what the game calls a “makeover,” so I said I would just use Alice as a nickname for whats-her-name.
That’s Alice on the left. According to the cards, we share religious values and excellent kisses, and we can talk about anything, even sports! With three positive traits, I just have to make it to the end of the board!
We eventually won after my mom and Jerome repeatedly landed on the “taking a time out” square.
Even though the gameplay is silly, I think the trait and situation cards serve their purpose. When I pick up a card saying my new girlfriend wants to get pregnant as soon as possible I imagine being a teenager playing this game and seeing the looks on my fellow players’ faces. These situation cards ask me to say how I will respond to these scenarios. That’s good preparation for an actual relationship.
For the most part, the binary cards (one side is for boys to read, the other side for girls) are just different wordings of the same thing. However, occasionally a guy will see his woman has a trait “shares my religious values” while the girl side of the card says “he isn’t religious, but he lives according to a set of values.” Mismatches like these seem bizarre to say the least.
It might be fun to play this with some of my little cousins (the older ones) sometime, although I’m not sure if they’d want to play it with me.
This game is about doing silly and embarrassing things over and over again. Based on the luck of the draw, players are asked to do anything from write poems, air drum whenever it’s not their turn, wear coat hangers around their necks, and say “Exqueeze me, I feel a question coming on” before making any inquiry. Out of respect for the parties involved, I have elected not to share the details of what happened during this game.
I recommend if you’re looking to feel acutely uncomfortable, or if you’re looking for an excuse to write a poem and share it with your friends, this might give you that opportunity. I might note for players who may have been forced into this game that you can voluntarily go to start to get rid of all rules attached to you (these are the worst offenders in terms of making this game unpleasant as they occur over and over again until they’re replaced). You can also just take the penalties for each card instead of doing the stuff on it. You won’t win, but if you didn’t want to play in the first place, that’s probably fine by you.