Child’s Play?

Can all human behavior be explained by a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos?

Island Boy got this classic game for Christmas.  Yes, it’s exactly the same as it when I was IB’s age.  Hard plastic bowl with four hippo heads on dramatically extending necks.

The concept is simple.  Marbles are introduced into the arena.  All hippos/players attempt to eat as many marbles as possible.  I love the fact that Milton Bradley Company makes no effort to disguise the pearl-colored marbles as hippo food.

Is this diet supposed to be slimming?

BTW, hippos are vegetarians.  They eat mainly grass and some water plants.  I guess the earlier version of the game in which the contestants vied for greenish grass balls did not market as well?  Personally, I think a more entertaining version of the game would consist of hippos attempting to eat rifle and camera-toting tourists.

Anyhow, as I was playing this game with my three kids, it struck me that the contest at my fingertips was in essence a microcosm of life.  Before societies developed, did not humans fight each other for all available food?  Dude with the mostest won.  The others…not so much.

Over time, it expanded to family feud, then to clan or tribe wars.  Today, the game continues between nations.  The U.S. has the most white marbles.  Haiti has none.  They had one once.  But it broke.

Despite the heavy lumber I am placing on this game, we all really had a great time playing it.  Hungry Hungry Hippos is a great leveler in that Island Boy had just as much fun as Papa and his teenage sibs.  4 or 44 — doesn’t really matter, Bro.  [Okay, I’m really 45.  But, that doesn’t work as well].

Can other children’s games serve metaphorically for life?

Chutes and Ladders — Yeah.  Kinda, sorta.  You start off at square one.  You’re doing your thing, playing by the rules.  And, all of a sudden, some schmuck next to you gets promoted well above his merit.  What about me, God?  Alright, I’ll continue to play by your stinkin’ rules.  Here I go.  I’m up to the fourth row or level or whatever.  Now, I can look down upon those peasants below me.  What?  Whaaaaaaaah!!!!! Why am I shooting down to square three.  What kind of crap deal is this?  Now I have to do this all over again.  Nice.

Looks like a bong, no?

KerPlunk — Steady, steady.  Look at me performing this really hard life task successfully.  Ballah! And the Courvoisier Shall Pour.  Wait a second…you did that on purpose.  You pulled that plastic stick thing out in such a manner that I can’t avoid spilling marbles.  No, I didn’t.  I was just taking care of my own self.  Yes, you did, you liar.  You set me up for failure, Homeo.  You’re insane.  I wasn’t even thinking about you when I made my totally excellent move.  Yes.  Yes.  In fact, yes you deliberately did.  You have always hated me.  You’ve been doing that since the summer before Bobby and I went to camp.  I swear I will ruin you one day.

Perfection — Do NOT push that plunger down yet.  What do you mean you pushed it?  I so wasn’t ready.  Can we start over?  No?  What kind of shitty test is this?  I have to perform under this kind of pressure?  It’s crazy-making.  Alright, alright.  Settle down.  Control your breathing.  Be a bendy reed.  The square goes in there…good.  The circle…piece of cake.  Wait a second, this one piece shaped like the flag of Switzerland doesn’t fit at all.  This sucks.  How much time do I have left?  Oh wait.  There it is on the other side of the board.  Maybe if I had studied more in geometry class?  Is that a rhombus?  No?  What the frig is a rhombus anyway?  BOOOOOM!!!!!!!

And why is she holding her face?

Trouble — When will I ever get out of this parking lot?  There’s absolutely no one coming down the street and I have to sit here waiting for a stupid six on that popper thing?  How ’bout a right on red for crooning out loud?  How come that law exists everywhere but in this game.  Hey, that guy over there got out on to the road before me.  I’ve been sitting here much longer.  Finally! A six.  Here I go.  Feelin’ good.  Hey girls, like my ride?  Say, what’s that maniac in my rear-view doing anyway?  He must be going 90.  Wham! Ooooh.  My neck.  Take me back to that parking lot.  You bastard!  I’ll sue!  Wait.  Where’d he go?  He drove off?  @#%$#^$%^@%@#^!!!!

Candy Land — Why do I do this to myself every holiday?  I swore that I wouldn’t this year.  All that careful dieting.  Oh goody! Six more bright-colored sweets?  Don’t mind if I do.  Princess Frostine is such a bitch, isn’t she?  What? You’re going to Gumdrop Mountain?  I’m so happy for you.  Really.  (Not really.  I actually despise you.) Boy those candy canes are going right to her hips, aren’t they? Is that a pimple I see in the middle of my forehead?  I quit.

Battleship — The Navy is nothing like I pictured.  Four years of ROTC in college, and then months of Surface Warfare School for this?  I’m stuck on this plastic boat.  And now we’re in the middle of battle with whom?  The Blue Navy? This is exciting…NOT.  Wait, it’s my turn to fire.  I’m locking my coordinates.  Execute! Hmm?  Miss, eh?  My intel is all f-ed up.  Can get some recon please?  I really have no idea what I’m shooting at.  You’re telling me that with all the money the Navy gets, this is the best they can do?  BOOOOM.  We’ve been hit.  Fire Stations.  Fire Stations. No advanced warning on that?  Don’t we have radar, or something?  We can only take like two more hits, then we’re toast.   You know what would really help?  How about moving this boat instead of standing still.  Talk about a sitting duck.

Oddly enough, the only childhood game that’s nothing like life is The Game of Life.  A new car right away?  Not.  How much cash do I get to start?  Don’t I have to work at all?  Don’t you love how we all stay stick thin?  Going to college is only like five extra spaces and I don’t have to pay anything?  I’m so there.  Yeah, gimme some of them ‘Share the Wealth’ cards.  Guess capitalism don’t exist here at all.  Let me get this straight: all I have to do is get married and knock up Sally Stick Pin and I get cash and swag?  I like this version of life.  It’s so much better than my real existence.

— The Major

The triumph of socialism


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by annesailer on January 5, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    I love Life. In the new version, my favorite house is the little log cabin, with solar panels on the roof, built alongside Lake Ketcheefishee. My 10-year-old son and I fantasize about moving there someday (until he’s out of the Oedipal phase, at which point the only way he’ll live with me at Lake Ketcheefishee is when we get all sentimental and play this lovely, old board game).


  2. Posted by lisa on January 6, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks for the memories of playing those games with you!


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