Since my children were born nearly five years apart, I often find myself forgetting the different horrors associated with each particular age; I was shocked anew at the creepy, unnatural children they have on Barney (how do they conduct auditions for Barney anyway–do they wait outside the back door of Zoom and scoop up their rejects, or what?) and horrified all over again the first time my child came out of some relative’s all white living room sans diaper; but by far the item that tops all others in the “I can’t believe I forgot how horrible this was” department has been “Candyland”.
I know, it hardly seems possible: how could anyone who has spent the hours I have wandering hopelessly through the gumdrop forest forget what it’s like to be trapped in that interminable game, a game so tortuously unending that, were Quentin Tarantino to ever “guest direct” his own version, would come complete with a loaded gun for the “just kill me now” strategy. However, like I said, there is a five year gap between my children, and five years will do strange things to a person’s memory. It must: why else would I have given in to Clyde’s pleading and bought him his very own edition of “Candyland”?
It’s true, of course, that most children’s games are annoying in their own special ways: there is the Ducky game, a game that “quacks” nonstop at a volume only slightly lower than that of your average Metallica concert; the “Don’t Break the Ice” game, which takes ten minutes to set up and thirty seconds to play; and, of course, “Twister,” a game that, aside from it’s adult counterpart involving alcohol and nakedness, is just an excuse to beat up on your siblings. None of these games, however, can even come close to the sheer monotony of “Candyland”.
“Candyland” is a game that neither requires nor rewards the use of strategy and skill: no matter how smoothly you shepherd your little game piece down the colorful candy road or how expertly you flip over the next card on the deck, all it takes is one card and you are right back at the beginning with all the other “Candyland” dilettantes and poseurs. Not only that, but with “Candyland” you can’t even smile and pretend it’s all part of some grand strategy: “Candyland” is a game so dull it even eliminates bluffing. (Think about it: when was the last time you saw a big Vegas “Candyland” tournament on ESPN 43?) There are other kids’ games where this is true, of course, but at least with games like “Sorry” and “Life” you can arrange it so that if you aren’t going to be the one who wins, then certain other people will still definitely lose. With “Candyland” you don’t even have that to look forward to: it’s just a matter of drawing one card after another until someone finally makes it through to the end.
And yet, despite its complete randomness, it still manages to be one of those infuriating games where the only person who cares about winning at all (the child) is also the only person who never does. (And believe me: it doesn’t help to point out that statistically, over time, every player has the same chance of coming in first; few people are less interested in statistical probabilities than a distraught four-year-old who has just lost his third game in a row.)
Which brings me the biggest problem with candyland: it’s almost impossible to cheat at. No matter how carefully you “arrange” the cards ahead of time, those sticky toddler fingers make it almost a certainty that you will be the one sailing through Lollipop Lake while they’re still languishing in the Molasses Swamp.
It’s just lucky for me I guess that the suppression of the “Candyland” memory also coincided with the suppression of another game memory: that no game, ever, can be completely returned to its box. This means that as each card and token drifts away from “the herd” and is scooped up and maneuvered into the trash, I move one step closer to “Candyland” freedom.
Now if I could just do the same things with those creepy kids on Barney.