• Idle Chit Chat

A Quick Annihilation of Quarantine Games

I find it simultaneously frustrating and uplifting that a global lockdown has led people to try some of the weirdest and most wonderful new things; indeed, pretty much anything you can imagine doing in quarantine is probably already on Tik-Tok. I personally have avoided this fad at all costs, and thus cannot offer any further insight from my sanctimonious pedestal, however, I am well versed in the art of quarantine activities and below I’ve shared some of my findings.

Spending time with the family is no longer a choice and has led to some bitter feuds, almost exclusively over group activities, yet we continue to partake? Indeed, logic was one of the first things to be abandoned in lockdown: you need only to consult those wearing buckets on their head as PPE in order to see this. At times it’s as though I’ve travelled back in time to my childhood, with the petulant, passive aggressive arguments that have become quotidian. I, of course, take the moral high ground and do not involve myself in these petty quarrels. I find online slander to be much more conducive.

The game most synonymous with family feuds is our starting point. A game I consider to be the lowest form of strategy, and a compulsory module for a Real Estate masters at Reading, Monopoly is a classic family favourite, until it is actually played, and then it is to my amazement that irascible families continue to participate, expecting an alternative outcome to the previous calamities. In my experience family Monopoly games line up somewhat like this: there is always a self-professed Jordan Belfort, who appoints themselves banker, and is a flagrant embezzler; a first-time buyer, who inevitably files for bankruptcy within the half-hour and then cries (usually the youngest.) Mummy, who is too busy mortgaging Vine Street, has no time to bother with such juvenile conduct. Finally, there is the wheeler-dealer of the family, permanently offering ‘tantalising’ deals, be it Old Kent Road and the Water Works in return for Leicester Square, or indeed the more elaborate concoctions, such as a free pass for two rounds if they land on your property, in return for a ‘wildly generous’ 15% of the rent from their two stations and a Get-Out-Of-Jail free card. In the end, this disaster terminates after three days, either with a bitter armistice, or the board is thrown out the window, a moment for which everyone is thankful.

One thing the pub industry will be grateful for after all this is over, is the abundance of newfound quiz enthusiasts who have come out of the woodwork during this dark time. Those who have previously shown zero interest in quizzes are suddenly the self-professed Anne Hegarty of their friends, reciting Henry VIII’s six wives (in order!) and boasting dubiously extensive knowledge of African capital cities. I hazard a guess that the Zoom developers didn’t expect their app to be reduced to a quiz portal, with their screen sharing facility perverted for rounds of “famous people as children.” Nor, I imagine, did they predict that it would become the world’s most frequented ‘virtual pub’, a phrase that sickens me to my core.

What transpires in my household over a game of Scrabble is a gross bastardisation of the formerly respected game. Once a game for logophiles, it is now played by those who like putting letters together; googling to see if it makes a word of some sort; and subsequently, claiming the triple-worded, double-lettered ‘jonquil’ for a cool 105 points. I’m sure there’s a word like logophile to describe them, but I couldn’t find it on Google. It is a great shame to see the defamation that technology has thrust on these old classics, hence why I am a big advocate of the rule: if you can’t define it, you can’t use it.

Finally, there is one more honourable mention, the pièce de résistance, the Rolls Royce of board games: the beautiful game of Chess. Believed to have derived from the Indian game Chaturanga in the 7th century, the number of possible unique chess games is greater than the number of electrons in the universe. My love for Chess stems from its myriad facets: it is a skirmish of patience, a war of attrition, but most importantly, it is a battle of minds. Not only is it about outsmarting your opponent, but it is also the ultimate game of deception. There is no room for tantrums in this meditative duel, and neither are there methods to circumvent certain rules or degrade the eloquence of the game. It is a game of pure Zen, and indeed, the most elegant and sophisticated out there. If I were to break lockdown, it would only ever be for an illegal chess rendez-vous, as they are truly the purest and most sagacious of intellectual stimuli.

- Jordan Dobney