Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog dedicated to my experiences as a gamer parent.
There was a time when there was much eye rolling in my house. We have agreed that we want our daughter to take part in our gaming hobby. Obviously. The problem is that we couldn’t agree on how that should start. We both look forward to the day when we can hand her the Arkham Horror box and she can set it up on her own. However, right now, while she’s great at rolling dice, getting off my lap to pick up the dice that fell on the floor, identifying the numbers on the dice and repeating the whole process, I think strategy isn’t in the cards quite yet.
So to get her started with her own games I got her Candy Land for her third birthday.
Before you join my husband in the eye rolling hear me out.
I get that Candy Land can bore most adults to tears. But the truth of the matter is there are days when I’m not sure that I’m mentally capable of identifying the correct color on the board. Truly, in small doses the game just doesn’t bother me. I can’t say that I enjoy playing in the same way I enjoy other games, however, by the time I’m over it, the game is over.
Candy Land teachers the basics of gaming – taking turns, rule following, gracious losing and how to take care of a game. Yes, there are games that might be more enjoyable to the gamer adult that will do all of those things. And when she bends the cards or loses the pieces to that awesome game I will be sad and maybe even a little angry. When she does the same thing to Candy Land I figure it’s a part of the game’s natural life cycle. I don’t cry because I don’t like the game that much.
And, I have to be completely honest. There’s also a little nostalgia involved in the procurement of this game. I had it when I was a child. I feel like it’s a staple of childhood in America. A rite of passage. I know. It’s all in my head. However, since I took the initiative to buy her birthday presents I get to re-live my childhood.
The best thing about Candy Land – it’s short. When played with the modified rules (you don’t go backwards – I know! They added this in 2002!), it can be over in ten minutes. When you have a three-year old with the focus of a gnat and a parent who is either ready to fall asleep or needs to start dinner, ten minutes is about the right amount of time. Yes, there are other games with this lovely feature, but many of them do not have the next feature.
For the non-gamer family the game is easily found (think the big box stores that don’t intimidate the non-gamer) and easily learned. This at least gets families sitting down together and trying out a game. Perhaps this will lead them to do more research to find more games. Maybe not. In any case, a game was played, family time was had, and that can’t be all bad.
My major complaints about the game are about updates that have been made over the years. When I had this game as a kid there was a small deck of cards one shuffled and drew from to tell you to which color space you were to move. I don’t have a picture of my old board, but this wikiHow page not only has pictures, but explains how to play the game. The version I got for my daughter has a spinner. Also, it has prosti-tots instead of cartoon graphics. And what was wrong with gingerbread men in primary colors as pawns? I also remember the board being a bit easier to see. There are a ton of graphics on Yog’s board. And while, I will agree that yes, it is prettier than my childhood board, finding the color blocks was easier on my board.
So, with much excitement the board plops in the middle of my living room floor, pieces are chosen (four pastel colored tokens with character stickers on them), and the spinning begins. This is where I first miss the cards. Children tend to put one hand and all of their body weight on the spinner in order to spin the thing. The result? It won’t spin. As much as I don’t mind teaching physics to my three-year old, she doesn’t care and just wants the stupid thing to spin. After much coaching she masters the technique. Now we deal with reason number two I miss the cards. The spinner lands between icons and we have to spin again. You never landed between icons in the card deck! I quickly learned how to “accidentally” bump the spinner so the game isn’t lengthened by many bad spins. Bonus! Mommy has learned a new skill.
Now I realize the cards can get bent and lost. However, one of my goals is to teach her to take care of her games. Also, remember the life cycle of Candy Land? That damned spinner has a much longer life cycle than the deck of cards.
Ten minutes later she has beaten my husband to the castle at the end of the trail and there is much celebrating and boasting.
The next time the game hits the floor it’s the same process, though spinner coaching takes less time. She wins again.
Next time – we have mastered the spinner! She wins. Again.
The process is now being delegated by a very serious three-year old. She pulls out the board, helps me choose my piece and explains what we need to do. In the end Yog wins. I am now beginning to wonder if she has figured out a way to cheat. Also, one of my goals is not being met by this game. How can she learn how to lose if she never loses?
Finally it happens. I win. And here’s shocking news – she doesn’t take it very well. Lucky for me she goes the route of denial. She informs me she won and won’t listen to reason. I inform her that the winner has to clean up the game alone and go to the kitchen to sulk over some chocolate.
Candy Land hasn’t seen much play in our house after the new shininess wore off. I have yet to determine if it is because she cannot win all the time, she has forgotten about it (which happens with a lot of her toys), or if she is like her father and already bored with the game. I will continue to try to ply her with it for another year or so. Or at least until she clings to a new game.
And worry not. Candy Land is not the only game she owns. It was simply the first she could call her own. We’ll explore more games and experiences, I promise!