A trip down memory (board game) lane

After exhausting all the fun a nearly empty basement, boxes full of toys and a train table can give a two-year-old, and realizing that what I was trying to tell myself was rain was actually snow, I pulled out one of my son’s unopened birthday presents. We like to dole the toys out a little at a time in order to keep things new. We rotate the old toys out (put them in a box in his closet) and pull out new ones once a month or so. He actually still has Christmas presents he hasn’t even looked at since he unwrapped them.

My son has a couple of games, but I figured he didn’t quite have the dexterity needed to construct a Cootie Bug or to keep from Breaking the Ice, so I grabbed Candyland off the shelf. Now, I had no real illusions my son would be able to play it. The box clearly says 3+ and even though my kid is really smart for his age, I knew he wouldn’t get the rules of the game. I figured he’d have fun turning over the cards and matching them to colors. And I was basically right. He actually seemed to like playing with the little plastic gingerbread men tokens more than anything else. He called them “people” and tried to share his peas with them. It was cute. Although I think we are missing the little red man.

Board games have always been a favorite pastime of mine. Every time we went to a yard sale, I’d beg my mom for some “new” boardgame. I had a closet full: Hi-Ho Cheerio, Chutes and Ladders, Memory (my favorite until about age 8). When I got a little older, I moved on to games like Payday, Careers (a cheap version of Life), Sale of the Century (complete with very 70’s looking cards featuring ridiculously low priced kitchenette sets) and Sorry. I had a closet full of them.

So I was really excited about getting Candyland out. I know this is going to sound dorky, but I want to be one of those families that has a weekly game night. My parents were always willing to play games with me (and even more willing for me to invite friends over to play them), and I think that’s why I loved them so much. When we were playing games, nothing else was wrong. We laughed, we talked and we got to eat snacks. It was wonderful!

Even all these years later, some of my work friends and I are involved in a grown-up game night. My love for boardgames has not changed. Candyland, however, has.

Now, I’m not one of those purists who gets all out of sorts when things change. I understand the need to update and modernize. But I have to say, I don’t like the look of this new Candyland. I grew up with the old school version. There were neopolitan ice cream sandwiches floating in the sea. The peanut brittle house was a little forboding and mysterious. And the swamps were a bad place, made of molasses…their only purpose was to get you stuck and make you lose a turn. There was no freakish chocolate pal named “Gloppy” waiting to smile and speed you on your way. There was also no King Kandy. It was obviously a bit of a Hansel and Gretel sort of game and the kids lived in the candy house. And I liked that. It gave me hope that one day, I too, could live in a candy coated house.

My research tells me that this classic version was first created in 1949 and managed to stay unchanged at least until the early 80’s when I played it. Now, that’s at least 30 years of game play for this board.

When my little sister was ready to play the game, we’d gotten rid of my old board. Someone bought her a new one for her 5th birthday. So somewhere in the mid to to late 80’s, this version was born. I was pretty ok with it. The kids looked a bit more modern (although, it is a game based in a fantasy candy land…how modern does it have to be?) and they added a Lollipop Princess (who was cute and plump, the way any lollipop royalty would be). They replaced the candy hearts, which I’d always hated, with sugar plums. Since I’d never had one of those, I figured they had to be better. They also made the gum drops look appetizing, something I knew was not true, but I liked to believe that in this magical land, they might actually be. I liked the Queen surrounded by cupcakes. And although Gloppy is introduced in this incarnation, you still get stuck in his swamps. The peanut brittle house looked a bit less scary, especially with the kindly old peanut lady in front. And hey, I like peanuts, so I was ok with it.

When I opened my son’s box today, this was the game I was expecting to get. This, however, is what I got. My board has a copyright date of 2004, so it looks like the second incarnation only lasted for about 20 years. Now, I’m all for making kids’ toys cute, but this goes too far. I’ve already complained about Gloppy, so I won’t go there again, but I will point out now there are cute little licorice sticks to get stuck in. Queen Frostine, has no food association at all. She’s just some super skinny figure skater. The game is called Candyland. Where the hell is her candy? Princess Lollipop has been replaced by an anorexic fairy (with a HUGE head). The candy hearts and sugar plums are gone and have at least been replaced by gingerbread, something I know I like, but the tree is kind of creepy–in an early cartoon sort of way. King Kandy, still rather lame, has lost the only cool thing about him–his ice cream palace. Now, there’s a building in the background, but they only thing even kind of candy themed are some gum balls. A very creepy gingerbread man leans down to lick the Lollipop Woods sign. Much like Lolly, the kids getting ready to embark on the adventure have abnormally large heads. And for good measure, they are now very PC–the blond boy and girl have been joined by their ethnic friends. The playing pieces are freaky. They gone from being molded after real life gingerbread cookies, to being very cartoony–and I’m not going to lie here, a little phallic looking.

I realize it’s a kid’s game and I should let it go. As long as my kid likes it, I should let him play it and be happy. But it’s just another example of a remake ruining the original. I think I’m gonna shell out $15 and buy the classic version available in the collector’s tin. With my luck, that’ll still be the 80’s version. At the rate they are modernizing the game, I’m guessing any future children will be playing a brand new version. Maybe this time with robots. There might not even be any candy in the game!

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Filed under entertainment, food, motherhood, my childhood, nostalgia, pet peeves, problems with society, products, ramblings, what makes me me

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