Since electronic games weren’t in existence when I was growing up, my friends and I played a lot of board games. Some I loved (Life and Clue) and some I didn’t. (Monopoly took too long and whoever was chosen to be the banker usually had a wide streak of larceny in addition to sticky fingers. Plus I always seemed to get stuck with the thimble.)
One game I never really understood was Candyland. It seemed too simple–just pick a card and move your plastic gingerbread man to the square that was the same color? What was the trap? Where were the pitfalls? Why wasn’t there a dentist lurking somewhere on the board waiting to scold the players on the hazards of tooth decay and improper flossing? I always thought there had to be more to the game, some hidden, unshared rules that everyone else somehow knew through either osmosis or superior listening skills. Plus, being the kind of kid who far preferred potato chips to candy, even the lure of Gumdrop Mountain never did that much for me.
It turned out I was completely wrong about Candyland harboring any ulterior motives, as I recently discovered thanks to Wikipedia. Drawing cards and moving to the appropriate color was the essence of Candyland, nothing more and nothing less, no hidden agenda, no dental shaming, not a thing the least bit sinister. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the game that’s been around approximately forever:
Candy Land (also Candyland) is a simple racing board game currently published by Hasbro. The game requires no reading and minimal counting skills, making it suitable for young children. Due to the design of the game, there is no strategy involved: players are never required to make choices, just follow directions.
Wow, no reading, minimal counting skills and no strategy involved. No wonder it sells so many copies every year. What I want to know is why can’t life be like that with no strategy and lots of directions? Making choices about anything pretty much boils down to eating out in a restaurant with your best friend: no matter what you order, her lunch always looks better.
Wikipedia goes on to explain that the winner of Candyland is predetermined by the shuffle of the cards.
Well, holy candy canes, Batman! How true is that if you apply it to a description of life? The winners of this world all too often seem to have been born into the role while the losers are never going to be first to enter Candy Castle no matter how much they try. Oh, they’ll get there but they won’t win because they aren’t first.
I’m taking the lessons learned from Candyland to heart. No more strategies for me. No more lying awake at night rehashing past mistakes while attempting to figure out ways to avoid future ones like I was forced to in the game of Life. No more fretting about getting into Candy Castle first for this girl. From now on I’m relying on the shuffle of the cards as my destiny. True, you have to play the ones your dealt but I can live with that. As long as there’s always the possibility for a rematch and the opportunity to change my order when I eat out with my best friend.