Our lives are a house of Charades

Bored of jumping through hoops? SEB DAY gives a new perspective.

charades existentialism family games Life meta metaphor odd success

Charades – The bane of my life.

Year after year I find those who claim to enjoy it – the demon spawn of childhood competitiveness and those with the innate ability to remember useless trivia on demand. Sadly I am not one of them. I had the misfortune of playing Charades quite recently; my outlook on life has grown that much bleaker.

Even the toddlers are at it

Childhood competitiveness: This one’s working on it’s CompSci first already

For those that haven’t played Charades before, allow me to explain: like most games, the rules are simple, if arbitrary. One person physically acts out a word – chosen at random from a pile – and the others have to guess what it is. The more you guess correctly, the more points you get. Similarly, you get additional points for each person who correctly guesses your word. Each round – each word – is given one minute.

One after the other we flailed about to varying degrees of success. My first word was ‘traction’. Initially I’d thought of rubbing my hands together, but then people started shouting ‘cold’ or ‘scheme’. So then I started rubbing the carpet, and the shouting swayed toward ‘praying’ and ‘vacuum-cleaner’. All I received after that was general abuse.

The cruel side of humanity runs free

The cruelty of humanity laid bare

This went on for an hour and a half at which point the game ended. As predicted, my Charade-winning abilities weren’t on form that night; they were too busy being suffocated by social anxiety. The host read out the scores and, after an appreciable time, my name was called out followed by the number eight. Eight points. Even for me that was rather pathetic. What was I going to do with eight points?

When I got home that evening, I dragged myself over to the computer . Scrolling through a job site, I felt the first few flakes of icy disappointment settling on my heart. Consultant: eighteen points. Civil service: sixteen-point-two-three points. Architect: twenty-six points; experience of Jenga required. Investment banking: Twenty points; High score on Hungry, Hungry Hippos desirable. After a dispiriting hour I stopped. Who would have thought you could have told so much about a person from a game as arbitrary as Charades? Or that a person’s fate should be so inextricably linked with their ability to describe ‘hapless’, using only perplexed facial expressions and erratic hand gestures?

bunkergate

At least you don’t need points for the dole

Imagine: you’re sitting in your office when the next patient walks in. After a brief exchange of pleasantries they begin listing their symptoms, their previous ailments, their grandchildren’s names and the people on TV they no longer recognise. You nod to the beat of tedium. After a few hundred years they stop and they ask you what they have. You’re their doctor, and they’re depending on you – yes, you – to give them the answers to all of their problems. Almost involuntarily, you stand to perform your well-rehearsed dance. Your creaking joints thrust your limbs to and fro, and your thoughts are lost to the flurry of flailing motion. You end glamorously as always: a cartwheel followed by a triple pirouette and a single party popper. An old teacher’s favourite. As the smoke clears, the patient sits dumbfounded. The performance was lost on the patient, but they assume you know what you’re doing and accept the medication. They never visit the doctors again.

You’re sitting in your office when a student walks in. After a brief intensity of glaring, they begin listing the reasons they hate you and your work. You nod to the beat of tedium. After a few hours they stop and they ask you what you have. You’re an academic, and they’re depending on you – yes, you – to give them the answers to all of their problems. Almost involuntarily, you stand to perform your well-rehearsed dance. Your creaking joints thrust your limbs to and fro, and your thoughts are lost to the flurry of flailing motion. You end glamorously as always: a cartwheel followed by a triple pirouette and a single party popper. An old teacher’s favourite.

Imagine the scenes...

Something like this. But with less people and more party poppers

As the smoke clears, the student sits unimpressed. “What does that mean?” they ask impatiently. There’s a lump in your throat; your hands begin to sweat; you say nothing. After repeating the question multiple times they leave. They suspect. You’re going to be found out for the fraud that you are. Everyone’s going to find out about your wretched little secret: that you only became an academic through luck and regurgitation. Something must be done. They must be stopped.

In the early hours of the morning, as you heave the last few lumps of dirt over the recently dug ditch, you feel a wave of regret trickle down your spine.

“If only I had played a more practical game like Kerplunk”.