When you watch as much daytime TV as I do, and make a conscious decision to dodge soap operas, sports and talk shows, you end up with lots and lots of cartoons. When you end up with cartoons, you end up with interminable ads for kids' crap, so every 15 minutes you get assaulted by the embodiment of Shakespeare's "sound and fury, signifying nothing".
Such a racket greeted me in an ad for an obnoxious game called Gooey Louie. If you've dodged this gem, it's a typical plastic cartoon head with a huge honker on his face. The honker is so huge because long rubber boogers are stuffed into it, and the object of the game is to pick them out of the guy's nose. The fun part (besides the fact that this fella talks) is that if you pick the wrong bit of snot out of his nose, his brain pops out of the top of his head, with a sproingy sound effect playing. Delicious.
The ad has a stereotypical mom screaming "DON'T DOOOOO THAT! IT'S GROOOOSS!", which is a typical strategy of pitching to kids. "You parents will HATE IT, so you HAVE TO HAVE IT!" The thing is that if their parents came of age in the 1980s, they're probably getting as big a kick out of it as the kids are. The kids will demand a refund when they don't get the right effect. The big parental protest is probably closer to "I can't believe I paid $20 for this..."
ANYWAY, I started thinking (a dangerous thing for me to do) about what message this game was planting on kids. The really anal types will think it'll teach kids how to pick their noses, but that's downright silly, since they do that anyway. I say it's a philosophy tool, and I tend to say that about a lot of otherwise useless games for little kids.
Think about the typical game along the lines of Gooey Louie. You load up the game, do exactly what it says in the instructions, and a totally random event takes you right out anyway. See, it's a preparation for the disappointments of adulthood, and if that doesn't describe your life at some point, you're obliged to tell the rest of us how you do it.
All this made me think of that other game that helps teach the hard life lessons, Monopoly. I'm not talking about strategy, economics, and land development. I'm talking about the point in each game where it becomes really, really fun for one person and an excruciating torment for everybody else. They kick the chair legs, dread moving that little tin dog another space, and pray for the end to come soon. If they get really sour, they say "You know what? This game is OVER!" and flip the board over in a fit of spite. (REVOLUTION! UP WITH THE PROLETARIAT! DOWN WITH THE BOURGEOISIE!) Well, maybe there is an economics lesson, but not the one the Parker Brothers were thinking of.
(I realize I missed the part about how it takes an excruciatingly long time to play, but you probably don't need to be reminded of that. Even though you just were.)
(2011 E again: While I was searching for the original commercial on Youtube--and no, still haven't found it--imagine my unmitigated joy when I found out the Dutch version of this baffling game bore the significantly more vivid name of Snotty Snotter. Still a bit young for my current age range, but it warms the heart, dammit...)
--Original Tiny Money Land Post: December 3, 2003