I don’t even remember where I was anymore when I first came upon The Ungame. I remember taking a photo of it to share in a Thrift Store Gore post, but after reading the blurb on the back I realized I needed to buy it. We needed to play this, as a group, and find out what its deal was. And then, finally, I needed to write a post about it.
This game is a gem. It’s not often you come across something so terrifically dated that you gasp in wonder at its creation. The UNGAME is one such treasure. It’s hard to put to words exactly what is The UNGAME so I’ll let Stafanie sum it up for you. According to her, The UNGAME is about tricking your husband into couple’s therapy. I’m assuming it’s called “the UNGAME” (caps all theirs) because, unlike game-games, no one wants to play it.
Let me just post a blurb from the back of the box for you (it’s wordy, but entertaining):
“WHAT IS THE UNGAME? The UNGAME includes a game board, playing pieces, and two decks of cards containing question– all the ingredients of a typical board game. The trappings mask a series of exercises designed to improve inter-personal communication and to develop one’s awareness of others as well as himself.
The first deck of cards contained in the basic UNGAME is designed to evoke lighthearted, loosening-up fun for all ages. (The children’s favorite!)
The second deck helps participants gain insight and understanding during The UNGAME experience. This deck seems to be the favorite of teenagers and adults.
THE UNGAME IMPROVES SELF-IMAGE! Persons may respond to the UNGAME questions in ANY way they choose. All responses are acceptable, therefore, the player begins to feel accepted.
THE UNGAME IS NON-THREATENING AND NON-COMPETITIVE! A unique discipline established by the UNGAME rules creates an equalizing effect. There is NO competition, therefore, EVERYONE WINS!
THE UNGAME HAS LASTING VALUE! Imagine! For the cost of a steak dinner, you can have a life-changing experience!! Long after the dinner is forgotten you can still enjoy the lasting effects of The UNGAME. Unlike most games, the UNGAME deals with reality and actualization rather than pretending. People learn to become authentic, relating individuals. Stop and think! Money can’t by that kind of change–but it CAN buy a tool guaranteed to bring it about!”
This game clearly thinks very highly of itself and was created by sentient floating head Rhea Zakich.
Okay, so she’s not really a floating head, that’s just some really terrible pre-photoshop post production. Her bio lists her as an “author, ballad writer, folk singer, TV and radio guest personality, housewife and mother.” In other words, a 1970s badass who had no business creating a board game but fortunately she didn’t let that stop her.
The game mechanic works like this: Player rolls die and moves forward as many spaces. Player then does one of three things, as dictated by the spot s/he lands on: 1. player draws an UNGAME card and answers that question, 2. player makes a comment or asks a question, or 3. player lands on a square that asks him or her to go to a location such as the Complaint Campground, the Happy House, Impatient Island, or my personal favorite, the Favor Factory. There is no object in this game, and no way to win. Players loop and circle the board in some sort of talk-therapy purgatory until the time limit runs out. Suggested time limits are 45 minutes to an hour. Coincidentally, so is the typical length of a therapy session.
I brought this over to the Memorial Day barbecue at our friend’s house and convinced the group to play this game. We started out full of enthusiastic naïveté and a drinking game developed for each time a player would land on an UNGAME square. That was a really bad idea, it turns out, because players land on those squares most of the time. I shuffled the “lighthearted” deck in with the “probing questions” deck to make the game more interesting. Turns out the “deep questions” cards were actually rather sinister. WHAT DO POOR PEOPLE NEED? one card asked. TELL US ABOUT WHAT YOU DO WHEN YOU ARE ALONE AND NO ONE CAN SEE OR HEAR YOU. Yikes. Really? WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD CHANGE ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD? Shut up, game! You’re not my dad!
Landing on the Question or Comment squares soon became an issue. The first of such squares instructed the player to introduce themselves to the group. We didn’t understand this–if you are playing to answer deeply personal questions about yourself shouldn’t you do so with people you already know? And who plays any board game with a random stranger, anyway? With our friends we didn’t bother with introductions, but the comments became increasingly random. All responses are valid, so Dave commented on that time he saw a guy pretending to have sex with a llama in the Conan movie.
The UNGAME cards themselves lent themselves to all sorts of inappropriate answers. Psych! Not really! Everyone’s accepted, isn’t that right, UNGAME? Let’s hear more stories about camel sex. We’re all accepting, relating ballad-writers over here. When one of my friends had to answer the question WHAT KIND OF COMMERCIAL WOULD YOU LIKE TO MAKE? he said tampon, because he wants to do a sport. Another friend got to answer WHEN WERE YOU LAST PROUD? (answer: definitely not right now), while another wrestled with TELL ABOUT SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL. My friend Greg got DESCRIBE THE PERFECT MOTHER and he said Oprah because she was rich, wouldn’t be around all that often, and liked to give presents. Perhaps most memorably, Kyle received a question that asked him to sum up his like experience in one phrase or sentence, to which he replied, “Wow. I wish I was more prepared for this.”
The questions were so odd it felt like a computer was trying to come up with questions to gain more information on humanity. While no one can really win The UNGAME, we decided that Jose is our unofficial winner for deciding to travel backwards around the game until he arrived, once again at the starting point. Congratulations! I’m glad we shared today.
What is thrift store gore? I made it up with my brain! It’s a column I created after finding one too many disturbingly weird things while thrifting. I post photos of stuff that belongs at the tippy-top of Little Big’s Thrifting Pyramid and then I make fun of them. Click here for more gore, or here to learn about Thrift Store Gore Bingo, a fun game for the whole family and maybe that crazy lady who won’t stop talking to you in housewares.