Bored with Board Games

By Alexandria Harris

Harsh. Monopoly is a cruel mistress sometimes.

It seems like the general public has had enough with board games, even as people develop new strategies to succeed at them each year. I stumbled across a new book to help navigate the ins and outs of Scrabble. My family chose giant checkers (the one with the quilt board) and Monopoly as our favorite pastimes, so I haven’t played Scrabble as much as I’d like. The trailer for the book cracks me up and freaks me out a little.

Because I’m someone currently obsessed with words, it’s surprising that I didn’t beg my family to spend hours in Scrabble tournaments. To absolve myself of this travesty, I became addicted to Words With Friends. Although, it’s not the same because Words With Friends thinks it’s a genius application–it chooses what is a word and what isn’t, which is frustrating when something is clearly a word.

The only reason I remember the last time I played a game was because it was Labor Day and my little cousins wanted to play Uno, Mancala, and Jenga. In this age of technology, people really don’t sit down and play board games anymore. I can always be in the mood for Apples to Apples (waiting to get the infamous Helen Keller card) and even though I love Monopoly, we had to stop playing it at my house.

Technically it’s my fault.

I was always the banker, and banking is a hard job. Hard jobs should pay, so I paid myself when I was the banker. Cheating is a really harsh term for this, I just like to see it as being compensated for the amount of work you’re doing-$100 per turn to be exact.

Card games with a fast learning curve, like euchre, are not my friends. I really wanted to love euchre, I did. For games like War, Poker, or BS, I’m either a really bad liar or really good. For some reason it never stays either or, it switches by who I’m playing with or per game.

I didn’t have a good relationship with every board game I met. Battleship bored me, and don’t ever ask me to play Clue. Clue was always a little too cryptic and I always felt like I had to turn into Sherlock Holmes to get anything right.

When computers became more sophisticated and most board games transferred online, the need for being in the same room, or playing with actual people, was gone. Case in point, my sister can play Solitaire for hours. It’s interesting to think that you can be the most anti-social person in the world but still have a whole bunch of gaming buddies.

Games like Hang With Friends, Angry Birds Space, Muffin Knight and Fruit Ninja (what’s with the food obsession?), Game Dev Story, and Plants vs. Zombies have people spending ubiquitous amounts of time on their smartphones.

Board games require strategy, interaction, and tons of humor to stave off the competitive edge. Computer games or games for smartphones barely require people and when they do, it’s like your experience is impersonal because it’s mainly virtual.

Board games make me nostalgic because there’s nothing like sitting around a fire, eating popcorn and indoor s’mores, and everyone in an uproar because someone may or may not have cheated. It’s a defining experience, a connecting experience. We can always produce sleeker, faster, applications with more graphics and story lines, but (call me old-fashioned) there’s nothing like plain logic and a bit of fun to get a good day or night going.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Movie Monday: The Raven


By Alexandria Harris

Premise:  A killer is using Edgar Allan Poe’s tales to bring to life unspeakable horrors.

Best Quotes:
“Is imagination now a felony?”-Poe

“I know there is a darkness to Edgar, but they’re all up here (points to head) every woman he’s ever loved has died in his arms. I believe that God gave him a spark of genius and quenched it in misery…” -Henry Maddox, newspaper owner

“Feels as if I’ve gone from author to character in one of my tales, trapped in the devil as any of the hapless bastards that I’ve created.”-Poe

It was time for us to delve into the mind of a poet. However in “The Raven” Edgar Allen Poe is portrayed as a washed up poet, drunkard, and sometimes contributor of a newspaper where he takes it upon himself to criticize the likes of Longfellow, Emerson, and brilliant contemporaries. Apparently the well of Poe’s genius has run dry.

The audience witnesses the extremely bloody pendulum killing (don’t eat and watch this) and then we go from bloodcurdling to sappy with Emily, who Poe is in love with.

Poe is brought in as a specialist by an inspector because the killer is following Poe’s tales to the minute detail to terrorize the city of Baltimore.

Poe’s new fiancee Emily and he decide that they will make their engagement public at a masked ball her father (who hates Poe) is hosting. It is the social event of the year for Baltimore. However, that is the same night that the killer chooses to strike again using “The Masque of the Red Death.”

They shoot the interloper and catch him, but not before the real culprit has disappeared with Emily. Now that Poe is really personally invested, it is up to him to save Emily and find the killer before time runs out.

I’m sure every writer wants to see their stories come alive in real life, but these are particularly gruesome stories to bring to life. The stories are no longer safe with imagination, they are contaminated by reality, fixating our minds with horror.

Then to relive the monsters of your own making, to craft them into more gruesome detail–it’s no wonder Poe was crazy.

It was fascinating to see Poe driven to produce stellar art, being a master at his craft the way sometimes we all are driven to produce amazing pieces of work. Even though he was driven by life or death, sometimes writing and the art of producing literature is a life-consuming passion.

Poetry is food for the soul, a soul wrenching endeavor and so it makes sense that the movie was a little melodramatic. There were a few quotes and glimpses into the mind of a genius. However, I think the movie would have been better served as a biography of Poe’s life. He certainly had an interesting one.

The costumes were bright at times but mainly dull, mimicking the movie setting. Outlandish chases mixed with interesting points of deduction, it was basically watching a mystery movie a la Sherlock Holmes without the Watson and mixed in with a little Saw. Oh, and at two points I was getting Phantom of the Opera deja vu.

It was adventurous of the script writers to add a fictional twist to Poe’s life, but there needed to be more turmoil, more raw emotion. The movie was definitely suspenseful, but too predictable which is why I felt as though there was something missing. A twist at the end made me give it a higher mark, but for the most part you could guess along with Poe.

I would give this movie a 6/10. You don’t need to rush out and buy the DVD, but it’s good for a one-time watch and literary types will appreciate it for what it is–an interesting and mostly fictional take on Poe’s life.

It was intriguing because Poe is generally a mystery/detective gothic-style  fiction writer. The writers tried to turn the movie into that very thing, but taking the mold from his stories didn’t allow for enough imagination to really keep an audience riveted for the entire movie. The way his life, especially the end of his life, was incorporated and tweaked was thought provoking.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.