My mom had a number of skills. One was that she was a book hound. Over the years she found a vast number of truly interesting books on a wide variety of subjects. She often went to the Strand bookstore in New York and gathered all kinds of interesting books such as Triviata, Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary, and The Charles Addams Mother Goose.
One book in particular that served me and my high school friends well was a book of Parlor Games (I can’t find a copy online). It was a compendium of very simple and entertaining games that you could play with very few extra accouterments. The games included things like “Pass the Orange”, “Honey I Love You”, “Spoons”, and so on.
When I was at Adobe, I remember being at a birthday party (I think it was Joe Holt’s) that was held at Adobe. We did the whole party thing and when things were kind of quiet, I pulled out a couple of these games to play. After a few rounds of other games, I suggested a game from the book called Decadence. This is an anti-game and it’s somewhat vindictive. It feels like a typical party game except that one person is a victim.
The rules are simple. You pick a person who is “it”. You tell them that everyone else is going to make up a story and they’re going to guess the story by asking us yes/no questions. You send them out of the room. Then you tell everyone else the real rules:
- If “it” asks a question that ends in a consonant, the answer is ‘no’
- If “it” asks a question that ends in a vowel, the answer is ‘yes’
- If “it” asks a question that ends in ‘y’, the answer is maybe
Simple. Then you tell the rest of the people that our responses will need some acting and we shouldn’t answer right away and confer on the questions so it doesn’t look so automatic. Then the group waits a few minutes before calling “it” back in so it feels like the group actually made up a story.
On this particular evening, the victim was Eric Zocher (you might know Eric from such games as Dark Castle) who was a manager at Adobe. He ran through some initial questions and things went screwy.
“Are the characters solid?”
“Are they liquid?”
“Are they gaseous?”
Eric now looks totally puzzled. You could smell the heat coming off his brain as he’s thinking it through.
“Are they made of plasma?”
Eric looked relieved.
“Would they fit in this room?”
“Would they fit in this building?”
“Would they fit…” Eric is struggling here.
“Would they fit in the Cow Palace?”
We look at each other and confer.
We went on for another 10 minutes or so and as it happens in the game, the answers start to become contradictory. Eric was trying very hard to try to sort out the contradictions and eventually figured out that we had just trolled him big time.
Unfortunately, Decadence (like the Daffy Duck trick) is something that can only be played once with any one group of people, but man was it worth it.