While staying at a beach house this past weekend, me and ten of my friends partook in such a heated game of Scattergories that men screamed, women cried, and the very fabric of our friendships was left more frayed than my girlfriend's jeans in 1995. Why? Because Scattergories is evil.
1. There's no rules. Did you know this? Presumably because everyone thinks they know how to play Scattergories, no one ever looks up how to play Scattergories. Which is a good thing, because if they did it wouldn't be much help. The official rules amount to something like 1. Roll the die. 2. Write down answers. 3. Count them up. The only concrete clarifications are:
- Zero points are given for duplicate answers.
- A player cannot use the same word for two different categories in a single round.
- 'A', 'An' & 'The' cannot be used as the start of an answer.
- If the answer is a persons name, then the first or last name can be used.
In other words, go fuck yourself. It's like when you were a kid and you played cops and robbers. The only rules to cops and robbers is that there are some cops and some robbers. Then halfway through the game, you (the robber) are riding away on your make-believe horse, and the policeman catches up to you on his real bicycle and you're like, "A bicycle could never catch a horse!" and your friend is like, "Oh yeah, well then how come I caught you?" and you're like, "Because you're on an actual bike!" and then your friend rides off down the street and the game is over.
All of which means . . .
2. You have to make up the rules. Fact: Rules aren't meant to be created by the masses. That's how Lord of the Flies happened. Even in a representative democracy, laws are drafted by professionals so that we're not all voting on Proposition 1378: Happy endings shall be a mandatory option on all massages costing over $100usd.
Our group tried to tackle the task civilly by going around the table and giving everyone the chance to explain how they play, but it soon became clear that all we were doing was providing a platform for everyone to disagree with how other people play. It was like a town hall meeting on health care reform, except instead of old people screaming about things they don't understand it was young people screaming about things that aren't really worth understanding. Some points up for discussion include:
- Do proper nouns count as duplicates, e.g. Alexander Hamilton and Alexander the Great. Clearly they are two different people (different answers, as it were) but do they cancel each other out since they are the same word?
- Modifiers: creative, or a cheater's bread and butter? Should a person get two points for "excellent eggs"? How about "eggs over easy"? Where does one draw the line between adjective and modifier in a compound noun?
- What level of ridiculousness will be tolerated? For a category like "Things you throw away," almost any answer can be acceptable. Babies, in fact, have been thrown away – but it is something you would throw away? And if your baby was burping, would you get two points?
3. The loudest timer ever. It's like having someone over your shoulder screaming, "GO, GO, DO IT, SO IT, THINK! ALLITERATION, BITCH!"
4. It's political. Without a set of hard and fast rules, voting becomes a popular medium through which people assume a fair and logical conclusion can be made, except, of course, in the cases in which people do not vote for what you think is fair and logical. Vote enough times and you're bound to form alliances with like-minded players. One time a team that had steadfastly voted down outside-the-box answers, suddenly shifted gears and voted for "Optimum online" as a viable answer under the category "Tools." The sudden shift was so shocking that one team labeled it Scattergate.
5. It's subjective. So while one team gets credit for "Optimum online" as a "Tool," my team does not get credit for "lyrics" being an "Instrument" despite the fact that the dictionary defines an instrument as "a means whereby something is achieved, performed, or furthered," and if I asked you to name one song on the Billboard Top 10 right now that achieved success without utilizing lyrics YOU WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO. And I will prove my point with my fierce pointing.
But it's cool, I'm over it now.
6. Cheating is easy. Unless you audit everyone's answer sheet, it's impossible to tell if they are changing answers at the last minute, or simply saying an answer other than what they have written. This suspicion quickly breeds contempt. So much so that by the end of the game when "F" was rolled and the category was "Objects in the room," three of the answers were "frauds," "fucking fuckers" (two points!), and "fucktards."
7. You can't drink for two minutes thirty seconds at a time. Ironically, during the most stressful part of the game (where you can't remember what the fuck the name of that goddamn river I even though you've driven past it like fifteen times and you know for a fact that it starts with a "P") you can't sip your cocktail. I tried once and immediately sprayed bourbon all over the table to ensure my friend got down American Apparel before time ran out. (Perhaps Brooke was on to something . . .)
8. Did I mention you have to make up the rules? It got to the point where an argument between me and Brooke about an answer was decided by a headstand contest.
Luckily I am very good at headstands and Brooke was sufficiently drunk.
9. It proves you are not as smart as you think you are. With the aforementioned incredibly loud timer mocking you as it ticks away the seconds of your pathetic, unfulfilled life, it's really hard to concentrate. So when the category "Politicians/World Leaders" comes up and, just before time runs out you suggest to your partner that he write down "Langley" because "They named CIA headquarters after him – he must be famous," and you lay out this very same argument to the other players while they scoff and snicker before informing you that Langley is, in fact, the name of the town, not the founder, it makes you feel a little stupid. It's cold comfort when your partner says, "I thought you said Lang Li, like some ancient Chinese ruler. I was excited about getting two points," because you realize that this is your partner.