Yes. To travel in a foreign country is to travel abroad.
Every Christmas, the major Vancouver papers review the newly released board-games. The article has a traditional format: the assigned reporter gets several friends to sit through a marathon game-playing session, devises a cute rating system, and then writes a light-hearted review that gives picks and pans. The Vancouver Sun's 1990 version closely followed the pattern: the author, Greg Potter, spent a weekend playing 8 games with 7 friends, devised a cute rating system based on the Simpsons (the best games were rated HOMER, the worst LISA and MAGGIE), and then wrote a light-hearted review of his picks and pans. For example, the GST game (rating: LISA ) had instructions "almost as hard to understand as the GST itself"; whereas Monty's Maze (rating: HOMER) - a game where players gather ancient treasures - "melds Indiana Jones with Park Place and the daring of Snakes and Ladders with the gathering strategies of Monopoly." I'm pleased to relate that MooT - a game "involving Trivial Pursuit-type questions and calculated on a cribbage board" - also rated a HOMER.
Game makers, of course, love this kind of stuff: free advertising to kick off the Christmas shopping season. I love it, too, but, at the same time, I get tired of the standard, bland review that MooT inevitably gets ("challenging language game played on crib-board"), so I was excited when I learned that the Province had handed the assignment to columnist Lynn Cockburn, the paper's version of Andrea Dworkin. This will be interesting, I thought, no cutesy rating system's from her. And I was right. For example, Cockburn (a great feminist name) found the GST game "decidedly sexist, possibly racist"; whereas Monty's Maze showed "such contempt for the cultures of other countries [that it] deserves as little comment as possible." And then there was MooT: a game that "features Mensa-level questions, a crib-board method of scoring and a built-in capacity for rendering its participants speechless... [Standard stuff. Unfortunately, she continued] ... There is a category called SEXIST CARDS - and part of the fun of this game is finding all the SEXIST CARDS and tearing them up."
That wasn't free advertising - that was libel! I got scared. I'd spent years creating my board-game - my baby - and the past year carefully building a market for it, then, suddenly, out of the blue, a widely read columnist, plays it once and publicly brands it sexist. I had visions of angry feminists tossing MooT games onto bonfires, of outlets refusing to sell it - i.e. I had an entrepreneurial panic attack. Eventually, I calmed down enough to let indignation replace fear: thousands of people had played MooT, I fumed, yet, not one had ever said it was sexist - and, what's worse, Cockburn didn't even bother to give any examples of the SEXIST CARDS!
So, I phoned her, calmly told her who I was, and asked for some examples of SEXIST CARDS. This was several weeks after she had written the review, so she couldn't think of any offhand; but, eventually, after some prompting ("Was it the SPINSTER question? How about the CONCUBINE one?"), she remembered the one that had set off her misogyny alarm - it's the title of this column. What annoyed her was that I had deliberately alluded to a word that women found demeaning. I explained that it was a joke, and that I was quite aware that the word was politically incorrect, but had kept the question because it was both harmless and funny. Cockburn's response was that, joke or no joke, the question insulted women, and, for that reason alone, should be removed from the game.
After she hung up, I recalled a similar incident. When I first began flogging MooT, I got a phone call from a retired Ontario businessman who had recently moved to White Rock. He had heard me play MooT on CKNW and the investor in him had been excited by its money-making possibilities. So we got together and schemed for awhile.
Unfortunately, our business relationship turned out to be brief because one of the first demands he made was that I remove all offensive questions - in this case, offensive questions being those having to do with sex or religion ("Why risk annoying consumers?"). I balked and we parted company.
Cockburn reminded me of this fellow because she was making the same demand; only her demand was politically - rather than monetarily - inspired. Perhaps hers is a purer motive, but the result is the same.
And the columnist and the businessman weren't the only ones making that demand. For awhile, it seemed as if everybody who played MooT had a question they wanted removed because they found it either offensive or too difficult. Now, I like criticism, in fact testing questions on people was the best way to make sure that the questions worked. But I realized early in the project that if I started removing all the questions that annoyed people, I would end up with the board-game equivalent of Sunbeam bread.
This edition's MooT questions are some of the one's that over the years people have found offensive and asked me to remove from the game. Try to figure out both the answer to the question and the group that might feel offended.
1. When the talkshow host laughs
out loud at his own joke is he sniggering?
2. Is a disorderly mob of rabbis rabble?
3. Which feminist columnist constantly scolds you: the shrew or the virago?
4. When politicians raise their forelegs and hop on their hind legs, which are they doing: prancing or capering?
5. Which would a Mormon lesbian prefer: polyandry or polygyny?
1. No. Sniggering is half-suppressed laughter. (talk-show hosts)
2. Yes. Any disorderly mob is rabble. (Jewish people, the religious)
3. The shrew. Shrews scold, viragos are overbearing. (feminist columnists)
4. Prancing. To hop on the hind-legs is to prance, whereas to leap friskily is to caper. (horses)
5. Polygyny. Multiple male mates is polyandry, multiple female mates is polygyny. (heterosexual Mormons)