Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Staying Alive

I find the vintage board game "Stay Alive: The Survival Game" to be a bit of a letdown. With a name like that, I expected some kind of fun murder mystery with a deep story line and an interesting cast of suspicious characters; something along the lines classic "Clue" or even "13 Dead End Drive" (was I the only one who had this game growing up?). There should at least have been some sort of fictional murder element to a game predicated on eliminating your rivals and winning by being the last player standing. Unfortunately, as the commercial demonstrates, "Stay Alive" turned out to be just an abstract strategy game that involved careful marble placement and turned based elimination of said marbles. Fun in a "Connect Four" sort of way, but where was the compelling narrative? The theatrics? The element of escapism? At least "Battleship" had pieces that looked like actual naval ships.

As contextually sterile as the game may be, the old 70s commercial for the game implies a rich, yet disturbingly dark back story in its brief 30 seconds.
  • My initial, overarching question would be: what exactly are these kids doing here? It seems to me that the children are in a "Lord of the Flies"-like situation where they are stranded on a desert island with no adult guidance, free of the social structures and moralities of modern society. They also don't seem to be in any noticeable want of food or water, as they don't appear to be disappointed by the discovery of a washed up board game rather than sustenance. Boredom seems to be the greatest danger on the island. However, I am not willing to rule out the possibility that the kids are delirious with hunger or thirst and are just playing the newly found game for the hell of it, or they just may be idiot kids with stupid priorities.
  • As for the board game, I have to note that it is in extremely good condition for a cardboard box that had been indefinitely floating around the ocean. It's totally free of any water damage, loose sand, or accumulated seaweed. All the mechanisms seem to be in perfect working order and none of the marbles are missing. It probably still has its instructions unlike half the board games in my attic.
  • The conclusion of this commercial is downright haunting. After a tension filled match, or series of matches, between the four, the winning kid in the hat comes to the shocking realization that he has indeed won by remaining "the sole survivor", at which point he gives a blank, 1000 yard stare and the sound abruptly cuts out as the commercial transitions to a shot of the game box. Has there ever been a more ambiguous reaction given by a winning kid in a board game commercial? Given what I have seen, I can only conclude that the kids were using the newly found board game to make the grizzly determination as to who was to be selected to be sacrificed and cannibalized by the remaining players. Eventually the game comes down to the final two kids and the winning kid earns himself another week or so of desperately staving off hunger, but must also now grasp the disturbing realities of his gruesome acts and the realization that he will now be utterly alone, having truly become "the sole survivor".
The whole premise might come off as a tad dark for a game suited for ages 8 and up, but I think they should have applied some of those elements to color the game. For next week I am calling out the makers of "Crossfire" for failing to deliver on its promise of game play that's as exciting as a one on one death match on flying platforms over the flaming pits of a riotous dystopian fighting arena during a thunderstorm (sounds like an even more badass version of "The Hunger Games").

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