Since I’m Only Entertaining Myself Anyway…

…let’s talk about Academic Games!

Being a Doctor Who fan, a Star Wars freak, and a Lego fanatic in junior high, it probably comes as no surprise that I was also on the football team. Ha! I kid, I was a geek. I was, however, sort of involved in a competition of another sort.

Not chess club, the usual abode for geeks like me. Hell, I’m not even sure T. H. Harris had a chess club. No, I did the stuff that even the chess club members would have probably made fun of: I played Academic Games.

Academic Games are exactly what they sound like. Games in which you learned stuff. There were several, but the ones I remember (and I have no idea what made me think of them this afternoon and resulted in this post) playing were LinguiSCHTIK and Equations.

Equations was the one I didn’t play that much and don’t remember a lot about. I know there were dice with numbers and operation symbols (plus, minus, times, etc), and I think you were supposed to get to some value by manipulating the values and objects that come up on the dice.

LinguiSHTIK was my game of choice. It was a word game, again with a ton of dice, this time containing letters. You went round the table making rules for a word that had to be constructed with the letters. You could specify how long the word had to be, what part of speech it had to be, and could even declare one color of dice were wild.

I actually at some point owned copies of both of these games, which I remember weren’t cheap. No idea what happened to them.

I recall at one LinguiSHTIK match I was placed at a table with a bunch of opponents from another school who clearly didn’t give a damn about being there. Being the geek I was, I tried to actually play the game and compete, and they just screwed around, not caring that I was “winning”. As a result, I ended up with a fantastically high score at the end. The next session, because of my amazing scores from the previous one (I had neglected to mention how I got them) I was then seated against other high-scorers, who I think might’ve come about their ranking legitimately, and they proceeded to mop the floor with me. I don’t remember playing much after that.

Like I said, something made me think about these games today, and I wondered if they were still around and if high school kids still played them. Sure enough, a trusty Google search for “academic games” reveals some schools still competing, and that you can still buy sets of your own through the totally unappealing website of WFF ‘N PROOF.

Later, in high school, I joined the big leagues and got on the Quiz Bowl team! Yes sir! And not just that, but my friend Rob and I were total rebels, and when we won our first game (which was televised on public television and hosted by New Orleans’ number one media celebrity, Mel Leavitt) we did a high five, which shocked and outraged certain teachers at our school. Apparently, the high five showed we were poor winners with no sense of decorum! But we were pushing the envelope, expanding the boundaries of what people expected from Quiz Bowl, and The Man wasn’t going to stop us! When we won our second victory, we high-fived again!

Then, on our third appearance, something mighty peculiar happened. Our opponents seemed to get ridiculously easy questions, while we got stuck with quite difficult ones, and we lost. Now, I’m not going to cast aspersions on the integrity of Mr. Leavitt and his game. If others have suggested that a shady, back-room deal was made to keep our poor-winners selves from rudely displaying a third high-five, I can’t say that I have anything to support their theory. Nor do I have anything to contradict it, however.

All of this is apropos of nothing, though it shows that maybe my future never was all that uncertain. Here I am to this day, knowing a lot of pointless trivia, enjoying games, especially word games, not being particularly good at them, being a big honkin’ dork, and, of course, monkeywrenching the system and sticking it to The Man. I am a loner AND a rebel, I always was, and I always will be. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, I gotta geek.

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