First, some background. Chutes and Ladders was created in India and looked a bit different than the fun and frolicking children we see in the Americanized version. It had snakes. Lots of snakes. And serious looking dudes on horses and flowing robes that probably came from the Temple of Doom. Their version was intended as a morality lesson involving a journey through life complete with virtues (ladders) and vices (snakes). See:
In England, it is called Snakes and Ladders. What child doesn’t want to play a game which, if they do something wrong, involves them being eaten by a snake and sliding through its long and winding body – slowly digested, one assumes – and deposited on a lower square? Fun! Or nightmare fuel?
I like the American version better where our unfriendly snakes were turned into a “chute”. I’m not sure how that is punishment exactly. With snakes, it’s pretty clear that you don’t want to land on a snakes mouth and face the punishment. But a chute or slide? I’m pretty sure the only reason a child climbs a ladder is to go down the slide. How is this punishment? Shouldn’t there be pointed bamboo shoots at the end of that chute? Otherwise, the kid just had a fun time and play continues. WTF? The ladder was the real punishment. That’s a lot of work especially if you are making that tough square 28 to 84 climb.
Not only have the snakes been removed but gone are the robed Indiana Jones adversaries and the heavy moral overtones. It’s all about fun loving kids with bowl cuts and look who rode his bike with no hands (square 64) tee hee. Oh, fiddlesticks, he hurt his arm.
It seems like a fun, quick game to spend a few minutes playing with your child. You would think that but you’d be wrong. Anyone that has played the game knows that it is designed to never have a winner. Or, at least, push you to the brink of insanity before showing mercy. Instead of Chutes and Ladders, it should be called Inclined Planes and Sisyphus. You spin that spinner – you push that boulder – and just as you reach near the top with the end in sight, the sad trombone plays and you’ve landed on square 84! Weeeee, dooowwwn you go – down the boulder rolls – to square 24. Your child gleefully laughs at you; you stare back with dead eyes. And head to the fridge for a beer. Sisyphus needs a stiff one.
Play continues until someone gets to 100 on the nose. But there are four chutes between 87 and 99 that make it almost impossible to get through. It's a steeplechase from hell. You continually slide back down. Your child’s gleeful laugh morphs into a slow, dark, haunting cackle as his face gets blurry...and was that horns on his head?
Spin again. Spin again. Slide again. And again. Tick tock. Tick tock. Push the boulder, push the boulder. It rolls back down. Tick tock, spin again.
There’s no end. Parliament. Big Ben. Your hair’s on end. You feel like murdering something. Why is your kid wearing the Scream mask and where is that persistent shrieking coming from???? Spin again, slide, spin again, you are almost to the top, slide, spin again. At what point do you reach for the bath salts? Is it okay to cannibalize your own child to end a game?
There’s a life lesson in the game somewhere. It could be about the benefit of virtue and the bane of vice. It could be about sticking to a task until the job is complete. It could be quality time with your child and his mocking laugh.
But its probably about the portal from Hell that was opened on your kitchen table through square 87 and the swirling evil spirits that are jabbing you in the back of the eyeballs with a thousand amputated unicorn horns and merrily laughing as the Game. Never. Ends.
Until you slam your fist on the table, yell “F*CK THIS!”, and flip the board over jettisoning the spinner to the floor and spraying the happy blond haired kid with his fun, jubilant arms in the arm into a skid across the table. The look of pure horror on your child's face is regrettable but, in time, he'll only remember the F word and very little of the violent outburst. Totally worth it.
That’s the only way to close the square 87 gateway to hell and reclaim your very sanity.
Play Chutes and Ladders at your risk. Better yet, next time your kid wants to spend quality time with you over a board game why don’t you suggest he go play Grand Theft Auto on the Playstation instead.