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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #25: Alligator

"Feed the gator, don't get bite too many, you're out of luck!"

This creatively-titled diversion is emblematic of the "when will it blow up in my face?" genre, such as the coronary-inducing Perfection, or Jenga. The idea with these "games" is to build the tension with each breath-holding turn, all other players sitting back in smug anticipation of imminent disaster as the poor bastard whose turn it is tries to beat whatever unseen clock or trigger-fingered plastic mechanism holds the collective fate of all in its blithe, random judgment. Will you be the one who collapses the tower? Holding the hot potato when time runs out? BITTEN BY THE ALLIGATOR?

Yes, in this version, the target and unknowable arbiter of destiny is a two-foot long plastic alligator with a toothsome hinged maw players hitch open to begin the game. Contestants then take turns with the spinner, being assigned to place items in that gaping jaw-hole or to take them out. For some reason known only to itself, whether related to time or weight or clumsy fingers, the 'gator will slam its mouth shut. Yes, on your fingers. Ages 6 and up, gang. Rumor is they actually ended up discontinuing this game because the teeth were actually injuring small children. I can attest as a five-year old myself in 1980 when this was released that it was genuinely terrifying and nerve-wracking if not outright painful. Such fun. They don't make them like this any more.

Oh, check out this TV ad from 1980. This commercial has the virtue of being one hundred percent accurate at capturing the experience of...Alligator.

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