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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #41: Taboo

There's a certain delight and pride in doing things well. In winning, in achievement, in success. There's also the pleasure we derive from seeing our competitors fall short, especially if we're in a position to draw attention to their failure. This then, is one of the signal joys of Taboo.


It's a simple game, descended from the Password of our parents' time. Your task is to make your partner guess certain words without saying other, taboo words. For instance, make them guess BIRD without saying WINGS or FLY or NEST or LARRY. That sort of thing. It's good clean party fun, especially when partnered with a friend or sibling or lover of long intimacy with whom you share a million shorthand references. Instead of twisting yourself into linguistic knots, you can simply garner a guess of BIRD by saying, "that one-legged thing that hopped on our railing at that hotel in Aruba". Race the minute glass to rack up successfully guessed words.


Back to the joy of busting rule-breaking. Taboo assigns not just two roles (clue-giver and word-guesser) but three. The third role is not a constructive or cooperative one. It is evaluative and judgmental. This role is eagerly played by a member of the opposing team, who is handed a button to press when a forbidden clue word is uttered. The button gives forth with an atonal glee, alerting all present that a rule has been broken and that word card is forfeit. It has the dual value of docking points from your opponent and of throwing them off their game, burning valuable time.


As Conan once told us, there is nothing better in life than crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentation of the women.

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