This Side Up

The all-important source



The “secret word” had me flummoxed. How was I to draw a picture that would convey that word to the player at my right? The rules prevented me from using any words or numbers. I would have to create an image that my son, Ted, would understand. He then would write the word on another panel and pass it to Carol.

“Are you ready, Peppy,” queried my granddaughter Alex. She also had a secret word that she would depict in a drawing and pass to me. Rounding out the field of players were her twin sister, Sydney and their mother, Erica. Each had a secret word. We were seated in a circle and the game, Telestrations, was a prelude to dinner.

I can’t remember when we last played a board game involving the family unless you count round robin ping-pong that really can be comical with a dozen or more players. Both Alex and Sydney play chess and while I have started off playing one of them, the game always evolves to the point when I’m playing them both.

That’s not the same as a game involving the whole family.

Carol had suggested they come over for dinner, but other than that nothing was planned. After taking coats, the hugs and the small talk about how long the girls could be going to school because of all the snow days we settled in the living room. Carol had a platter of crackers and cheese just out of range for Ollie and their dog, Nash. Everyone helped themselves. The dogs got some, too. I took drink orders.

That’s when we learned about Telestrations.

“It’s not competitive. There’s really no winner,” explained Ted. Naturally, they had brought along the game and it was evident from the girls’ descriptions that they were ready to play. I didn’t see any iPads. Had Ted and Erica required they be left in the car or at home? I didn’t inquire.

Erica went over the rules, not that there was much to them. Alex and Sydney were anxious to expand, relating what had happened in previous games. I sensed this was going to be fun.

Telestrations is bit like “telephone.” You may remember that game where you are told a brief story and instructed to relay that to the next player. In turn that person retells the story to the next player and by the time it gets back to the original player the story has changed. One might say it was the genesis to fake news.

A player’s interpretation of an image drawn by another player often results in a completely different word which then the next player must illustrate. Once the round is completed, each player reveals their secret word and shares the drawings and how other players interpreted them.

That really didn’t help me with “cousin.” I drew a pair of stick figures and an arrow pointing to another stick figure. Faced with the drawing, Ted wrote “mother” passed it to Carol who drew a mother and child.

Meanwhile, Alex handed me a drawing of what appeared to be a lot of figures with lines dropping down. I was mystified. What was she trying to communicate? I was reminded of round-robin ping-pong, so I wrote ping-pong. At the game’s end, I learned she had been given the words “raining cats and dogs.”

There were a few easy words like ice cream truck, popcorn and dump truck. They made the round without being changed. Of course, the degree of artistic ability varied, but the true nature was apparent. It was the more challenging concepts that evaded simple depiction that took us to places unimagined. And yet those drawings were unmistakable. How could they be anything other than what they appeared?

The answer became obvious as we all disclosed our “secret word.” And the lesson, if one is to be taken from an evening of family fun, is to seek out the source.

I still can’t imagine how to illustrate the word “cousin.” Ted suggested a family tree, but how could I have drawn that?

Apart from identifying the source, might the take way be that some concepts take more than a single simple image, or a Tweet, to communicate?


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