I live with an 86-year-old woman who enjoys watching game shows. She appears to have very little idea about just what's going on with these shows, but many of them entail questions and answers, which, I think, she enjoys hearing. She rarely knows the answer beforehand, unless it's a question like "Of what country is Dublin the capital?" in which case she'd actually say "Ireland" out loud. It is, ultimately, impossible to determine what it is about these shows that she actually likes. Is it the shouting and hullabaloo of a game show audience? The perenially upbeat banter of hosts and contestants? The ads, because she often reads more than she actually listens? In any case, Cathy and I end up watching a lot of game shows with her.
On September 3, the Game Show Network (GSN) debuted the revival of a game show called The Pyramid, hosted by something of a cookie-cutter, 30-something male by the name of Mike Richards. Originally called The $10,000 Pyramid, when it premiered almost 40 years ago in 1973, it has gone through seven reincarnations, with the title reflecting an increase in the top prize from $10K to $100K over the years. Most of these shows were hosted by Dick Clark, with appearances by Bill Cullen ('74-'79), John Davidson ('91) and Donny Osmond ('02-'04).
I was never really a big fan, although with the advent of increased exposure to it, thanks to the 86-year-old mother-in-law, I'm beginning to re-evaluate. I've noticed that it has an easy rule set, varied game/word play and a subtle component of player-to-player interaction, which plays out in the delivery and reception of its word clues. It's not only important to have a good partner in the game, it's important which of you will give and receive the clues. I don't know how many times I've seen contestants on the TV show (in any of its reincarnations) fail because either they themselves, or the celebrity partner with whom they are paired, can't come up with appropriate clues for the life of them. Or, conversely, can't come up with the appropriate response. And if I hear one more clue-provider in the bonus-money Winner's Circle spend 20% of the minute they have saying "Uhhh. . .," I think I'll scream.
Refresher course: Two teams, two people each. With 30 seconds on a clock, one member of the team will provide their partner with clues related to a word, (or combination word, like living room), which they expect their partner to say out loud. It's a variation of Password, with concepts added. The target words, of which there are normally seven in a round of play, are tied to a general subject, like "Appliance Reliance" in which all the target words are things you might find in a kitchen. Stove, refrigerator, microwave, blender, toaster, electric can opener, food processor would be appropriate words. In offering clues to the individual word, the 'giving' partner can use words, hands and other parts of his/her body to convey a clue. If 'stove' is the word the clue-giver is trying to get the receiving partner to say, the clue-giver might say "oven" (which should be all the receiver needs) or "cooking" or "heated surface," and maybe with hands, indicate the relative size of the thing, or the circular pattern of the individual burners. The clue-giver continues to offer clues until his/her partner says the target word, and the two move on to the next word. They have that 30 seconds to come up with the seven target words; one point for each correct answer. The other partnership then has a go at it. Each team does this three times, and whichever team has the most points moves on to a bonus round.
In the bonus round, known on the TV show as the Winner's Circle (and not included in the rules of the eight Milton Bradley games that were released over the years), the situation is reversed. The clue-giver is expected to list a series of examples to get his partner to articulate what they have in common (no hands allowed). Reversing the early round example from above, the clue-giver might say "a stove, a sink, a refrigerator," and whatever else he/she could think of to get his partner to say "things found in a kitchen." The partnership earns a certain amount of money for each correct response in the bonus round, unless they get all six, in which case they earn a stated amount, which, on the TV show, was inherent in the title, whether it was The $10,000 Pyramid, or The $100,000 Pyramid.
It is an engaging exercise, even as a spectator, but as I was watching it in its most recent reincarnation, I began to think that I might actually enjoy bringing it out as a game to play with three others; normally, the number I'd be looking for in a multi-player, strategy and tactics Euro game to which a goodly number of articles on these pages is dedicated.
It is simple enough to be understood instantly, and only as time-consuming as you want to make it. It involves no complex train of thought, or elaborate victory paths.
The key is picking the right partner, and I began immediately to think, in my own case, of my significant other (Cathy), her daughter, Sinead and son-in-law, Mike, and the varied configurations that the partnerships might take; the boys against the girls, one couple against the other, daughter and I pitted against Cathy and her son-in-law. I may catch hell for this, but I suspect that the daughter and I would kick mother and son-in-law butt. I think the young 'uns might beat Cathy and I. I think the girls (being mother and daughter) would cream the boys, who've only known each other for a few years. Maybe not, in any of the examples, but it'd be a lot of fun to see.
With that in mind, I embarked on a search for the board game. Technically, you don't need to go out and purchase the thing, because all of its ingredients are immediately to hand. You would, though, have to come up with a set of categories on your own, and develop a set of appropriate target words for those categories for use in game play, along with score-keeping pencil and paper, and a 30-second time clock. They come with the board game, a not-insignificant reason to buy. My search began with BoardGameGeek, where I discovered that it was first published in 1974, and to date, has garnered only 74 ratings (55 comments) with an average rating of 6.02.
E-Bay apparently has a copy for sale (auction), with a price of $24.95 and no bids, as of this writing. There are no copies listed under the Geek Marketplace tab and I had no luck tracking a copy down through the CoolStuff Web site (board games), or any of the major retail Web sites like Barnes & Noble, or Walmart. The search continues. . .
If I had to guess, I'd say it's the agility of mind that's required that has renewed my interest in this game. To be good at it requires a command of language, particularly with synonyms, but more than that, it requires a degree of symbiosis between partners; an understanding of how a partner's mind works. The clue-giver employs that knowledge to choose clues, while the receiver uses it to understand the clues he or she is being given. The stronger the connection, the stronger the team.
How about you (dear reader) and I? How's our symbiosis doing?
The category is "Things related to a computer."
In rapid succession, I say "Screen, point indicator, blinking line, movement."
I'll give it a few days, see if anyone responds in the comment section below and then write the answer there. In the meantime, if anyone is aware of an actual copy of The Pyramid (any incarnation), let me know. Save me from sitting down with a hundred or so index cards and creating my own copy. And if you haven't watched the show recently, you might want to consider giving it a try to re-introduce yourself to a fairly compelling, family-type game, worthy of room on your gaming shelves.