My friends and I embrace game nights: snacks, beverages, stuffed mascots, inspirational posters. Some people don’t, probably because not everyone can handle it when (not if) their true colors emerge in the throes of battle. Similarly, television series use games as plot devices to place characters in opposition to each other, draw out the best (and worst) in their personalities, and reinforce the show’s central themes. Here are some clear winners.
Seinfeld: “The Label Maker”
Quirky Kramer and slimy Newman play Risk, a slow-paced game of global conquest. After six hours, they need a break. Kramer will not trust Newman alone with the board and stashes it at Jerry’s, calling his apartment neutral territory, “like Switzerland.” Kramer stakes out Jerry’s apartment and catches Newman sneaking in to tamper with the board. Later, Kramer is closing in on the win. Bickering on the subway with the game board on their laps, Kramer and Newman catch the attention of a fellow traveler offended by their trivialization of Eastern Europe’s political affairs. The game ends violently. Somehow Newman manages to consider this draw equivalent to a win.
Cheers: “The Art of the Steal”
When simpleminded bartender Woody has trouble understanding economics, Norm assures him, “Nothing will explain the process quicker than a simple game of Monopoly.” The two sit down with Frasier and Cliff over Norm’s well-worn copy, which is a hodgepodge of pieces from other games, much like the odd mix of patrons who converge on the bar. Snooty Frasier accuses the others of being childish for squabbling over who will serve as banker—until Frasier himself loses his temper when they won’t let him have his favorite token, the race car. Frasier throws another fit when he loses despite playing by the rules while everyone else cheated. However, he quickly realizes his loss is the perfect way to teach Woody that economics do not operate on a principle of fairness.