I used to absolutely love playing board games as a kid. Still do today, but back then I saw them as akin to dancing on rainbows. Two classics stand out in my mind as having the biggest impact on the way I’ve come to view stories.
Candy Land was a consistent crowd pleaser. Not just because it was a fun game, but because I wanted nothing more than to live in a place where all food was candy. It was the dream.
I wanted to be Queen Frostine. And I totally wanted to pick a fight with Lord Licorice. What was he doing letting all those bats fly around the candy? That’s just unsanitary.
Despite my love of this setting, however, somewhere along the line I realized that there wasn’t much of a story involved. Sure, the epic journey of two kids trying to make their way to the Candy Castle had promise. But the worst that happened to them is that they get stuck in some gum drops for awhile. And this isn’t a consequence of any action they took, just bad luck.
Chutes and Ladders, on the other hand, didn’t have the same grandiose premise. I didn’t get to imagine myself hanging around with Plumpy and Princess Lolly. What the game did have, however, were actions and consequences, both good and bad. It wasn't just a journey for the sake of journeying. Each player could be impacted by both good and bad choices throughout the game. One minute you were mowing lawns and earning enough money to go to the circus, the next you chose to pull a cat’s tail and got scratched in the face.
Every individual is capable of making both good and bad decisions. And for a story to be interesting, every character should make both good and bad decisions, and then live with the consequences.
Now I look to read and write stories that have aspects of both of these games. I love fantasy settings where magic is not only possible, but expected. And I want characters in those worlds to be active. I’ve mentioned before how annoying I personally find chronically indecisive characters. I want to see someone choose to make a deal they know is bad news with Gloppy and then see them zoom down that slide to get stuck in Molasses Swamp. And then I want to see the choices they make to get themselves out of it.
As a side note, if anyone decides to create a real life Candy Land/Chutes and Ladders mash up, please contact me when you need human testers.