Board Games at Bar Nights: In Praise of Adults Who Never Grew Up

Social Commentary

Board Games at Bar Nights: In Praise of Adults Who Never Grew Up

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

As a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up. Look at the average gaggle of teenagers, out rebelling against their parental authority, and you’ll see a group of adolescents desperately trying to emulate the behaviour of their elders. Adulthood was the promised land, or so I thought. Which is why it was more than a little odd that years later, I was squealing with more excitement than the kid in my boat on the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios. I excitedly stood in line for a Krusty’s burger, and realised it was time to drop the pretence and admit that the adult version of me still enjoyed clinging to childhood pastimes.

Despite clear demarcations, why do we love dabbling in what many would call “kiddie” activities? An obvious answer would be nostalgia. Revisiting childhood favourites reminds us of times that we hold close to our heart because they brought unadulterated joy, happiness, and a feeling that nothing else would have given us. Sitting on a swing or going down a slide for the first time. Playing Mario Bros. Riding the ferris wheel and munching on cotton candy. The list is endless.

In the book Rejuvenile — Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up, the author Christopher Noxon points to trends as far back as the late-19th century announcing the arrival of the eternal child in us. The publishing of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, the earliest appearances of comic strips in newspapers by the 1890s, and the premiere of Peter Pan at the turn of the century heralded an age where adults were ready to revert to a stage in their life defined by contentment and security.

Perhaps a childlike outlook is worth protecting. Even though today it’s often mocked with the term “Peter Pan syndrome”, that open, wondrous, and simple way of enjoying life is something we often tend to forget as we grow up and get consumed by life’s daily routine. A break from morning meetings, tax returns, bills, grocery shopping, and housework to go ride a bicycle in a park, play hopscotch with kids, or even read a Tintin or Tinkle comic book is probably the perfect way to unwind and forget the banality of adult life.

What holds back many from just letting their hair down once in a while, are those tongue-clicking, disapproving stares that fellow adults throw.

Of course what holds back many from just letting their hair down once in a while, are those tongue-clicking, disapproving stares that fellow adults throw. In his book, Noxon uses the term “Harrumphing Codgers” when referring to those adults who have left their childhood behind for good. I would get an eye-roll from a few of my colleagues for wanting to catch an animation movie instead of that intellectually stimulating Christopher Nolan masterpiece for instance. I was at a bookstore this one time and got lost in the aisle housing the children’s books. The kind of books made for kids these days are simply mind-blowing! I realised the manager was staring at me with raised eyebrows for having spent as long as an hour rifling through kiddie books.

One way to avoid the funny looks (though it’s not for everybody) is to live your dreams through a child of your own. Many kidults with kids have started playing it smart. I have a friend who loves goofing around on amusement park rides and working out jigsaw puzzles. So he convinced his seven-year-old son that a trip to Legoland in Dubai was going to be awesome. It turned out to be a win-win situation for both parent and offspring.

Consumer markets seem to be catching on to this new potential source of revenue. Maybe that’s why there are so many fun things in the kids section for adults too — not just in bookstores, but everywhere you go. Colouring books, badges, vintage miniature superhero figurines, lifelike models of F1 race cars, board games, cartoons made for adults like Rick & Morty or BoJack Horseman, and revivals of nostalgia-inspiring properties like the Archie Andrews reboot, Riverdale.

There is of course a thin line that separates childish attitude from child-like behaviour. Hogging the Xbox and preventing your niece from getting in on the action, being holed up in your room for hours to watch cartoons and design that superhero wall of fame instead of completing work assignments; this is one end of the spectrum that seemingly stimulates just one aspect of your mind and growth as an individual. And then there are those who treat the goofing around to how professional athletes treat cheat days – a rare day of fun – whether it is hitting a paintball competition, heading to a park to do some drawing or binge-watching a cartoon series one weekend. So is kidulting childish or child-like? Well, you be the judge of that.