Hey, marriage-minded teens! It’s Teen-Time!
Teen-Time is a standard tabletop board game that is so phenomenally dismal in every respect that it deserves to be examined and perhaps even celebrated. This vexing plaything was produced by an outfit called Tee Pee Toys, which is itself a division of the Jessup Paper Box company of Brookston, Indiana. From the moment you lift the lid, you can practically hear the dialogue from the boardroom brainstorming session:
BOX EXEC #1: Gentlemen, we make boxes. Empty boxes. Board games are just boxes with a game inside, so why don’t we whip up a game, throw it in the box and start pulling in some real moolah?
BOX EXEC #2: But we don’t know how to market games.
BOX EXEC #1: Let me ask you this…who buys games?
BOX EXEC #2: Kids. Wait, no… teenagers. My teenage daughter’s always playing with some stupid game.
BOX EXEC #1: So we call it Teen-Time. It markets itself!
Teen-Time demonstrates a delightfully astonishing lack of understanding of its target market. Hilarious generalizations abound. The playing field centers around — where else? — a mall and a video store. But let’s just cut right to the exquisite central absurdity of Teen-Time… the object of the game is to get engaged to be married before your fellow teens do. Seriously.
Each game piece graduates through a series of levels. Girl meets Boy (or vice versa), Going Steady, and finally, Engaged. It’s hard to even speculate on the thought process that led to this creative decision. However, I have a strong hypothesis regarding the origins of the box art…
BOX EXEC #3: But sir, we don’t have an art department. We’ll need some sort of graphics for this game you speak of. The teens will demand graphics.
BOX EXEC #4: That sounds expensive.
BOX EXEC #1: Listen. Who needs some fancy-pants artist when we already got us a big ol’ book of clip art? It’s free and you don’t even have to Xerox it. There’s a thing called a “see-dee rom” in a clear plastic flap inside the front cover.
Presenting the art of Teen-Time…
The official Teen-Time mascots are a handsome pair of “teenagers” who threw on their sweatsuits and headed to the mall to get engaged. Why is it called the T.P. Mall? The game was made by Tee Pee Toys, remember? Those clever, self-referential dogs! I’ll bet the teens eat that up.
You say your digital files aren’t of adequate resolution to be printed? You think those punk teenagers care about crap like that? Just print the thing.
The Teen-Time box features a grab bag of clip art with styles ranging from junior high doodle-ish to early CorelDRAW…
There’s no copyright date on the box. I would have guessed the game came out in the 1980s but the ’90s style gradients on these speakers threw me.
The game is intended for “Ages 8 and UP” and they don’t recommend it for children 4 and under. So what about the six- and seven-year-olds?
Perfectly mirroring real-life adolescence, the Teen-Time experience is wrought with twists and turns. Just about the time you take 4 points the girl lose 1 turn, and next thing you know girl break up. Story of my life.
But if you really foul up then prepare to be banished to… the video store?
Video Store is to Teen-Time as Jail is to Monopoly. How can this be? I thought teens loved chillin’ with a new release on a Friday night. Even more intriguing than this rule is the wonderfully baffling choice of visuals. (Didn’t the clip art book have an illustration of a videocassette?) Perhaps the graphics reveal that the only remaining rentals are “Troll” on Betamax and a bootleg copy of “Heavy Metal.” I suppose that would make for a good punishment.
But the coup de grâce is found shuffled among the usual assortment of directive cards…
I assure you that the image above is genuine and presented without doctoring. Now, this is a game for “ages 8 and up” that’s about meeting your future teenage spouse at a shopping mall; why is anyone packin’ heat? This little doozy seems completely out of place next to the rest of the generic deck. None of the other cards even mention reasons for the point fluctuations and none of the others come close to such a drastic point loss. He who draws this card basically loses the game.
I guess the execs at Tee Pee Toys wanted to send out a pretty strong message here. They’re not as oblivious as you might think. They realize that teens are all “strapped” these days. But if you’re sloppy enough to get caught with “weapon on you” then you absolutely deserve a trip to the video store.
Ouch, what a blow…
BOX EXEC #1: Once Teen-Time hits the scene we’ll make those Parker Brothers look like Parker Suckers! (group laughter) Gentlemen, you may break for lunch.
In closing, it’s a pleasure to reflect on products like Teen-Time that have managed to squirm their way from the brains of undiscerning schemers into reality, seemingly unchallenged. I like envisioning pallets stacked full of Teen-Time making their way through the capitalist system. A designer designed it, a printer printed it, a purchaser purchased it and a truck driver truck drove it to some retail wonderland where a clerk stocked the shelf with it. Finally, a consumer (possibly a teen, more likely the grandmother of one) felt that this particular item would enhance their life in some small way and they backed up their theory with US dollars. They were wrong.
But years later, thanks to the secondary market, my wife’s understanding that Teen-Time’s unintentional value outweighed the twenty-five cent price tag, and this article, there is new hope that the efforts behind Teen-Time may finally yield some manner of joy from the human race.
This piece originally appeared in Kirk’s awesome Secret Fun Blog.