My son has learned that winning against dad is easy - if you cheat

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

The boy is cheating. We’re playing Guess Who?, the popular family game in which two players guess the identity of their opponent’s character by asking questions and flipping down the tabs until only one remains. More accurately, we’re playing a discounted version of Guess Who? called something like Who Is It? or Identify Yourself! I’m not sure which, since we can’t find the box, and we typically resort to withdrawing the game board and parts from a tidied away storage sack, as if delving into forensic evidence from a long-dormant murder case.

I like this game. It hasn’t been ruined for me through overplay, since I didn’t have it growing up and neither did any of my friends. This is likely a statistical aberration, but I prefer to think Northern Irish people were suspicious of its clear ulterior motive; teaching children to be better at giving descriptions of political dissidents to the police.

Mostly, I enjoy it because I’m much better at it than my son, and the list of such activities shrinks daily. He’s trounced me quite convincingly at all his memory games because, as previously stated, his brain is made of wet gum, so adept at storing information that his every blink might as well be the snapping shutter of a spy satellite. I, on the other hand, have lost the ability to store new memories and would have a hard time telling you a single thing that’s happened to me since 1997. We have one game called Shopping where we compete to cross off items on our list by flipping over tiles depicting, say, eggs, orange juice or beans. He zooms through it like a savant, dead-eyed, while I uselessly flip the same tile over and over again, astonished each time to find it is still bread. ‘Bread again, Daddy!’ he says, each time, laughing at my crumbling brain.

His stamina outpaces mine, too, meaning he can handily beat me at Snakes and Ladders and Ludo, games which require a tolerance for tedium I simply no longer possess. Ditto any game that involves repetitive physical actions, or movements like Hungry Hippos – excuse me, Famished Even-Toed Ungulates – at which he triumphs every time.

So it was that I wandered into the Guess Who? arena with confidence. The core strategy is to ask broad, binary questions – Is your character a man? Are they wearing a hat? Do they have glasses? – each tailored to remove the largest number of candidates in one go. My son refuses to learn this, and has the adorable, yet competitively fatal, habit of starting with questions which are too specific – Are they wearing big red glasses? – or vague – Do they look nice? – tobe profitablework.

And yet I’m going nowhere. He’s answered no to all my questions, whittling my pool of candidates down to five, then two, and then one. ‘It’s Chico!’ I say, with the confidence of a royal flush. He laughs, mischievously, and tells me no. For the first time I notice the back of the tile which holds his character. It’s not from a Guess Who? derivative at all. I storm over and flip his guilty little secret. It’s my old friend, bread. I stare blankly, memorising his face so I can report him to the police.

‘Bread again, Daddy’ he says, his victory complete.

Follow Séamas on Twitter @shockproofbeats