Scening Is Believing

Local game developers blend Trivial Pursuit and movie mania. The result? A flashy new breed of board game.

"Is there a film geek in the house?"

It's not a request you hear often, but it should be. We know who we are: When the party grinds to a halt because no one can remember which actress starred opposite Bridget Fonda in Single White Female (a), we spring into action. After shouting out the answer, we bask in the glow; everyone laughs and slaps us on the back, saying: "Here, have another martini!" We might not be the life of the party, but we can save it from premature death.

We are film geeks.

Seattle's Dave Long and Craig Kinzer understand geekdom, and they've created a DVD-powered board game that caters to the geek's top two desires: to be bombarded with trivia and to bathe in nostalgia. In October 2002, Scene It? became the first board game with an essential DVD component, and its rapid success spawned a number of "sequels," specialized editions designed for TV addicts, James Bond freaks, or lovers of the Disney oeuvre. (Fans of indie film: If you're waiting for a Lars von Trier version, don't hold your breath.) What distinguishes the game— available for $49.99 at Magic Mouse Toys (603 First Ave., 206-682-8097) and various other local stores—is its flexibility. Even the game board, made to look like a trio of film reels, can be folded for short play (around 30 minutes) if a full-length game (closer to an hour) is inconvenient. In addition, the trivia DVD—packed with clips and questions and visual puzzles—has many uses. You can toss it in your laptop to liven up a boring cross-country flight, or just set it on "party play" mode at a wine tasting to get your guests hopping about like cinema-crazed baboons.

So are the board and its question cards—reminiscent of Trivial Pursuit, like the rest of the game—really necessary? Co-inventor Long says consumers wouldn't have figured out that a DVD-sized package meant group-sized fun, so the board and cards started as a marketing strategy. They do enhance the game, though, in large part because they're more challenging than the questions that follow the clips. Here's a sample card query: "One ad for this film stated, '3% Body Fat. 1% Brain Activity'" (b). The journey around the board, alternately helped and hindered by "Buzz" cards (sample card: "The MPAA just gave your new kids' movie an R rating. Looks like you've got some editing to do. Move back 2 spaces"), is kind of like the bread in a sandwich. It serves as an excuse to consume the filling (i.e., the clips). Consuming the filling without it (i.e., just watching the clips) wouldn't be very good for you.

Yet our team of Seattle Weekly testers whiled away hours just watching the clips, cackling hysterically, and knocking down easy questions left and right. While the game rewards eagle-eyed viewers—a clip from Steel Magnolias is followed by the question: "How many women were wearing pearl necklaces?" (c)—it's more fun to treat Scene It? as a misty tour of movies past. "We tried to pick some films that had more cult status," says Long, and the disc does pack scenes from Mel Brooks, Peter Sellers, and Steve Martin comedy classics. But what really leads to addiction is the TV edition (which retails for $44.99), released this year. Maybe it's because television enters our pop-culture consciousness more steadily than movies, or because TV is so frequently silly, and so rarely dignified (hello, Gilligan's Island; hello, Temptation Island), that it makes dynamite fodder for trivia games—which are also, on some level, silly and undignified.

Whatever the reason, the TV edition of Scene It? had us glued to the monitor, at one point guffawing at the antics of Family Guy's snobby, Brit-accented baby, whose name we were asked to recall (d). The clips in general are very well chosen, which begs the question: Now that his game is a growing franchise, does Long still have his hand in the creative cookie jar? "We have a team of people now who pick the clips, and I still review every clip that goes in each of our games," he says. "It's scenes that I enjoy and that I think others are going to enjoy." Clearly, Long's a good man to have in a crowded room when things get down and dirty and somebody asks which Jaws sequel a slumming Michael Caine disgraced himself in (e).

nschindler@seattleweekly.com

(a) Jennifer Jason Leigh; (b) Zoolander; (c) four; (d) Baby Stewey; (e) Jaws 4: The Revenge

 
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