When we were living in New York City with three babies in diapers, we would invite friends over for a game of Scrabble. My son Neuman would sit in my lap for a while, start fidgeting, get really bored, and then try to eat the tiles (and might get to sink his teeth into one or two of them) before he would eventually fall asleep. I didn't realize it at the time, but wasn't that a perfect metaphor for the game we were trying to play?
Me: Neuman, don't touch Tripp's word.
Me: No, it's not yours, it's Tripp's.
He was so insistent, it got me thinking – it must be human nature to take what doesn't belong to you. The light bulb went off: what would happen if you could steal someone else's word, at any time? And while we were at it, why not get rid of the board, and the complicated rules? How about a quick, cutthroat brain game that rewarded wits and guts? Bing bam boom.
I've been called recalcitrant, incorrigible, fatuous, and sophomoronic (as well as other unprintable adjectives) – with good reason. If you don't know what recalcitrant means, I wouldn't bother reading any further. Seriously, my buddy J.P. and I were at a cocktail party the other night talking about the callow, clueless "Occupy Wall Street" movement with a know-it-all from New York when the noodge blurted out something like "Don't you understand that money is bad?" We burst out laughing. "Money is bad?" Ha! You have no idea how good it is. No. Idea.
We believe that capitalism, despite its numerous flaws, is still the best system ever invented to unleash human potential and bring the greatest good to the greatest number. Don't just take our word for it — read a few pages of de Tocqueville, or listen to Bono* if you don't believe us. Any Cuban on any street corner in Havana will sadly agree, too.
Our goal at Oneupmanship is not to preach the joys of making money — because we know that free markets, unlike free love, music, art, or good intentions, really can change the world. For the better, of course. Rather our goal is to unshackle the gaming world from the twin tyrannies of political correctness on the one hand, and the geektards, with their addictive and soul (and candy) crushing crack that's designed implicitly to lobotomize impressionable young minds on the other. When was the last time you invested in some quality time with frenemies, without cell phones or computers, while having a ton of good old-fashioned laugh-out-loud fun? What other board games are there that "bring out the blood-sucking worst in everyone?"
So, we invite you to come "play our game" and test your wits against ours: Buy low, sell high. Visit Vegas and bet big. Payoff's huge. Fight a Thumb War. Knuckles? Bloody hell! Knock out 25 pushups. Boom, boom, boom. Fork over fees and pay fines. Wait, you have a TRUMP Card? My buildings are taller. Way taller. Lose your shorts, literally. Snatch trophies up. Liar's Poker anyone? Indian Arm Wrestle Grandma. Bankruptcy happens. Yes, please.
*Rock star preaches capitalism at Georgetown University: "Commerce (and) entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than aid."
My folks bought a house in 1964 from the Cruikshanks, an old couple who left their dog Mustard behind since they were moving to a retirement home and couldn't take him. Because my middle name is John, my porn name is Johnny Mustard, according to the old-school rules (middle name, first pet).
I always thought it had a nice ring to it, and decided to use it as a pseudonym if I ever needed one. Which is kind of ironic because I headlined under my real name when I was actually making skin flicks back in the late '80s. Y'up!
I was raised in Wrentham, MA, and became an English major in college mostly because it took the least amount of work, and then a journalist, then a copywriter (it paid more), before setting my ego I mean career aside and diving into full-time fatherhood.
While living in white-glove Connecticut (and after my encounter at the party), I launched Oneupmanship – "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a real loser." because it unfortunately suits my personality perfectly, and embodies a jokey, un-p.c., go-to-hell attitude I think needs to be foisted on a world that would probably be better off without it.
My wife is a biggish wig at a blue-chip company in New York (she's so important she doesn't even return my calls), and I still continue my domestic (and connubial!) duties while running the business. Our 3 kids, Jane, Neuman and Cate have some skin in the game, so-to-speak, by helping out after school and on weekends.
Speaking of fun and games, the response to ONEUPMANSHIP so far has been almost universally positive. Almost. When I asked Cate what she wanted for Christmas, she said, deadpan "for you to go into New York and mom to stay home."
This is the innocent-seeming text J.P. sent to me the day after the party that set the wheels in motion:
My first thought was this is the perfect way to stick it to all the politically-correct pansies out there. My contribution to society, which up to now has been minimal, is going to be a heterodoxical, real-world board game that'll be the strong-tasting antidote to the mindless mush that passes for entertainment these days — ONEUPMANSHIP, like life should, takes verve and vision to win. A sense of style, and a sense of humor, too. Of course good looks don't hurt either, do they?
My second thought was: Looking, and mostly behaving like Keith Richards, on a really good day, and being an "artist" (read: lazy and dissolute) at heart, I'm probably the last person in the world who should be making anything other than lame excuses, but hey.
Just remember one thing, right off the bat — entrepreneur rhymes with manure. Forewarned is forearmed. Worked real hard on the first prototype over Christmas, and finally got the game board somewhat mocked-up yesterday. Started play-testing with friends last night. I never thought it would be so much mental effort to design and prototype a simple board game — I think it's been a casebook study in The Peter Principle, validated in the real world by me. Seriously, we rolled the dice and saw it played pretty well since there was some chest-pounding, and a lot of groans and gnashing of teeth!
J.P. brought his buddy Ken over this morning and we had a first-go at the game. My son Neuman (Mr. Pennybags) joined us, and I've always wanted to say this: he literally beat me at my own game. Even when I change the rules slightly every time to try to offset my total incompetence, he still manages to come out on top... The Wall Street guys played it hard and fast, in it to win it, but came up just short. I bought the Trophy Wife and then basically went bankrupt, with a whimper. Story of my life...
We are finally ready to push the button on the initial manufacturing run, and we thought we'd turn to the Kickstarter community to see whether there are enough closet capitalists out there who want to join us as partners in crime. We set the bar low (our M.O.) and are asking for only $5,000 — so if you haven't gotten on board yet, hurree y'up!
UPDATE: Yay! We made our goal, and then some. Thanks so much to everyone who chipped money in, helped us play-test, offered some encouragement (or discouragement), criticism/advice/suggestions or wished us, with tongue-in-cheek, a bon voyage.
We just received the "tooling" sample, which is essentially the first printed prototype, with the gold foil leaf on the box and everything. We decided to partner with Grand Prix International to manufacture the games, and we couldn't be happier. Looks classy and like we actually know what we're doing!
We had the official debut celebration on Saturday night for all the friends and family who have helped to make this quixotic idea a reality, and to let the world know that ONEUPMANSHIP HAS ARRIVED. A bunch of people stopped by and had a drink, got a picture or two taken, and left with a complimentary first-edition of the "game-changer", as well as the smug satisfaction that they got in on the ground floor of something that is actually going to shift a paradigm. Somewhere. We hope!
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"Wit is Educated Insolence."- Aristotle