Friday, May 1, 2009

The MASH Game

We all grew up with big dreams. For some of us, it was to have a blossoming career. For others, to raise a happy and healthy family. There are some of us out there however, with more pre-specified ambitions.

Namely that you're going to marry Screech from Saved by the Bell, live in a mansion in the United Arab Emirates, have 12 children, and drive your purple subcompact car to your job as a housewife everyday.

Sound odd? Absolutely! But if the fates proclaim it, so shall it be.

The fates we're talking about here are admittedly less professional than your run-of-the-mill neighborhood psychic or carnival palm reader. Regardless of their questionable credentials, we trusted these fortune seers to predict for us a decidedly silly, squeal-inducing future. These were our peers on the playground, and they held in their hands our very fates.

The brilliance of MASH was that it became a universally known and widely accepted practice among children in the 80s and 90s. If you were to have stopped by nearly any elementary school and asked if they would like to play MASH, no one would look at you questioningly or jump in to discuss the preachy-ness of Alan Alda's television directing career. They would grab a pencil and a piece of looseleaf and start prophesying.

One of the main elements we all loved so dearly about MASH was the ability to lightly humiliate our friends by assigning to them less-than-stellar options in any of the preselected categories. The categories usually ran a little something like this, with at least 5 options listed per category:

This one was a constant; the game's namesake. MASH stood for Mansion-Apartment-Shack-House. These were your choices for living accommodations. In some circles, more creative (read: cruel) options were added, but this was the basic underlying foundation of the game. This was one of the more important categories, as we all assumed money would make us outstandingly, incomparably happy. And they say kids don't learn anything from TV.

Boys'/Girls' Names
Depending on your gender, you were ordered to name 5 people of the opposite sex. When meaner kids were running the show, they would get to select the options for you, but usually you had some say in who was listed. It was requisite to list your crush, unattainable famous people, and at least one unsavory kid; this was usually the kid who picked his nose in the back of the classroom or was forever regaling his classmates with stories about what happened last night on his ant farm. It was generally understood that the more appalling and undesirable options you listed, the more hilarity would ensue when your moment of fortune-telling came to fruition.

However, if you were lucky enough to bag JTT or Tatyana Ali in a game of recess MASH, you were certainly entitled to bragging rights for the remainder of the school day.

This one was pretty self-explanatory, but it was always fun seeing what wacky undesirably professions one could add to the list of possibilities. Garbage collector? Septic tank engineer? Cootie quarantiner? Sure, you can always throw in some of the standard Doctor/Lawyer/Teacher/Housewife fare, but that was never quite as humorous or entertaining.

Gender role-reversal was also popular. A male housewife? An instant classic!

Again, the money=happiness paradigm reigned supreme. Sure, a Corvette or a Lamborghini would be nice, but what's that when you could have a broken down AMC Hornet?* What, I ask you?

Some versions also included car colors, which are not inherently funny but accurately reflect a child's disproportional sense of humor. A pink car? For a boy? Oh my god. Pink. And for those of us who dreamed of one day owning a shocking fuchsia Maserati, well, this was our chance. That is, if you didn't get stuck with the puce Buick instead.

One of the games more practical aspects, we all were truly curious about where we were going to end up. However, as children our worldview was relatively limited, so we frequently had our pick of 5 neighboring suburbs of our then current location. A kid can dream, can't he?

Number of Children
This was a pretty obvious dimension; two or three were preferable, six was sort of a bummer, and ten was ridiculous. Bear in mind the Duggar family of 18 Kids and Counting fame were not yet being broadcast into our susceptible minds weekly, so we were under the impression that there was some sort of a finite cap on how many children one could feasibly physically produce. Unfortunately, most of the options listed in this category were pretty reasonable and rational and hence lacked the shock value of some of the more outlandish categories. Depending on your foreseen mate, however, the shock value could fluctuate significantly.

Once all the lists had been generated, the real fun could begin in a tedious, meticulous fashion uncharacteristic of otherwise attention spanless children. At this point, there were several ways in which to randomly select a benchmark number, all of which were terminated by the fortune seeker saying, "Stop!" Usually, you would draw spirals or tally marks and whenever the MASHee indicated for you to stop. Whatever the number of circles or tallies drawn would serve as your reference point number. If your number was four, you would start at the top, count down four items, and cross off the fourth. From that one you would count another four, cross out the list item you landed on, and so on and so forth until you had one item remaining in each category.

For those of you to whom this makes no sense at all (and let's be honest, if you never or rarely played this game, this is a pretty shaky explanation), I invite you to play the online version for illustrative and/or enjoyment purposes. Go on, I'll wait.

If you ended up with less than spectacular results, fear not; the beauty of MASH is that it can be played repeatedly until you finally achieve your desired outcome. Much like a Magic 8 Ball could be shaken again and again until it displayed the coveted response, so too could MASH be reformulated and re-tabulated umpteen times.

So go ahead, keep playing. I think you'll find that despite your current status as a so-called adult, this game retains its novelty. For those of you lucky enough to possess an iPhone but are currently living in tenuous fear of being caught slacking by your boss/parent/significant other/roommate/pet, don't worry. As the iPhone commercials so helpfully inform us, "there's an app for that":

Feel free to drop your MASH results in the comment box.

Check it out:
An Amazing MASH Game T-Shirt
Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen: Bratz MASH

*My dad once owned an AMC Hornet. One day, he came outside and found that someone had stolen his driver's side door. His driver's side door. This story is completely unrelated (especially since it happened in the 70s) but it is also true and hilarious and therefore must be shared.


Nic said...

OMG! I totally forgot about the MASH game! I used to LOVE that, haha. Good times.

Think I'll go & check out the online version now, for old times sake of course :)

BTW, this is also unrelated, but someone stole a wheel off my car once. Not just a tyre, the whole wheel.

SassyLittleGinger said...

i used to play this everyday in 4th grade, it was my most favorite game ever. i seemed to always end up living in a trailer park with the kid that wore a pick in his afro that picked his nose and wiped it on the desk behind me, though...

i hope my life turns out better than that.

marathoner81 said...

I used to play this game ALL the time!!!! I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to be living somewhere warm year-round in a mansion and driving a peach colored Ferrari!

marathoner81 said...

So I just played the's my great life:

Your husband's name is Matthew Fox and you have 2 children. You're a Blogger who drives to work every day in a peach Ford Pinto.

It's truly a wonderful life when you consider the countless romantic nights you have spent with Matthew Fox in your mansion in England.

Andy said...

I used to play this game by myself, writing down my four crushes. That was about all the game I had back then- MASH game. No pimp game.

Practically Perfect... said...

Oh my gosh, I used to LOVE this game!

Nic said...

Ok, so I just did the online game and I have to say I'm pretty happy with my results!

Your husband's name is Gerard Way and you have 0 children. You're a Author who drives to work every day in a Pink Bugatti.

It's truly a wonderful life when you consider the countless romantic nights you have spent with Gerard Way in your house in Australia.

Mrs. C said...

I read about your blog over at Figeting Gidget and this has to be one of the coolest blogs ever! Doug, ren & stimpy...MASH...gak! I sit here squealing with excitement.

L.O.V.E. your blog. This is great.

Dani said...

I used to play MASH all the time. Countlees hours of predicting the future...hahaha. Reading this post just made me intsa happy!!! Thanks for keeping my childhood days alive...Love it!

teasinglydiverse said... times!

Your husband's name is Tyler and you have 3 children. You're a legislative analyst who drives to work every day in a green VW.

It's truly a wonderful life when you consider the countless romantic nights you have spent with Tyler in your shack in California.

Cee said...

Ahhh! I love MASH, I spent so many hours playing this on the bus...especially on the way to field trips. I just made K do it, apparently he will be marrying a lesbian he works with now and have 18 kids, in London, in a shack, working as pooper scooper. At least he has a BMW? haha

KekeLynn said...

haha, love it! Haven't thought of that in forever.

Congrat's on your FG Blog of the month! I like your blog, look forward to reading more

nikki said...

There was a (lame) group of people who insisted on the game being called MATH. Mansion, Apartment, Tent, House. I know, losers, right?

Samantha said...

My friends and I even played this on school trips in high school...never gets old.

Your husband's name is Zac Efron and you have 3 children. You're a Post-Producer who drives to work every day in a black VW bus.

It's truly a wonderful life when you consider the countless romantic nights you have spent with Zac Efron in your shack in Chicago.

Nessa said...

Oh my goodness, i LOVED that game. My fate was determined so many times!! lol...i so want to play it now! haha

My Wooden Heart said...

I used to play MASH all the time!!!

megs said...


I just found your blog through FREE FLAN and I TOTALLY RELATE!! Considering I was born in the wonderful year of 1985 I spent 90% of my childhood in the 90's!! (And the very early stages in the 80's which really..... the 80's??? ha ha)

Anyways, when you first started talking about MASH I was confused because I kept thinking about the SHOW! (Isn't that like 70's or something)

and then it clicked!!!

MASH!!! OMG! I REMEMBER THAT (yes I just said OMG :) )

I love love this blog! It makes me giggle :)


The Novelista Barista said...

OMG! i totally played that game allllll the time.
i CANNOT believe they have an iphone app! hahaha this is HILARIOUS!

seriouslyright? said...

this is soooo fantastic!!! I flippin love your blog <3

KLo said...

Oh, man, I can't believe I remember this : )

Anonymous said...

Your husband's name is Mark Paul Gosslear and you have 1 child. You're a Vet who drives to work every day in a Yellow Jeep.

It's truly a wonderful life when you consider the countless romantic nights you have spent with Mark Paul Gosslear in your shack in North Carolina.

Ella Everywhere said...

Wow I love your blog so much! This really takes me back!

My friends and I used to play MASH religiously in middle school.

Great post!

K @ Blog Goggles said...

Wow, blast from the past. I used to love this game.

for the love of pictures said...

I found an electronic version in a nearby discount store :) Too cute!

Lopez said...

OH friends and I were MASH junkies!!!


Just Playing Pretend said...

Mash is fantastic. What about TRUE LOVE? It wasn't as fantastic as MASH but it was right up there at the top. :)

Jessica said...

I almost forgot about MASH until I can't across and app for it one day on Myspace. Then I remembered how much fun I had with it in Junior High school. My friends and I used to play it all the time! I'm new to blogger and I love your blog! 90's was an awesome time to be a kid and I'm proud to be a 90's child =)

Cory said...

We used to play MASH all the time at school; arguably, we did so more than we actually learned something (other than who we were going to marry and where we would live, of course). I remember that we would play two games in a row; the first would be the MASH/future spouse/children/car classic, followed by a game containing car color, marriage success (divorce or staying together), career, and something else (I can't remember what the typical fourth option was). We also used to list exotic/interesting places for where we would live (like Hawaii or Europe), but the usual "bad place" would be our hometown; I'm sort of proud that we were already bemoaning our small-town existence even at that age, and that we were aspiring for greatness so early.

Also, I'm ashamed to admit that I've played MASH in the past year. I am 21, and I played at my college with other college students. Yeah, we're pathetic, but at least I'm marrying Rachel Bilson (of The O.C.) and am going to live in a mansion in Italy.

strings and things said...

omg I still love this game!!!!

T Moore said...

We totally played MASH all the freaking time! I actually had a few nights about a year ago when an old college buddy and I stayed up drinking Crown Royal and playing MASH at his parents lake about a time warp!

Did you ever play LEMON?? That was the one where you make three random lists number 1-4 (all out of numerical order), then you name 4 things you do to a lemon, 4 boys (or girls, though I doubt guys really played it), and 4 body parts. Then you matched the numbers so it read "You sucked, Jim's, finger."

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Jade Graham said...

Only have discussions after every three rounds about what you put down or to make promises about what you will put down next go. This could be a good source of family discussion about promises and keeping them.
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