On crazy eights

Just recently a student asked me how to play Crazy Eights. Needless to say, I was filled with lots of mixed emotions. First, the very fact that this student did not know how to play a standard game of my childhood made me reflect on how things change from generation to generation. The digital revolution has sidelined these simple analogue games that I still cherish. All of that means that I belong to a bygone era that will never return. Computers, video games, digitally mediated communication have pushed “cards” out of the national consciousness. That the student did not know how to play such a simple game also made me ponder the complexity of a society that has no use for simple entertainment, here represented by cards and their analogue existence of four suits and thirteen individual designs. “Cards” are now digital, and you can play all of the digital poker you want. Crazy Eights is a simple game, but perhaps that is what makes it complex. You give each player eight cards, you set up a “draw” pile (face down) and a “play” card, which, in turn, each player must either match the suit or the number. When you run out of cards, you win. You may change the suit by playing an “eight.” If you can’t play, you must pick a card until you can play. Whoever plays their last card first, wins. When explained in such basic terms, it seems rather boring, but let me assure you that my friends and I got hours and hours of entertainment out of this simple game. Perhaps the pleasure one derives from the game is less about winning, per se, and more about the social interaction of playing the game. You don’t need any screens of any kind to play, but you do need a deck of cards, which is very old technology. You need to learn to shuffle and deal. You need someone with whom you might play.