Car Games for Grownups
June 15, 2004 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be taking a trip from Chicago to Massachusetts next week - I get antsy in the car. There are lots of games and coloring pages and whatnot on the internet for children - but what about adults? Can anyone give some suggestions of things to occupy me and the driver?
posted by agregoli to Travel & Transportation (36 answers total)

Two things: a Game Boy Advance and a copy of Wario Ware. Seriously, you'll be kept busy for hours.

Wait, didn't notice you said you *and* the driver. Well, last time I went on a road trip with a friend, we bought the David Sedaris Box Set, and that kept us entertained pretty much the entire trip. His new book, Dress Your Family in Courduroy and Denim, is out as an audiobook as well, for an extra 6.5 hours of Sedaris goodness. I find his stories come across much better when you hear him read them.
posted by emptybowl at 9:55 AM on June 15, 2004

Some thoughts from a veteran of the morning commute (1 hr) and weekend getaway (5 hrs):
-Audio books
-Crosswords and other types of puzzles that don't need to be looked at to enjoy
-Crafts (e.g., knitting, cross stitch)
The first two are driver-friendly, the last obviously not.
posted by whatzit at 10:06 AM on June 15, 2004

And remember, you're never too old for "Slug Bug".
posted by ewagoner at 10:06 AM on June 15, 2004

The pain of my last long car trip without my car radio was made more enjoyable by my wife asking me trivia questions.
posted by mmascolino at 10:12 AM on June 15, 2004

For a challenge, try Crossword Puzzles from The New York Times. (here's easier ones from the NYT, remember Mondays and Tuesdays are the easiest, and Saturdays are the hardest)
posted by ALongDecember at 10:15 AM on June 15, 2004

All of the above and a travelogue. I drove west (no particular destination, no particular schedule, no particular purpose) for 3 weeks a couple of years ago with somebody who's been a friend since grade school. We did hiking and such but part of what helped the monotony that happens in the car was our travelogue.

We'd write whatever came to mind (usually thinly veiled insults since neither of us really grew up) or notes on hikes we'd had.

I also brought a shitload of CDs and tried not to pick anything that I'd enjoy having my friend hate. This is an important point, on other trips I've seen people bring music that they knew everybody else would hate and whine about. They'd insist that this CD, which they blew 3 inches of dust off of because of disuse, was their most favourite thing.
posted by substrate at 10:21 AM on June 15, 2004

Response by poster: Music isn't a problem - we'll have approximately a few hundred CDs on spindles. Can't do the gameboy cause we can't afford stuff like that, but I was considering buying one of those cheap electronic solitaire type games. I'd prefer games we could play together, kind of like an adult version of the games that are suggested for kids.
posted by agregoli at 10:28 AM on June 15, 2004

here's vote number 2 for the david sedaris box set. also good are episodes of This American Life, which can be recorded from stream ( by any number of free apps. the "Our Favorites" picks are all totally solid.
posted by chr1sb0y at 10:32 AM on June 15, 2004

Our family has a long tradition of "Singdown", which is where you pick a subject (ie. place names, girls' names, jobs, animals, colors, etc) and go around the car with each person singing the relevant few bars of a song that meets the criteria. For example, if you were doing colors, you might sing The Yellow Rose of Texas, Blue Moon, Red Rain, Purple Rain, It's Not Easy Being Green, etc. If you can't think of a song, you're out, and the winner is the last one left.

And yes, my family might be a bit dorky here. But it's a fun way to kill a few hours.
posted by judith at 10:35 AM on June 15, 2004

There's a multiplayer word game called "Ghost" that proceeds as follows:

Each round begins with a new letter of the alphabet, beginning with "A" and progressing to "Z". Players take turns going first.

Players add a letter to the string of letters until one of the following happens:
1) A word longer than three letters is formed.
2) A player can't think of a letter to add.
3) A challenge is issued to the previous player to name a word that begins with the string that has been played.

In cases 1 and 2, the person whose turn it is gets a letter of "Ghost" (this is basically equivalent to what happens in the basketball game "Horse"). In case 3, the person who loses the challenge gets the letter.

After you get all of the letters of "Ghost", you are out of the game. The winner is the last person standing.

Example round:
Player 1: A
Player 2: Ab
Player 1: Abs (even though this forms a word, it doesn't count since it is only three letters long)
Player 2: Absc
Player 1: Absco
Player 2: Abscon
Player 1: Abscond

Here, player 1 gets a "G" and they start again with "B", and player 2 begins.

There's another nerdy word game called "Word Trek" that was released as a card game, I think in the 1970s. The idea is that you pick two words of the same length (four letters is ideal) and try to get from one to the other by either changing one letter or rearranging the letters (but not both) in each step.

Example turning "Meta" into "Talk" (it doesn't really matter if either of the end words aren't really words, just as long as the intermediary ones are).

MEAT (rearranged the letters here)

If you have two people you can see who gets them first, or in the fewest steps or whatever, or you can play it by yourself. I think the original card game specified the word pairs but you can really just pick two four letter words and give it a go. Sometimes it won't work, but if you have trouble you can move on to another pair.
posted by alphanerd at 10:36 AM on June 15, 2004

I don't know the name of the game, but as you drive along, someone yells out "A" and the word on the sign that they saw it (e.g. "A...Arco") Then the race is on. The first person to reach and call out the letter Z wins. License plates and things on cars don't count (stickers, car names.) Also, you can't use the same letter from the same sign that the other person called out. (the other participants then couldn't say "A...Arco" On the same arco sign.)
It's a great game. A little harder on the driver, though.

Or you can try to sleep as much as possible.
posted by aacheson at 10:40 AM on June 15, 2004

Music isn't a problem

As someone who drives solo between D/FW and Toronto a couple-few times a year, let me make a suggestion.

You don't want, necessarily, good music -- the music you enjoy listening to at home. You might want goofy, enjoyable music, even if it's sort of embarrassing. For me, I find that discs of crap from the 80s really does the trick, even if I'd never pretend that it's non-crap.

Also comedy albums. And anything with Tom Jones.

And NPR is sooo your friend. Time spent listening to something you've never heard before goes twice as fast as time spent listening to music you listen to every week.

Mad Libs. You can spend up to half an hour doing Mad Libs.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:43 AM on June 15, 2004

Response by poster: Ew, I hate NPR.

We've got a good mix - albums, tons of mix CDs, and comedy stuff. We'll be ok on that front. Mad libs might be good.

Thanks for the help guys, keep it coming! I love the word game stuff.
posted by agregoli at 10:53 AM on June 15, 2004

Magnetic scrabble and magnetic chess, maybe.

Or learn a new language via an audio cassette.
posted by cmonkey at 10:54 AM on June 15, 2004

Stare out the window. Don't talk. Don't try to do anything. Don't try to entertain yourself. Don't try to figure out how long till the end of the day's trip or even the next rest stop. Don't fidget or tap your fingers on anything. Don't move at all. Concentrate on the fact that being there, in that time, is all there is and all there ever will be. Expect nothing, anticipate nothing.
posted by signal at 10:56 AM on June 15, 2004 [1 favorite]

And if you absolutely need to focus on something other than nothing, concentrate on your breathing. Drink water and eat some starchy foods regularly.
posted by signal at 11:01 AM on June 15, 2004

posted by Katemonkey at 11:02 AM on June 15, 2004

Audiobooks, audiobooks, audiobooks.

Not to discount the enjoyment of adult conversation, but: Audiobooks, audiobooks, audiobooks. And did you know that at the library, they're free?
posted by blueshammer at 11:05 AM on June 15, 2004

I like playing license plate games when I'm driving and someone else is riding. We'll make a list together of all the license plates we've seen, from what states, and what versions [i.e. MA has two and maybe three different colored plates and then there's a redsox version etc etc etc]. It keeps you peering out the window, and it's a little challenging, but can quickly be placed aside for meals, good songs on the radio, etc. If you're competitive, you can compete.

I, also, don't much like NPR. I find that listening to stand-up comedians on long car trips makes the time pass and keeps you in a good mood.

We also play Boticelli, the rules of which are outlined here. Basically it's an "I'll give you some initials, and you guess who I'm thinking of" game. That works like this:

player 1: I'm thinking of someone with the initials JC
player 2 [guessing]: Um, did you die a particularly gruesome death in a recent movie?
player 1: no, I am not Jesus Christ
player 2 [guessing]: Do you have big teeth and build houses for a living?
player 1: no I am not Jimmy Carter

Basically player 2 thinks of people with the initials player 1 gave her, BUT if player 2 stumps player 1....

player 2 [guessing]: are you a smarmy bald man who is a major player in Democratic politics?
player 1: who the hell are you talking about?
player 2: James Carville.

Then player 2 gets to ask a yes/no question about the subject in question [are you alive? are you female? are you a cartoon?] and they keep going. It's in player 2's best interest to not be completely forthcoming about who they have in mind, as in the Jimmy Carter example, and player 1 needs to think of a lot of people that might have the same initials as their choice.

You have to sort of bend the rules if one of you comes up with a person the other person has never, ever heard of, or you can be cutthroat and stick it out that way. In general, this game is good for a few hours with the same person, then you have to never play it again together for a year or two because you learn each other's answering habits.
posted by jessamyn at 11:14 AM on June 15, 2004

As a kid, my father and I played a long running game where we looked for license plate numbers in sequential order, without regard to the letters (i.e, xxx 001, xxx 002, xxx 003, etc) This obviously works well in states that follow the "ABC 123" or "123 ABC" format or similar. I think we quit when we got to "xxx 026" after a few years.

On preview, maybe not the best time-filler...
posted by grateful at 11:36 AM on June 15, 2004

It's not really a game and it doesn't work so well with people you've known forever, but we used to play a "name game" in which you'd ask "Did you ever know anybody named [whatever]?" And if you did, you tell the story of how you knew them and why you rembember them. You end up hearing great stories about first girlfriends, paste-eaters, and bizarre office-mates; plus you get to remember those people who were just lingering on the edge of your memory.
posted by stefanie at 11:48 AM on June 15, 2004

Well I assume it's out of your budget but on a recent road trip one of my friend's brought one of those fancy portable DVD players. I told him it was a stupid idea and it'd make us sick and he was a horrible, horrible person for bringing it.

Seriously the trip seemed to last a few minutes. We took a break from Family Guy and realized we were just five minutes away. The driver obviously didn't watch but listening is enough and is really the extent of what the driver can do.
posted by geoff. at 12:12 PM on June 15, 2004

Here's a word game that's fun: Hinky Pinky.

One person thinks up a two-word rhyme.
If those are one-syllable words, that person would say, "Hink Pink: silverware geek."
If those are two-syllable words, that person would say, "Hinky Pinky: $clue"; and three-syllable, "Hinkety Pinkety: $clue."

Then the other person has to figure out the rhyme from the clue. It's fun, you interact, and it leads to giggles.

BONUS: I heard about it on NPR ;-P
Answer: Fork Dork. Ha!
posted by mimi at 12:19 PM on June 15, 2004

Patsy Cline.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:56 PM on June 15, 2004

Response by poster: Patsy Cline? I should bring her along?
posted by agregoli at 1:15 PM on June 15, 2004

make up start with one sentence like "Once upon a time there was a boy who..." your friend does another sentence, then you, then him, etc, etc.....

sing along to every single thing on radio or cds, really loudly, with the windows open. (70s pop is really good for this)

try to be the first one in the car to spot a gorgeous person in another car (whichever sex you prefer)...flirt with them shamelessly for a few miles.

find talk radio shows and talk back to the host/callers
posted by amberglow at 1:51 PM on June 15, 2004

For our trip through the South, we counted Waffle Houses. Once we realized we had seen 5+ in a few hours, each person in the car picked a number, and we counted each one we saw, out loud. The winner was whoever's number was the closest (I had 36, other folks had 28, 48, and 55). The final total was 58, topping all of us.

For some reason this cracked us up constantly, possibly because Waffle Houses are so dang goofy, and also because they were EVERYWHERE. It got to the point where if one person's number had been reached, they'd stay quiet or try to distract the others when they spotted a WH, hoping to protect their lead.

Not sure what chain is common between Chicago and Mass, though, other than boring old McDonald's. Maybe White Castle for a few states, then switch?
posted by GaelFC at 1:57 PM on June 15, 2004

Heck, no. She'd make a rather boring passenger, what with being dead and all.

But her songs are dead easy to sing to, even if you can't carry a tune, and they're so... let's call it cheezy, for lack of a better word, that they're quite entertaining, endlessly easy to riff from, and perfect for the road.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:12 PM on June 15, 2004

Car Bingo.

there are 'official' cards available places, but you could also make a couple up with the normal number of squares and fill it with things you might or might not see on the drive. The cards I was exposed to recently (Toronto to NYC) had common things like "trailer" to hard to find things (especially on interstates) like "post office" or "little red wagon".

There's a bunch of sites, like squiglysplayhouse (first google result for "car bingo") a lot of which seem to have other printable car games.
posted by cCranium at 2:44 PM on June 15, 2004

On my last long trip, the driver and I spent several hours playing "Marry, Bury or Fuck" (pardon my french). One person names three people, typically mutual acquaintances (you can also play with celebrities, but it gets boring fast), and the other player chooses which one they'd marry (i.e. spend the rest of their life with, but not have sex with), which one they'd bury (i.e. kill), and which one they'd fuck (i.e. have non-commital sex with). Typically what it really leads to is gossip about who you think is nice, who you hate, and who you think is hot. Warning: playing this game with your significant other can be hazardous to your health.

A similar game is "Would you rather...", which is pretty self-explanatory. Either player thinks of two undesirable options and both give their reasons for why they'd choose one over the other. Questions can range from mildly displeasurable options (would you rather be hot all the time or cold all the time?), to serious considerations (would you rather be deaf or blind?), to the profane (would you rather be subjected to X deviant sex act or Y form of medieval torture?). I'm pretty sure that there are books available with these types of questions as well.
posted by rorycberger at 2:54 PM on June 15, 2004

I have passed many a mile with friends playing the 'movie game' as derived from the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

First player picks a movie in their mind.
Second player randomly guesses a movie.
First player has to pick an actor from that movie.
Second player then picks another movie that stars said actor.
First player picks a new actor from that movie.

Game continues until you reach the movie originally chosen by player 1.

Rules are no repeat actors or movies, and you switch off from trying to find a movie and trying to find an actor.
posted by karmaville at 2:54 PM on June 15, 2004

I once played a game that was a bit CalvinBall and a bit of the 'spot the X' game. If you spotted something dead on the road, you "called it" to everyone else to verify. Once called, that person was the only one who could get points for that thing. When the dead thing was verified, points were awarded. The amount of points were detirmined by consenus. "Cooler" things got you more points. If you lied, or if the thing was just a tire, or if it was still alive, you got negative points.

The person who espied an upside down, rotting buffalo in South Dakota was the official winner. At least until we got past Colorado.
posted by sleslie at 3:09 PM on June 15, 2004

posted by tetsuo at 8:08 PM on June 15, 2004

In Europe, I've found driving with GPS to be great entertainment. When you feel like slowing down, set it to avoid the express ways. This proved even very helpful in rainy, heavy-traffic places. Probably depends on the sort of area. Wouldn't work well in excessively hilly or mountain areas.
posted by Goofyy at 11:29 PM on June 15, 2004

echo the support of audiobooks. neil gaiman does a creepy kids story one called coraline that's pretty cool.
posted by juv3nal at 1:00 AM on June 16, 2004

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