How's this for the ultimate game of truth-or-dare: a lie detector for kids. You'd better want to play with me. I'll know if you don't — you lousy fibber!
Monopoly is monotony compared to Liar Liar Pants on Fire — a board game developed by Canadian officer Dan Tibbs, a former polygraph examiner with the Niagara regional police.
To demonstrate the palm-sized lie detecting device, Tibbs strapped it to my hand, whipped out his badge and asked me if I had ever concealed illegal contraband.
Let's just say I demonstrated what he called a "high emotional response" (It was nerves, I swear) and I'm fairly certain that nothing I said would constitute admissible evidence in a criminal courtroom.
Officer Tibbs says Liar Liar Pants on Fire is not only fun, it's a great way to bring parent and child closer together. "It's a great way to start conversations," he says.
You score points by telling the truth. Here are some of the 200+ questions posed on game cards:
• "Have you ever secretly stayed up past your bedtime to watch TV?" • "Have you ever gone through someone's drawers without them knowing?" • "Have you ever accidentally walked into the wrong washroom?" • "Have you ever farted in the bathtub?" • "Have you ever kissed a boy or a girl?"
This might be a game, but the lie detecting device is based on the same principles as a polygraph. When strapped to your fingertips, electrodes measure blood flow and skin responses. Real polygraphs, which are much more accurate, also measure heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate.
Players are asked a yes-no question and a series of one to six lights are activated. When you lie, your body tends to have a bigger cardiovascular response. If all six lights blaze, there's a good chance you're fibbing.
The object of the game is to guess which two questions will induce the greatest emotional response.
Tibbs and his business partner, John Blaszynski, spent more than $500,000 developing this patented game, along with a friskier, adult version, IdQuest, which boasts questions like these: • "Have you ever knocked over a store display and casually walked away?" • "Have you ever urinated in the shower? • "Have you ever gone through someone's medicine cabinet while visiting? • "Are you ashamed of your relatives?"
Is sitting on the polygraph hot seat a positive experience for a child? Tibbs says it can be. He and his partner consulted with psychologists, teachers and other child-care professionals — to make sure the game is used correctly.
Just as the mere presence of a lie detector in a police station sometimes gets an accused criminal to confess, Liar Liar Pants on Fire is intended to spark parent-child conversations. The instructional manual shows parents how to use the game to raise questions about drug use and other difficult subjects.
"Hopefully it gets them laughing, too," Tibbs says.
Both games sell for about $40 and are available on the company Web site — www.liarliarpantsonfire.com.
The use of polygraph testing in law enforcement is controversial. Of course, just being strapped to electronic gizmo to my hand can cause a pretty big response to an "emotionally responsive" guy like me — no matter what the question. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Trouble in Toyland
Toymakers from around the world gathered in New York this week for the 100th American International Toy Fair. Small manufacturers, like Tibbs, join toy giants like Hasbro and Mattel, hoping to hit on the next Tickle Me Elmo.
Easter is still two months away, but Santa's helpers have to start shopping in February to have their stores stocked for the December rush. One wrong move and your sold out of Furbies and stuck with a warehouse full of Hello Kitty calculators.
To top it off, there's trouble in Toyland — retail sales fell to $20.3 billion last year, down from $20.5. Major buyers Kmart Corp. and FAO Inc. have been hit hard by the economy, closing hundreds of stores and reducing orders.
Still, some 1,500 toymakers gathered with increasingly complicated products and new twists on old favorites.
Elmo's back, and now he dances the Funky Chicken, while "My Scene" Barbie basks in her celebrity status and SpongeBob SquarePants squeezes into a Speedo. And your bobble head doll collection might not be complete without the "Jesus Nodder."
Radio controlled cars have given birth to radio-controlled submarines and Hovercrafts. And every old fashion game has been re-jiggered — even spin-the-bottle, which now comes with a talking bottle.
In the world of licensing, last year's hottie, Ozzy Osbourne, is still breaking ground. He's now available in piggybank form. Now, he can corrupt children as he teaches them to save money.
New to the action hero figure world is Alan Cumming, who is depicted as Nightcrawler from the X-men sequel, due out this summer. Another comic book legend, the Hulk, is emblazoned on all manner of paraphernalia, including giant foam hands that emit groans and punching sounds.
The Wolf Files walked the floor of New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center, looking for some of the stranger offerings at this year's toy fair. Here's what turned up. Strange New Toys
Wireless Teddy Bears: Is Mommy working late? Is Daddy on a business trip? In the age of wireless communications comes Wabi Bear — a cuddly little Teddy that prepares your kid for the cellular age while breaking the news to him that you're not coming home for dinner.
A busy parent can just call an 800 number or visits the password-protected Web site, to send a personal message, lullaby, or bedtime story. For real rapscallions, you can even send a preventative, "Don't do that, Mommy's watching."
Edible Magic Markers: Children love to write on everything and they like to put strange things in their mouths. Now they can do both, with Foodoodlers — markers that let you write on your food.
Just color and eat. The markers contain a nontoxic, FDA-approved solution of water and propylene glycol. They come in all colors, and they let you write on sandwiches, vegetables, bagels (they're kosher) and, best of all, candy.
The World of Gross: If God didn't intend boys to be attracted to all things gross, he wouldn't have invented little sisters. This year, boys can turn to Rude Tunes Taz, a naughty new plaything that makes music with his armpit. There's also Bug Soap, which allows you to turn a rubber spider into creepy personal hygiene.
And for Harry Potter fans, there's "Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans" that include new flavors such as vomit, dirt and earwax. They taste just like the sound. Yum! If you doubt Harry's magic powers, wait until you see how well the ear wax sells.
The World of Runaway Technology: How bad are you at chess? Let "Ivan the Conqueror" tell you. Excalibur Electronics' new computer game spews insults as it beats you. It features a hundred levels of difficulty and a 500-word "Barbarian vocabulary." You will be crushed, you pathetic loser.
The World of Cynicism: Everybody loves a good scandal, and if you have the stomach to play reporter, there's Scandal Monger — a trivia game for people who never want to forget the O.J. Simpson trial, Mike Tyson's ear-biting or President Clinton's peccadilloes. Think of it as Trivial Pursuit for "Enquiring Minds."
But if you're looking for the perfect boy toy, Meet "Mr. Wonderful" a talking doll who tells single gals all the right things: "Lets just cuddle tonight." "Let's stop and ask for directions." You don't look fat in that dress." One that I'm committing to memory: "Let's visit your parents this weekend." And, of course, the old standby, "Yes, Dear."
Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.