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