It's game night! Bring your favorite Board Game or Tabletop Game. Bring a Card Game. You can even bring your video game system for some competitive multiplayer action. Or if you don't have any of those things, you can always play charades. Sure, there might be some competitiveness, but it's all about having fun with your friends or family. Have some laughs and make some fond memories. Fun will be had, right? Well, no...
No one is having fun here. Instead, there might be severed friendships or broken families. Things might start off pretty well, but competition has a way of bringing out the worst in people. Someone may or may not cheat. There could be Sore Losers that have to deal with Unsportsmanlike Gloating from the winner(s). And if these games are played in teams, one of them might have a Spanner in the Works. There can even be a disagreement about the rules or instructions. Whatever happens, expect cards and boards to be thrown or tables to be flipped over. Televisions may even get broken. Inevitably, things will end with the players mad at each other in some way — and in extreme cases, friendships and family relationships may suffer irreversible damage. "It's only a game" indeed.
Note that despite what the title says, this doesn't have to specifically occur at night — it can happen any time of day. It can be one-on-one or even a small group that's involved. But it always has to end badly, with people at each others' throats.
In-Universe Examples Only. There are plenty of memes and stories about how games can ruin relationships; this is just focusing on fictional examples.
- Robin (1993): The tensions in Ives' group of friends, which are caused by them maturing at different rates and having different priorities, tend to come to the surface during their game nights. The most frequent start of their fights is Tim either being incredibly late to show up or saying he can't make it with Hudman finding this an unforgivable slight.
- In the Runaways short story "Truth or Dare", a friendly game of "Truth or Dare" turns acrimonious after Karolina asks Nico which member of the team was her best kiss. After initially refusing to answer, Nico gets annoyed with Chase's goading and responds that it was Karolina... which doesn't sit well with Victor, her ex-boyfriend. Nico then decides to cast a spell on Chase to force him to reveal a painful truth, but her spell misses and accidentally unleashes a giant serpent, forcing Nico, Chase, Victor, and Klara (who wandered in because the prior argument woke her up) to fight it and its rapidly-spawning children.
- Knights of the Dinner Table. Brian sometimes becomes so angry while participating in the role playing game Hackmaster that he will literally flip over the table where his group is playing. He has also been known to tie up the Game Master B.A. Felton and leave him hanging from the ceiling.
- Calvin and Hobbes frequently get into fights over games like Scrabble and Checkers, especially when they both start making stuff up.
- Black Sheep (1996): Downplayed as it doesn't lead to any bad arguments, but Mike gets pissed when Steve beats him three times in a row in checkers.
- In The Break-Up, it becomes clear that Gary and Brooke are not going to get back together after a game of Pictionary becomes a knockdown dragout argument.
- Game Night: Naturally, a constant occurrence as the competitive Max and Annie take their game nights very, very seriously. It gets very dramatic quickly when Max's brother Brooks appears to get kidnapped for real during their followup game night, and a lot of conflict ensues as they try to get him back.
- The Kings of Summer: Two examples; the first is brought about because Frank is a huge power-flaunting dickhead when it comes to monopoly, playing as pettily and scummily as possible just to make sure there's no way anyone else can win, which sets off Joe and leads him to call the cops. The second is an Ironic Echo of the first where Joe's resentment of Patrick comes to a head and he starts behaving exactly like Frank did at the first game.
Frank/Joe: The men are talking right now.
- Knives Out: Turns out to be a Chekhov's Gag. It's invoked lightly when Marta wins at Go (which she always does because she is not playing dirty or to win but to make a beautiful pattern), and Harlan flips the board, pretending to be angry. This mixes up the medications that causes Marta to accidentally inject him with the wrong medicine, which leads to a lot of conflict as Harlan tries to help Marta cover up his accidental death. Or it apparently does. It's a Red Herring - Ransom intentionally switched the medicines between vials in order to get Harlan killed, but Marta picked up the correct vial anyway after they were knocked over, because she was so well practiced she did it automatically by feeling the weight difference rather than looking at the labels.
- Ready or Not (2019): Played for Drama. It's an expected part of family tradition to play a game on wedding nights. Most of these games are just normal. Unfortunately for Grace, she picks hide and seek - meaning that the rest of the family has to try and hunt her down and kill her before sunrise.
- Star Wars: A New Hope: Han implies Chewbacca handles it pretty poorly when he loses in games. It's shown when R2-D2 and C-3PO play dejarik with Chewie, with the droids making a move that beats one of Chewie's piece, making him growl in anger. Threepio protests that R2 made a fair move, but Han warns him it's best to just let him win.
C-3PO: But, sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.Han: That's because a droid don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookies are known to do that.C-3PO: I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2 - let the wookiee win.
- In Hogfather, this comes up during the wizards litany of complaints about Hogswatchnight:
"And then later on someone'll suggest a board game," said Ponder.
"That's right. Where no-one exactly remembers all the rules."
"Which doesn't stop someone suggesting that you play for pennies."
"And five minutes later there's two people not speaking to one another for the rest of their lives because of tuppence."
- All in the Family: Mike invites the Lorenzos and Lionel over for a game night with him and Gloria, bragging about how much fun it will be with Archie out of the house; unfortunately, the game reveals some of Mike's own insecurities and entitled views, and he ends up flipping the board and storming out.
- One episode of The Big Bang Theory sees Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, and Amy get together for a game night. Penny lightheartedly suggests a "boys versus girls" theme, and Insufferable Genius Sheldon declares it a bad idea because any team without him on it is bound to lose. This incenses Amy enough to join Penny, and the two proceed to wipe the floor with the guys in every single game they choose, from Pictionary to Where's Waldo? to wrestling to a pie-eating contest.
- In another episode, Raj creates a giant scavenger hunt across the city full of riddles and puzzles for the whole gang. The initial plan is for the couples to be on teams together, but Leonard suggests switching things up for the sake of variety. As they dash around looking for the solutions, trouble arises: Penny thinks that Leonard asked to swap partners because he doubts her intelligence, while her partner Sheldon is too busy obsessing over the game to console her; meanwhile, Leonard picks Bernadette as his partner and is dismayed to discover that she's a Competition Freak with a very nasty attitude when it comes to games. Ultimately, only Amy and Howard have a good time—they discover that they both love Neil Diamond, sing his entire discography in their car, and end up ditching the others to go to a karaoke bar and perform "Cherry."
- One sketch featuring Eunice and her family on The Carol Burnett Show has Eunice manipulating her family into playing a game of Sorry. This, as you might expect given the characters, degenerates pretty quickly into a screaming argument.
- Frasier: One Halloween Episode, "Room Full of Heroes," sees Frasier devise an elaborate party game by telling Roz, Daphne, Niles, and Martin to dress up as their personal hero and act like them for the night, answering questions in character. He himself dresses like Sigmund Freud and, in addition to giving long-winded and boring answers to questions, criticizes the others' choices. It culminates with him throwing a tantrum when they don't play "right" and storming out. There's also an awkward moment when Niles, dressed as Martin, claims in character that he's ashamed of his sons, which gets Martin himself enraged.
- The King of Queens: Doug and Arthur play a game of Monopoly, with Arthur rolling a six and buying Park Place. Doug calls him out on his turn because Doug already owns Park Place, he's not the thimble, and he rolled a five. Arthur responds by throwing the board off the bed (and different game boards are seen on the floor implying other games were played with similar results).
- Seinfeld: In the episode "The Bubble Boy", George and Susan play Trivial Pursuit with the title character. George asks "Who invaded Spain in the 8th century?", to which the Bubble Boy responds with "Moors". George says he's wrong as the answer card says "Moops", with the Bubble Boy pointing out that's a misprint. George sticks to his guns, leading to them arguing between "Moors" and "Moops". The Bubble Boy strangles George, and Susan stops him by popping his bubble.
- In Wizards of Waverly Place, it's revealed that the Russos are notorious in their neighborhood for their destructive game nights, and have not held one in years as a consequence. One episode has them hold one anyway to prove that they've overcome their foul behavior. It backfires, leading to a major fight that causes a frustrated neighbor to call the police. Although it does help Justin get rid of a Stalker with a Crush.
- A meme shows pictures of a U.S. one dollar bill and a Monopoly one dollar bill. The first line says, "One of these has been fought over, destroyed homes, and torn families apart." The second line says, "The other is American currency."
- This Tumblr post shows a number of classic board games edited to have more honest/descriptive titles. In particular, Sorry gets the title "You'll say 'sorry' but what you'll really mean is '#%@$ you!'" and Monopoly is dubbed "Family fight night".
- Board James: In the "Shark Attack" episode, Board James just wants to play a normal game for a change, but he finally gets fed-up with Mike's cheating and Bootsy's trying to make love to the toy shark and lashes out at them.
Board James: C'mon—really, guys? This is a really simple fucking game. Why can we just play a fucking board game? (Mike laughs) IT'S NOT FUCKING FUNNY! Like, this is the most dysfunctional group of friends I ever had! You're over there cheating, you're over there—making love with the damn shark! I'm bored, I wanna play a fucking board game—you're fucking pissing me off!! FUCK YOU GUYS!! WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR GUYS' FUCKING PROBLEM?! FUCK!!
- In the Arthur episode "The Feud," Arthur goes over to Buster's house to play a Fictional Video Game. When the game crashes, Buster unplugs the console despite Arthur's objections, and Arthur insists that he only quit because he was losing. This argument gets recounted at school, where everyone begins to take sides and divides their friend group.
- In the Bob and Margaret episode, "Friends For Dinner", the couple visit Neil and Moira, a snide couple they only passively like and visited on the assumption they would be getting a meal. Instead they are treated to a board game, "What Would They Do?", where the opposing couples must guess what the other would do in a moral dilemma. Quite expectedly the game leads to heavy tension, especially when Neil repeatedly assumes the two would fail each situation, leading Margaret to blast at them for treating them to such a horrible night and storm out the house, with Bob meekly following. Moira in turn smashes the game on Neil's head, finally tired of his odious behaviour.
- DuckTales (2017): Zigzagged in "The Most Dangerous Game ... Night". When Scrooge jumps on Louie's suggestion to have a game night, Duckworth and Mrs. Beakly take the first chance they get to make themselves scarce. It turns out that Scrooge is extremely competitive and he threatens to cut his game-partner Donald out of the will if they lose. Dewey and Webby, who at the start of the episode had been gushing about how well they work together, mess up every time and start to doubt themselves. In the end, it's the secondary conflict coming to the foreground that forces the Ducks to pull together and forget all that happened earlier that evening.
- In The Fairly Oddparents episode "Pipe Down", Timmy gets pulled away by his Dad to play charades with the Dinkleburgs, with the Dad bragging about his charades trophies and stating they couldn't possibly lose. One Gilligan Cut later (with the time being 1.25 seconds), Dad is furious at his son after the Dinkleburgs win and take his trophies. Timmy gets promptly sent to his room.
- In the Family Guy episode "Petarded", the impetus for the main conflict of the episode — observing Peter's dubious intelligence and subsequent jerkassery — is started during a game night, where he ends up on an ego trip for winning a game of Trivial Pursuit, not knowing that Lois switched out his questions in particular with preschool-edition cards. Special mention goes to the fact that the same game night involved a literal "paintball" fight, but substituted with real guns after they misplace the paint guns.
- Garfield and Friends: A wild example in "Cabin Fever", where to pass the boredom of being snowed in, Garfield engages in a game of checkers with himself, including accusing his "opponent" of cheating and then whacking the game off the table and pouting how he doesn't want to play anymore.
- In The Loud House, the episode "Lynn-er Takes All" focuses on Lynn's siblings being annoyed by her gloating too much whenever she wins during game nights. It doesn't spoil their relationship with her, but they're still annoyed, so they try to beat her. When they do, however, she fears she's losing her touch and turns everything into a competition, annoying her siblings further. Once the truth comes out, she agrees to try to be a better winner — and while she still gloats, she doesn't do it in front of them anymore.
- In the Beach Episode "Beach Blanket Babies", Grandpa Lou and Boris play a card game and get into a heated argument over having to play a card they draw; Boris insists you have to play the card you draw while Lou argues you can save the card. It grows heated, to the point Didi and Minka try to calm things down between them, to no avail. The game ends when Boris flicks Lou's cards over the ground and says he can play 52-pick up.
- In "Family Feud", the parents play charades, with Stu and Howard teamed against Didi and Betty. Stu gets angry with Howard when Howard doesn't guess Stu was trying to do Dances with Wolves and calls Howard an imbecile after Howard thinks it's a musical. Both Stu and Howard storm off before Didi and Betty laugh about them. Things escalate to the point where Didi and Betty insult each other's husbands, kickstarting the Feud Episode plot.
- The Simpsons
- In "A Milhouse Divided", the Simpsons have a dinner party at their house for the neighbors, including Millhouse's parents Kirk and Luanne, who show up and bicker with each other throughout. Things come to a boil when they play Pictionary, with Luanne unable to guess Kirk's drawing of dignity. The fighting gets worse before they finally decide to get divorced.
- In "Brawl in the Family", the Simpsons play Monopoly during a rainy day. Things get heated when Homer ends up owing Bart money for landing in his space. Afterwards, Lisa finds Bart's hotels are made of Legos and calls him out on it. Things blow up into an argument; Homer begins choking Bart, while Lisa and Marge try to pull them apart. Maggie gets disturbed and calls the police, resulting in the family getting arrested and necessitating a counselor to work with them.