Childhood games

Today I’ve decided to write about games that my sister and I played as kids. None of these games were invented in a premeditated way, but somehow they evolved from our interaction, the rules generated out of thin air through mutual understanding and consensus.

My sister liked to tickle me, and I hate to be tickled, especially in enclosed spaces. This gave rise to a game called Tickling Machines, which was played in the back seat of the car. Our family car at the time had a slideable coathook above each back door, which became the switches for our imaginary machines. The central rule of Tickling Machines is that if the switch above person A’s door is in the “off” position, then person A may not be tickled. Hence you can easily deny the other person the power to tickle you (simply by sliding the coathook above your own door to the “off” position), whereas in order to gain the power to tickle the other person you have to reach all the way to the other side of the car to fiddle their switch. Doubtless the game was invented as a way to stop Rebecca from tickling me indiscriminently; any attempt at a blanket ban would have been far less effective.

Catch the Birdie was a simple game that we played in the living room. One person shines a torch on the wall and moves it about, while the other tries to slap their hand on the spot of light. Upon a successful catch, players swap roles. This game requires a certain maturity and integrity, because there is a wide grey area between cheating and playing legitimately. For that reason it wouldn’t be suitable for all children, but it worked for us.

On the playground, we had a game called Sames and Opposites. All that’s required is a double swing set (the kind with chain arms rather than rigid ones), and one person on each swing. By adjusting their weight to make the swing go slower or faster, one person seeks to get their swing to move in unison with the other person’s, while the other person seeks to make their swing move in countermotion: to be as far back as possible when the other person’s is as far forward as possible, and vice versa. There is no winner or loser, no scoring, no limit. There is simply a struggle of wills, with each player being somewhat successful at different times.

Moving on to unnamed games, there were verandahs outside our bedrooms upon which we would often draw with chalk (and we had various rituals associated with this). One of our regular amusements was a game where one person would lie down while the other would draw a chalk outline around them and then add horns, tails, and other monstrous features. Then we’d swap roles.

[Update: Here’s me playing this game with younger relatives.]

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Yet another outdoor amusement involved one person standing on a small mound telling a story. At some point, the other person would push them off and we would fantasise that the story-teller landed in whatever it was they last mentioned. This was invented while playing in the sandhills at the beach.

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2 Responses to “Childhood games”

  1. Elsha Says:

    I love how there are no winners or losers in your games. My sister and brother and I pretended a lot, we rode our bikes, and occasionally made tents out of couch cushions and chairs and blankets. Guess we had more toys and games with actual rules to play with, or played alone at times, than make up games.

  2. Flesh-eating Dragon Says:

    We did our fair share of those things too, of course. Also various other things that kids do, such as climbing trees. I can’t remember making tents out of the furniture at home, but there was one particular couch at our grandparents’ place that could be converted into a fully enclosed space, and we used to play in it sometimes when we visited.


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