Word Search Redux

You know: those draw-a-loop-around-the-word puzzles, where the word you're looking for is hidden in a forest of letters and might be there backwards or forwards or diagonally, even? Also called "Word Find." Want a more interactive illustration? Click on over to the Fundamental Physics of Space Word Search and Find for a quick taste of this rather remarkable game - considering all the educational uses it gets. Give yourself a few minutes, then come back here and click this.

This is a game called "Letter Lasso. And it's a word find/search puzzle, all right. And it's undoubtedly interactive. More interactive than you'd expect. So interactive that it redefines the whole word seagoing-finding experience. Because after you find a word, the word disappears and the adjacent rows and columns shift to fill in the space. So almost the whole puzzle changes every time you find a word. And it's timed. And the sooner you find the word, the higher the score. And if you wait long enough, you get a hint. So you can't play exactly like you'd play a paper word search and find. Which is what's really new and playworthy about this game. And you can choose different subjects, like: philosophy, nutrition, rock climbing.

After playing it a while, you may begin to get intrigued with the whole art and science of solving word find/search puzzles. In that case, you should definitely try this "Take Ten online, make-your-own-search-and-find-word-puzzle tool. After you enter your words, be sure to look at a lot of the different possible arrangements of those words the computer can devise. You will be enlightened and amused, in a word-search-findish way.

Apple Crate: a lesson in packaging

Apple Crate. You can think of it as the coffee table edition of Out of the Box Publishing's innovative, no-right-answer game Apples to Apples. But it's more than a new edition, it's a lesson in the art of packaging: Put a good game in a fine, wooden box, and suddenly you have something worthy of your most respectable company. It's the very same game that you've played in the kitchen, with the kids. Well, actually, it's the "core" game (get it? Core, as in apple core) plus the first two expansion sets. And there is a certain je ne sais quoi about having all those cards in one box....But having them in one box, and a finely crafted wooden one, at that, puts the whole game in a different context. It becomes a fine thing - even in the sophisticatedly jaded eyes of the discriminating adult - a collectible.

Take heed, Defenders of the Playful. Apple Crate is more than Apples to Apple in a box. The Crate is one great leap for grown-upkind.

Crate creates the needed dignity; gives the necessary permission. It makes Apples to Apples seem grown up. It looks like something worthy of the upwardly grown. And yet, it's still Apples to Apples. Still as funny and irreverent and inclusive and as fun as it has always been. Only now, just because of a nice wooden box and a more cards, we who Just Want to Have Fun have an new invitation to a wonderfully silly game that could intrigue even our guests, even our parents, our bosses and secretaries and leaders and neighbors, even our in-laws.

Hose Hockey and Beyond

The "party industry" - you know, the manufacturers and suppliers of entertainment for everything from birthday to corporate parties - has become a steady source of new, and often deeply wacky play technologies. Witness, Hose Hockey, one of the tamer examples of inflatable silliness, where players use air hoses in the attempt to blow a ball into the opposing team's goal. For all its wackiness, it is a safe, non-contact invitation to competitive hilarity, which can be compared quite favorably to the sport-like thrills of Human Foosball.

For a perhaps purer form of innovative wackiness, take a look at the Velcro Wall, where players put on Velcro suits and take turns bouncing off the inflatable floor and sticking themselves to the wall.

And then there's inflatable Sumo Wrestling.

Dots with Personality

This virtual toy is demo from the BioMotion Lab. While you're playing around with it, think about this: "This tool demonstrates that biologically and socially relevant information about a person is conveyed in biological motion patterns. It allows you to manipulate a number of parameters controlling the characteristics of human walking. You can interactively change biological properties, personality traits and emotional expression of a point-light walker. " Personality traits! With a bunch of dots!!!

Which made me very much want to check out the collection of "Favourite Links," which led me to the puzzling delights of George Mather's Motion Perception - a collection of 14 different animated illusions. After which I found myself wandering in something close to visual glee in Michael Bach's collection of Optical Illusions and Visual Phenomena.

It's a strange kind of fun, this journey through animated optical illusions. You wouldn't think the eye would have a sense of humor. But fool the eye enough, and it can make the whole mind laugh almost out loud.

Pringling

Most inventors are deeply familiar with the potential profitability of playful thinking. The creative necessity requires them to open their minds, to toy with things and ideas, to suspend judgment and basically muck around. As necessity is the mother of invention, playfulness is its father. Every now and then, something gets invented that is so obviously a product of the playful mind that it becomes something close to an icon for the whole invention family. Today's embodiment: the Pringle Thingle."

Inventor and artist Bud Wall includes his Letter to the Pringles People with his gallery of Pringle Thingle images. Here's part:

"Years ago, when your company was first formed, I was inspired by the shape of the Pringle Potato Chip. I immediately saw the possibility for a worldwide promotional item. But, like a lot of my ideas, I just filed it away for another day. I've always envisioned this toy in the public domain. I can see the Thingle as an advertising prop on television, in the movies, on the internet, in offices, under the Christmas tree... everywhere. When I carry three or four Thingles through campus to a photo shoot, every student I pass smiles and has a comment. One said, "That reminds me, I need to pick up some more Pringles at the student store." I now carry them in black bags so as to minimize the attention. The production model would be molded from a much stronger, lighter and more permanent polyurethane foam or could even be an inflatable vinyl with internal perforated cells to hold the Pringle Thingle shape. A small plastic hand pump would be included."

This was three years ago. I'm thinking Mr. Wall has not yet achieved the commercial recognition his inventiveness so clearly deserves. Which explains why playfulness is so prized and difficult to maintain.

My message to Wall: Take your Thingles out of the bag. Share them relentlessly with the Pringle-appreciating world. And, above all, play on.

eudaemonics

EUDAEMONICS

eudemonism , eudaemonism
noun
(Philosophy ) an ethical doctrine holding that the value of moral action lies in its capacity to produce happiness
eu'demonist , eu'daemonist noun
eu"demon'istic , eu"daemon'istic , eu"demon'istical , eu"daemon'istical adjective
eu"demon'istically , eu"daemon'istically adverb(ial)



Four-Way Volleyball

Four-Way Volleyball? But of course.

According to this site: "4-Way Volleyball requires 4 teams of 6 to 16 players simultaneously competing against each other. Four regulation volleyball nets extend outward 20 feet from a common center pole to 4 outside poles. Ways of scoring points can vary, depending on program design. For example, if a team fails to return the ball, the other 3 teams may gain a point. Two different color balls may be used simultaneously throughout the game to increase the challenge, and one color ball may score higher points than the other. Using beach balls makes the game easier and fun for everyone. Each round is comprised of a set number of consecutive serves, 4 per team. Otherwise, the rules are the same as the traditional game."

Exactly the way we played it 27 years ago at Philadelphia's celebration of the Bicentennial. Except we used a 6-foot-diameter Earthball. So getting it across the net, no matter which way you were trying, was something of a feat in itself, and frequently required the cooperation of two adjoining teams.

And we didn't keep score.

Shifting Perspective for Fun and Profit

It could be said that stories and games and humor are all exercises in the ability to shift perspective - a key survival skill if ever there was one. In a good game, you constantly have to imagine what it is like outside of your perspective: how the other player sees the board, the other team the goal. In a good joke, the fool turns out to be the hero, the victim the perpetrator, the prince the pauper.

Note, for example, the curiously fun experience generated by the Powers of Ten as you shift the perspective of scale: "View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons."

As macro becomes micro, our whole way of understanding who and what we are changes and changes again. It fascinates us. Almost endlessly. It tickles something inside us. It makes us feel a little more alive, a little more mysterious, a little more fun.

The Powers of Ten is one feature on a gloriously perspective-shifting site called "Molecular Expressions." I found the microphotograph that accompanies this story in the Soap Bubble Gallery.

Of Fun and Art

When you play with some of the stuff you might find clicking your way through a site called "Stanza," as much fun as you think you're having, you're actually playing with art. Mousing from one interactive, Shockwavey weirdness to another, you discover that what you're playing with isn't games, and isn't toys, and clearly has no use at all. Sure, you can make it do things. But there's never a purpose. Because it's art.

And Stanza, the person responsible for this site, makes it perfectly clear that what you are playing with is a work of art. Award-winning, even. Stanza explains:

"This main stanza site features lots of work, including the internet art project 'The Central City' as well as lots of soundtoys, interactive movies and the gallery of fine art. The intention is to make an interesting, interactive, multimedia website, with sounds, pictures and artworks. The site also contains multimedia work and electronic music; cd players are built into the site so that you can listen to my music as you browse. You can navigate around from each of the cells on the home page and you can go to to various experimental interactive audio visual pieces. Also online are paintings, photos and conceptual pieces from 1984 when at Goldsmiths', to the present day. Within the site are generative areas, areas where you can mix sounds and interact with images. There is a jukebox on the stanza main site and a karoake machine in the central city area."

Art? I exclaim in a questioning manner. It feels like fun to me!

Which, apparently, is the whole point.

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Toy Therapy for Business Meetings

Ever since I first facilitated a business meeting, I knew that my appreciation for a good toy would prove a powerful tool for increasing participation and productivity. Over the years, part of my facilitation service became a kind of Toy Therapy. I knew how to give people the right toy at the right time. When I first learned of a company called Office Playground, I realized that I wasn't alone in my appreciation for toys and the playfulness of adults and predictability of social dynamics.

As a case in point, I take four different toys, each of which is available from the abovementioned Office Playground, each of which having a different impact on the productivity and creativity of the group effort. Taken together, these four toys span a range of social engagement, from personally pensive to collectively wacky.

We begin with the Velvet Slime Anenome. Give everyone a Velvet Slime anenome and you give them enough to do with their hands so that they can actually focus on the meeting, engaging the touch with something quietly yucky, yet kinda fun.

When a bit more participation and expressiveness might be needed, we distribute Bendable Clowns. These small, rubbery figures have a wire core that allows them to be bent into different positions. One might say that having your own clown to bend helps you from getting bent, as it were. The fact is that they occupy the fingers, like the Velvet Slime Squishy Beads, but are also expressive, engaging the psyche like they engage the hands. Further, people can make their clowns appear to interact with others, creating scenes and stunts, building clown pyramids. So here we have a toy that sets the stage for personal and collective interaction.

Wishing to engage the mind a bit more actively, and to open the possibility for perhaps even more pointed social discourse, we give everyone two Boinks. Boinks are nylon finger cuffs - flexible open tubes that you can stick your fingers in and forget how to pull them out. They are also flexible enough to flick as well as fling. Thus inducing either a contemplative state whereby one is attempting to free and imprison oneself more or less simultaneously; or a semi-manic social engagement during which time participants strategically sproing at each other.

And then, when push has clearly gone beyond shove, and you need people to get beyond social and personal barriers, it's time to bring out the Snapper Hands - stretchy like rubber, sticky like stick-to-the-wall sticky highly-flingable little hand things that can grab things, like sheets of paper and people's attention.

You'll find yet more examples of Toy Therapy for Business Meetings in my collection of "Toy Stories."

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Bonving

Bonving is the Swedish game of shoe tossing, invented, apparently, by members of the Swedish music group Eggstone. The goal of the game? I quote: "To throw a classic men's shoe size 9 or 10 into the opponent team's field. Your rival team will then try to catch your throw in their garbage cans. If you as server, succeed to land the shoe on their square, you will award 1 point. If the opponent team catches your shoe, they will get the point."

To discover that such sports are being created and played is music to this writer's conceptual ears. It's the spirit of Junkyard Sports epitomized. Using found objects like shoes and garbage cans, the sport, at least until official shoe size and garbage can properties are determined, is an invitation to playfulness as much as it is an invitation to play.

Of Game Pieces and Interface

His Master's Voice "is a board game. The players can move semi-autonomous ball robots by making sounds. Form and gravity collude with voice, board and chance. Each ball listens to a certain pitch and starts to move if the right frequency was hummed or sung...The initial setting does not provide rules. The players get involved and slowly experience strategies and goals."

There are several reasons for us to pay particular attention to this "Robotic Board Game." Some of them become more apparent as you look at the video of the game in action. There's something clearly fun, and funny, about moving pieces around a board by making noises at them. Learning how to select and control a particular piece is clearly as much of a challenge as figuring out a game to play, and a strategy for playing it. Learning how to control your voice, especially for the atonal few, is in itself a significant challenge. Playing with pieces that seem to have their own intelligence or character, and don't always do what you want them to do, is an experience that is unique to the digital age, and virtually packed with playworthy potential.

And then there's the part I find especially promising - the part where the designer says: "The initial setting does not provide rules. The players get involved and slowly experience strategies and goals." Promising because somehow the game isn't really designed until it gets played. Which means that it gets redesigned every time it gets played. Which means that it, ultimately, truly belongs to the people who play it.

Carrom, anyone?

According to the Online Guide to Traditional Games, "Carrom, Carums, Karom or Karum is most popular on the Indian subcontinent although versions of it are played right across Asia encompassing the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Yemen, Central Asia from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and as far East as China, Malaysia and Indonesia." This photo shows two men from Java playing on home made board, using bottlecaps for pieces.

Carrom is very closely related to Crokinole, which is most assuredly not Carroms, and yet, oddly similar.

Which might remind the older, and/or more informed reader of a street game called, oddly enough, "Skully" where you "use your fingers to shoot your piece (a bottlecap, poker chip, or other small item) through the course drawn on the street, then 'kill' all the other players, leaving you the winner."

Which might cause a moment of pleasant amazement as you contemplate how games migrate from place to place, culture to culture, generation to generation, like a thread, keeping humanity together, in stitches.

Turning the Tables

In the award-winning Pixar animation "Geri's Game, we see an artfully animated story of an old man playing chess with himself. He finally "wins" by tricking himself. He feigns a heart attack, and then, while his self is distracted, he turns the board around.

I know, I know. It's a joke. Or a story of profound schizophrenia. Or testimony to the bizarre powers of the human mind that we are actually capable of taking either side, and that we are endowed with the sometimes oddly useful ability to fool ourselves. But it's also an example of a strategy that I've found quite useful when I'm playing with people who are not my self.

Since we're talking about chess, let's talk about a game with someone who is very much not equal to you. Imagine yourself as a grandmaster, playing with your seven-year-old granddaughter. She knows the moves. But that's about all. You can beat her, if you want, in five moves. Maybe four. But what's the point? The only real point is getting to play with her. Of connecting with her, and maybe fanning her love for the game, but, far more importantly, celebrating your love for each other. You could make bad moves, deliberately. But that would be taking something away from her. You could instruct her, but that would take something away from the relationship.

So, what if you made it the rule that either of you, at any time during the game, could turn the board around? It'd be fair. It'd be interesting, for both of you. It'd be a way you could keep the game going, and challenging.

Years ago, when I ran my games retreat center called the "Games Preserve," I made turntables for each of the two-player strategy games we had, for just that very reason. Because it kept the game going. Because it kept the relationship between players open and playful. Because it made it more fun.

Project Alphabet - a Fotolog

This is the letter "I" - in brick - as found by someone named Eliahu. I found it on a site called "Project Alphabet." Apparently, Project Alphabet is a collaboration between a group of people we shall call "fotologgers," for reasons which will soon become apparent to those who read on...

Project Alphabet is a "log of found letters." Camera-ready participants look at the world through the lens of the alphabet, snapping up anything they looks clearly letter-like. The result is a wonderfully playful collection of images, and a public invitation to join in the fun.

Project Alphabet is one of thousands of Fotologs, hosted, for free, by Fotolog. There are a lot of remarkable things about this whole project, not the least of which is that it's free, and public. Another remarkable thing is that all the Fotologs hosted by Fotolog are safe for children. I quote:

"The most important rule is to respect your fellow Fotologgers (and everyone else for that matter). Don't post obscene, hateful or mean photos. Don't say nasty things in photo captions or guestbooks. Don't post other people's photos without their permission. And, as we said, we want our families to enjoy this site. That doesn't mean you can only post pictures of babies and puppies. We encourage you to post some interesting, intriguing, artistic edgy stuff. But, if you post photos that contain things like nudity, explicit sexual content, bondage, self mutilation, obscene gestures, gory injuries, etc., we're going to make you take them back down."

It is a remarkable service, free and freeing, inviting and intriguing, safe and, most important, all in the spirit of fun.

This game sucks

It's called "The Dyson Telescope Game." It's a series of puzzles, the object of which is to move a ball into a hole by figuring out the correct sequence of pushes. The pushers are telescoping rods located at different places in the puzzle grid.

As a game, it's quite respectable. The puzzles are challenging, There are increasing levels of difficulty (and more promised). The interface is intuitive. The exercise of perception and deduction is engaging. It may not be a great puzzle. There are other puzzles like it. But what makes it unique, and worthy of our collective attention, is that it's not just a puzzle, but an advertisement. For a vacuum cleaner, no less.

The Dyson Telescope has nothing to do with astronomy. It's a feature of the high-tech Dyson Vacuum Cleaner - a telescoping wand that expands or contracts for easy storage. Some relatively brilliant marketing person apparently thought that making a game out of the expanding and contracting of it all would attract attention to the many marvels of advanced vacuuming embodied by Dyson technology.

For the fun community at large, what's perhaps the most noteworthy about this whole campaign is that it works. The game is kind of fun. And the kind-of-fun of it makes you want to learn more about the kind of fun to be had with the higher technologies of the Dyson vacuum cleaner. Even though the game has little to do with household hygiene, even though you can play the whole game without ever knowing that it's about a vacuum cleaner, it's a fun invitation, and it's an invitation to fun. Which is precisely what we're all about.

The Happiest People

This is a picture of hand made toys made by the hands of kids in Nigeria and Senegal. It comes from a collection called: "The Art of Play: Recycled Toys from Around the World." I like this picture a lot, because it says something about happiness. Something like: "happiness is where you make it."

And, according to this story, Nigeria is the place where happiness is being made most often. The US scored 16th. The U.K. 24th. Here we are, probably the wealthiest and most technologically advanced country in the world, and those Nigerians, with their civil wars and poverty, are happier than we are. What does that tell us?

One thing it definitely tells us: "Survey after survey has shown that the desire for material goods, which has increased hand in hand with average income, is a happiness suppressant."

Maybe it's time to take happiness seriously. Fortunately, we are about a click away from those who are doing so already. Like the World Database of Happiness which includes vast amounts of research and an extensive bibliography of more studies, and Authentic Happiness, a site devoted to a new, and very welcome movement in psychology, started by Martin Seligmen, author of the book by the same name.

The Dancing Referee

One of my favorite UK correspondents found a faith-restoring clip of a dancing referee. Well, he's not really dancing. He's refereeing a soccer match. The musical accompaniment and the artful cutting makes it look like he's dancing. And yet, some of his movements are exceptionally dance-like, unnecessarily graceful, downright exuberant.

It's less a testimony to soccer than it is to the human spirit. The fun of soccer belongs to the players and fans. The officials are there, not to have fun, but to keep the way clear so that fun can be had by others. They allow the players to leave aside concerns about fairness and safety, so that they can focus everything, everything on the game. But refereeing is often a difficult role, one that leads to argument and bitterness, insult and injury. To find a space for joy in all this, to transform yourself from an official to a performer, requires courage and commitment and deep enjoyment. It kind of makes you think that anyone, regardless of role or position or function or job, can find fun, if fun is what that person is ready to find.

It's probably useful to note that not all sports require referees. There's at least one I know of that asks players to be their own referees. It's called "Ultimate Frisbee." Though the Dancing Referee is a testimony to the human spirit, Ultimate Frisbee offers us another testimony, to what they call the "Spirit of the Game." To understand fun, we must find ways to celebrate both.

Moving Stones

I came across a game called "Moving Stones" and was, well, moved by it. It's one of those "subtly fun" games, involving, as the author explains:

"...a number of stones (ordinary, everyday ones). Place them on the floor in any way you want, and then one at a time you move the stones. There are only two rules:

* Do it slowly
* Move one stone at a time"

I've played games like this. In fact, my sacred wife Rocky led her found-object sculpture-making experience at the Esalen Institute last week. There's something deeply fun about making something beautiful and temporary together. Something life-affirming and world-affirming. Something sensitive and loving and, well, mysterious.

Which explains the photo. Which has nothing at all to do with the game, except that it is a picture of rocks and mystery: rocks that move across the desert floor, propelled by inexplicable forces. I like the juxtaposition of photo and game. Kind of like what you'd get in a variation of Moving Stones and Found Object Sculpture, where you take found ideas and move them around each other until they seem to fall together into something significant.

Swap

You know UNO. And you certainly know Crazy Eights. Which could understandably lead you to the conclusion that you also know Swap.

Like UNO, which is like Crazy Eights, Swap is a get-rid-of-your-cards-first kind of game. Like UNO and Crazy Eights, you do that by having cards in your hand that match the color or number of the top card in the discard pile. Unless you have a wild card.

Unlike UNO or Crazy Eights, one of the wild card things you can do is swap hands with other players. And it's this particularly wild thing that makes Swap into a unique and welcome addition to the Crazy Eights / UNO family.

The opportunity to swap hands results in such a profound change in the strategy and feel of the game, and adds so much to the general hilarity, that it becomes almost instantly and unquestionably Major FUN.

Hence, the award.

Underwater Hockey

Yes, Virginia, there is a sport called Underwater Hockey. According to the official Australian site Underwater Hockey Victoria: "The British Navy invented underwater hockey in the 1950?s to keep their divers fit and to improve their ability to move and work efficiently under water. The game came to Australia shortly after and has evolved into a fast dynamic sport played in more than 20 counties."

The site goes on to explain more about the game: "Underwater hockey is played in a 25 m x15 m pool that is between 1.8 3 m deep. The game consists of 15 minute halves and a three minute half time... Each side has 12 players, 10 of who can play in any one game. During the game 6 players are in the pool with 4 interchange players on the side who can sub at any time. The players wear large fins, a diving mask and snorkel and a thick glove made from latex to protect the hand from the pool bottom and the puck. The bats are made of wood and are about 25 cm long, they usually have one straight edge for flicking the puck and the back edge is usually curved for hooking the puck. The top players can flick the puck well over 3 m and it comes off the bottom enough to go over another player."

Clearly a sport not without its hazards. But just as clearly, a sport which one could take seriously - enough to become quite skilled at.

All of which leads one to wonder: Underwater Soccer? Underwater Polo? Underwater Croquet? With Underwater Hockey as a precedent, are there not a veritable Underwater Olympics?

The B.U.G. Project

They called it "B.U.G.". B.U.G.? Big Urban Game. Obviously. "A citywide game that turns the Twin Cities into a 108-square mile giant game board. Three teams race three giant (26 feet high) inflatable game pieces Red, Yellow and Blue from three different starting points along three different routes between checkpoints in Minneapolis and St. Paul to a shared destination." Apparently, you could: "Join a team....vote for a route for your team," and then "come down to the checkpoints and roll the dice at the end checkpoints to give your team a speed boost."

A project of the Design Institute of the University of Minnesota, the game's avowed purpose was to "promote visual awareness of the Twin Cities' urban environment, frame new perspectives, provoke fresh perceptions and encourage wide input on how the Twin Cities' public realm design could be improved from streets to transit to parks and other urban amenities. As the three oversized inflatable game pieces are carried (by a team of volunteer MOVERS) through a series of checkpoints, they will act like giant beacons or 'cursors' pointing out features of the diverse neighborhoods they pass through, and attracting attention to the Twin Cities in general."

Well, it sure got my attention. As well as the attention of 3306 registered online players. It is reassuring to learn that, given the efforts of a few crafty visionaries, for five whole days fun was alive and enlivening in the Twin Cities.

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The Shell Game Revisited

Here's an online version of the Shell Game. Before you read on, give it a try. No, really. I'll make this a short article. You'll have plenty of time.

Did you win?

Now take a look at Alex Boldt's article "Winning the Shell Game." It describes a more familiar version of the Shell Game - the one that involves money and people who fool you.

What struck me particularly instructive about human nature as revealed this particular version of the game is that we seem to have so much fun trying to fool the fooler that we are willing to risk having to pay, a lot, for the opportunity to lose.

And perhaps even more instructive: we can even train birds to play.

Footbags

Footbags, aka Hackey Sacks, have become an art, in every sense of the word: There are footbags that are, themselves, works of art, like those in this collection. There are players who can achieve new heights of physical balance and agility, individually and collectively, competitively or cooperatively.

I'm especially interested in the cooperative part.

Though a glance at the photos and videos contained on the website of the Footbag Worldwide Information Service is all that you'll need to see the kinds of grace achievable in the pursuit of the competitive footbag sports, like the beautiful game of Footbag Net, I am even more attracted by the people I see standing in a circle and just juggling footbags.

I guess because I get a lot of fun out of playing games like group juggling. And maybe even more because of people who put together things like the Footbag Peace Initiative.

Because juggling footbags together is really a beautifully peaceful kind of play - a game that bridges language and culture, and engages its players in a physical dialogue, where the only object is to play beautifully together.

Oozeball

Oozeball? Volleyball, played in the mud. Obviously. What more do you need to know?

In that case, you'll be happy to know about this website devoted to Oozeball Information where you'll find a sample T-shirt design, printable rules, and the always reassuring printable medical release waiver.

Yes, Virginia. They play it in the mud. They've been doing it for years. Decades, even. Mostly in colleges. As evidenced by this two year-old article describing the 12th annual University of Chicago "Oozeball Mud Volleyball Toruney."

And it's a beautiful thing, the fun to be had trying to play a competitive game of volleyball when you're all ankle-deep in mud. The sheer, slippery, almost-impossible oozefulness of it all It makes me wonder why we haven't heard more about games like Ooze Football (though there is that "get tackled and drown" thing to be worked out), or perhaps, Ooze Golf? Though teeing off might be fun, there's that always annoying "find the ball" problem. Ooze Basketball? Dribbling would be less than rewarding. Ooze Baseball? Ooze Kickball, perhaps.

It would lead one to conclude that of all the sports that might be fun to play in the mud, volleyball is probably the funnest. Why, those clever, Oozeball-playing, college kids!

Paperbaghead

You could think of it as Where's Waldo meets the Unknown Comic in public. Paperbaghead. You have to be just a little bit brave, and significantly silly, to wear a paper bag over your head in a public space while someone else takes your picture.

Yes, I know, it may seem to be a result in a patently dubious accomplishment. You get your picture on the web. But there's a paper bag over your face. So nobody knows it's you. Except you and the chosen few. Of course, choosing the few is a big part of the fun. So big, that it makes it worth the trouble, and the not-really public humiliation.

That picture of you, wearing a paper bag over your head in a crowd proves, to be as entertaining and webworthy as those other picture of you in the bus or on your way out of the supermarket. The bigger the crowd, the more puzzllingly Where's-Waldo-esque the viewer's experience. The more intimate, the funnier.

Your contributions are invited. Should you require more information, the designer has gone to graphic lengths to show you exactly how you can make your own Paper Bag head.

Foosball

Foosball is one of the few sports simulations that has proven to be as deep and competition-worthy as the sport it simulates. Which, in the case of foosball, is not football. But soccer.

According to the authoritative (and makeover-worthy) site Foosball.com, "the inventor of the first foosball table was a Frenchman named Lucien Rosengart, who lived from 1880 to 1976. An employee of the Citroen automobile factory, he amassed a huge fortune through his inventive genius. He is accredited with the invention of the minicar, frontwheel drive, and the seat belt, to name a few, besides babyfoot, the original name for foosball."

Well, Lucien, you did a bang-up job of inventing. Today, according to Foosball.com, "every week 1.9 million people play a game of foosball - in the United States alone."

As you know, Foosball really has nothing at all to do with football as played in the United States, but is actually a simulation of soccer, which is called "football" by those who don't know better, and explains the existence of the North American Table Soccer Association.

If you've been away from a foosball table for too long, you might find this little virtual game of Coca Cola foosball good enough to remind you what the game is all about. If that's not enough, take a look at this video of foosball mastery, in action. For more about the strategic depths of foosball, visit the highly instructional Foos U.

Foosball is such a successful simulation that people have gone on to create simulations of it. Both "Team Foosball" and giant foosball offer larger-than-tabletop, significantly foosballish, smaller-than-soccer-field-size fun.