Ladder Golf

Ladder GolfIf you've already read about the game of Washers, and you happened to come across the story about Laundry Balls, you should most definitely be reading the very article you are reading now, because this is yet another throwing, backyard-type game you can make out of junk, or buy commercially, and propogate great fun.

Many are the varieties and approaches to ladder golf. You might begin reading about how you can make your own, traditional version of Ladder Golf. Top Toss

Or, you might consider the immediate satisfaction gained from purchasing this ready-made version, called Top Toss, which has the added benefit of a less-than-traditional trapezoidal design for that "I really deserved that score" feeling.

Or, perhaps you might consider reading the Wikipedia article to find out all about the rules and origins and stuff.

Spin It You might even consider something like the "Spin-It " version of the game, which, as you can so clearly see from the thoughtfully attached illustration, has 4 different goals (each a different color), on a wheel-like apparatus which turns as soon as a bolo attaches itself, thus, giving rise to a different goal of a different color and scoring value, or not, depending on how many bolos therefrom append.

How potentially fun is that?

From Junkyard Sports

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Words of a Feather

Words of a Feather - A Humorous Puzzlement of Etymological Pairs, in case you were wondering, is for people who like to play with words. Or who like the play of words. Pairs of words. Pairs of words you wouldn't think belong paired up. Like, for example, computer, and reputation. I extract:
"It's deliciously apt that the tarnishing of his reputation (HAL, the computer in 2001) is what pushes the computer over the edge, for both reputation and computer trace back to the Latin phrase putare, "to reckon," a word that encompasses solving mathematical and moral problems, implied in the phrase 'day of reckoning.'"
"Ah," you probably are saying to yourself, "how apt, how deliciously apt."

If in fact you find such aptness delicious, Words of a Feather will prove to be a conceptual banquet of conversation-worthy tidbits. "Which reminds me," you might say in answer to the question "why are you late for dinner," "did you know that senate and senile are etymologically related, and that it wasn't until the mid-nineteenth century that senile acquired the meaning of 'weak or infirm from age.'"

Written by Murray Suid, author of over 25 books, including Demonic Mnemonics - Eight Hundred Spelling Tricks for Eight Hundred Tricky Words, and an old friend of mine when I was working in Philadelphia some 35 years ago, the book reflects a deep love of language and learning, and, most significantly, a thorough appreciation for the incongruous.

Page after page of entertaining reflections on connections between words that simply shouldn't belong together - coronation and coroner, mercenary and mercy, stupendous and stupid - Words of a Feather is playful enough to make you want to flock to your local bookseller.

Should you need more incentive, wing your way to the Words of a Feather website.

Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Hole in CDs

One must love this kind of thing - this reclaiming of the useless, this art of redefining refuse, the humor, the creativity, the reframing. It is most definitely a form of play, one that is most clearly connected to the same stream of hopefulness that nurtures the spirit of Junkyard Sports. It is a translation of the mundane into the play-worthy.

Perhaps less graphic, but similar in spirit, we have 101 Uses for an AOL CD and 101 Things to do with Spare CD Rom Discs and the 5 Most Creative Uses for Old CDs (some of which are significantly spectacular).

Clearly, this is not about old CDs. It's about the power of play to transform even the most tired of realities into something that can reawaken the soul.

link via Neatorama

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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New Games from Old

It's been what you might call a pervasive theme of this blog. You might call it "new games from old" is what you might call it. As so clearly exemplified by this simple crossword puzzle.

First of all, there's that Wheel-of-Fortune-like interaction with the puzzle, where instead of filling in each blank, the letter you select goes in every highlighted blank. So, for example, in the illustration - all the squares highlighted in yellow take the same letter - one of the letters in the panel on the right. Is it an "A"? No, because then you'd get AUB. Hmmm. Maybe a "P" - that'd give you PUB, but it would also give you CP_W. What, oh what could it be?

Well, you get my drift. It could be a new kind of crossword puzzle. One unique to computers. Faster to play, and as inviting as even the best of crossword puzzles - challenging, perhaps, one might say, even fun.

I'm not saying that this is the ultimate crossword puzzle, nor that it is the best, but rather that it represents what much of this blog is about.

And so do you.

via in4mador

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Kubb (aka Woodchuck)

WoodchuckThere's a Swedish game called Kubb , which is quite similar to the Karelian game of Kyykka and clearly connected to the Russo-Canadian game of Bunnock, which was originally played with the ankle bones of horses. There's also the Finnish game of Molkky, which is a relatively close relative, but different. Which brings us to Woodchuck - a faithful reproduction of the Swedish original, but played with 4 Woodchucks instead of 5, and 5 throwing batons instead of 6.

Since Woodchuck is moderately priced and readily available here in the US through Simply Fun, let's talk Woodchuck.

Woodchucks are made of wood, which, from the Kubb-perspective, is quite traditional. You can play on a lawn, or in the sand, or any nice flat area, 12-feet wide and 25-feet deep. Four Woodchucks are placed at one end of the playing field, spaced evenly apart, in a line. The other 4 are placed at the other end. The King Woodchuck is placed exactly in the middle of the field.

There are two teams, which, for the sake of clarity (which, even though the game is quite simple, will soon prove most valuable), let's call one team the Beavers and the other the Otters.

Teams don't have to have the same number of players. You could have 6 Beavers and only 4 Otters. Or even just 1 Otter if things turn out that way.

Let's say the Beavers go first. They throw their Throwing Batons, one at a time, underhanded, end-over-end, at the Otters' Woodchucks. It's like throwing horseshoes, the idea being to knock over all of the Otter's Woodchucks while being extremely careful not to knock over the King Woodchuck. And let's further say that the Beavers managed to hit 3 of the Otter's 4 Woodchucks.

Now it's the Otters' turn. Remember, they only have one standing Woodchuck. Oddly enough, before they can throw any of their Throwing Batons at the Beavers' Woodchucks, they first have to throw each of their fallen Woodchucks into the Beaver's half of the playing field. Then they stand each of those Field Woodchucks on their ends. Then they use their Throwing Batons to try to knock over their Field Woodchucks. And then, and only then, can they aim for the Beavers' Woodchucks. Know what I mean?

What makes this all so difficult to understand is that the game breaks a central convention of most sports. The Woodchucks are more obstacles than targets, and the obstacles get moved around as the game progresses. There is only one actual target - the King Woodchuck.

Anyhow, once a team has managed to knock over all the Woodchucks on the other team's side, then they can go for the King.

Clearly, from a Junkyard Sports perspective, this game can be played with almost anything that you can stand up and knock over. And you can use tennis balls or tuna cans as easily as you can use Throwing Batons. In fact, the article on Kyykka points out that students frequently make their own sets using:

  • 80 empty 500ml beer cans (330ml soft drink cans work as well)
  • Sand
  • Duct tape
  • Plastic/aluminium piping

And one more thing that makes it especially worthy of our collective consideration, found in the Wikipedia article, is the observation that "sportsmanship and a sense of fair a trademark of this unique game."

from Junkyard Sports

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Hasbro's Express Games

Take three of world's most popular games - Monopoly, Scrabble and Sorry - and turn them into new games that you can play in 20 minutes or less. What do you get? Would you believe you get some genuinely new, significantly fun games?

You have to abandon your expectations just a wee bit to appreciate what Hasbro's new Express Games series. The Express version of Monopoly isn't what you'd expect if you're thinking Monopoly, as in the board game, with all that money and those wonderful playing pieces and the trading and the sheer vengeance of watching someone land on one of your hotel-laden properties. It's a kinder, gentler dice game, where your major opponent is your own greed. And the Express version of Scrabble? Also a dice game. Where you play on a smaller board. And after you move, you remove, actually, the word that the previous player made. Which makes for a new challenge each turn. A new game, really, where the focus again is not strategic, but on your skills as a wordsmith.

And then you have Sorry. Again, there's no actual board. But if Express Scrabble and Express Monopoly both express a swifter, and less competitive contest, Express Sorry is everything you'd want in a game of vindication and retribution. Again there is no board. Dice, pawns and discs. Each of up to 4 players or teams has a disc to indicate which color pieces she is trying to gather. The dice indicate which of the four different-colored pawns you can collect from the center disc, or from the other players' discs. The dice have, of course, a wild side. But even wilder is the "Slide" side which allows you to change the color you are trying to collect, or to slide any of the opponent's discs to a new color.

All of the Express games are far more than 20-minute versions of the board games they are named after. They are more than reinterpretations. They are different games. Games in their own right. And they will take you by surprise. Very fun, unique surprises that you will want to experience many times, with just about everyone you know.

from Major Fun

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Dominoes like you never played them before

You know how every now and then you come across this beautifully packaged set of dominoes, sometimes in a tin, even, and the dominoes are in deed very nice - hefty, colorful, smooth - and sometimes there's even some kind of lovely plastic thing that sits in the center of the table or some place, and keeps score or turns around or even makes noise - and yet it's still dominoes? You know what I mean. Dominoes, in a nice package, but it feels like dominoes, and it looks like dominoes, and it plays just like dominoes. And you can't help feeling just a little disappointed, just a little like you were hoping maybe for a really different game, something new, something that maybe used dominoes, but was more interesting, more challenging, more, well, different?

Despair no more, my playful friend. For Highrise Dominoes is in deed a wonderfully different game. And the base that is included in the lovely tin is really functional, really central to the game.

The object is to build a tower of dominoes. First, a basement is built - 8 dominoes placed, face-up, in the bottom of the turntable base. From then on, players take turn building on to the base, the rule being that the domino has to match the numbers it rests on. And yes, you can lay your domino so that it rests on two different dominoes. And once that domino is laid, you can lay another domino on top of that. And the higher the level, the higher the score.

It's a completely different experience of dominoes. There's so much to look at. Which is why you're so happy that the turntable turns.

There are clear plastic blocks that are used when the dominoes you want to match are on two different levels. Which is fine, unless the dominoes are on two different levels that are more than one level apart. And then comes the joyous agony of having to maybe (gasp) draw another domino.

There are also wild dominoes, there's a double, with both halves wild. And there are others with only one wild half. But, boy, do you get to love those wild ones! Seeing as they are often the only ones that you can play. Which you really want to do. Because the first player to use all her tiles can get many, many points.

From Major Fun

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Dots Amazing!

You need a real artist to take a simple children's puzzle, like Connect-the-Dots, and transform it into something worthy of mature, adult-worthy consideration. A real artist.

And that's just what David Kalvitis is, an artist. And that's just what he's accomplished with his many Dot-to-Dot books.

Let me give you a few examples:
Stars puzzles: You start at number 1, as you would expect, and continue connecting dots in order until you come to a star. Then you have to look for the next number, which could be anywhere else in the puzzle, and continue from that number to the next star. And on and on, number-to-number-to-star. Jumping around from place to place on the puzzle, you really have no idea what you're drawing, sometimes until the very last star.

Arrows: You see this big field of arrows - no dots at all. Just arrows. So there's absolutely no visual hints about what the puzzle is about. You look for a circled arrow and start there, following where it points until you come to another arrow, and you take off in that direction. Of course, if you make a mistake, just one, small, easily explicable error, you soon find youself wandering realms of graphic chaos. Which is why, despite Kalvatis' heartfelt recommendations that all his puzzles be done with a marker, we find ourselves frequently recommending a soft pencil with a very good eraser.

Compass: Here, you get nothing but an array of dots with a few symbols sprinkled in hither and yon. You look for a star and, then read the directions printed above the puzzle. And I do mean directions. Like, from the star, go: N (North(, and then Wx2 (two dots west), and then SWx2, and then on and on and on, and if you do it exactly right, you'll end up at an A. And then, from the A, you start on the next line of instructions....
For an elementary school teacher, the different puzzle types involve skills that are closely tied to the mathematics curriculum. For the rest of us, they are an invitation to return to a deeply satisfying, often remarkably peaceful pastime.

These are but three of the innovative, challenging and inviting variations of connect-the-dots Kalvitis has created for us. And, if you're a social puzzler, it turns out that many of them can be solved cooperatively - especially the big puzzles, or puzzles like the Star puzzles that you solve in segments.

There are five volumes of the "Greatest Dot-to-Dot" series, so far. The first four are a great introduction to the wide variety of puzzle types. The fifth volume is most appropriately called "Super Challenge," where you'll find puzzles that span two pages and hundreds and hundreds of dots. There are also four volumes of Kalvitis' Newspaper Dot-to-Dot puzzles - smaller, but every bit as innovative.

Each puzzle is a work of art in its own right. When you complete a puzzle, you are rewarded with images that are themselves often surprisingly vivid, sometimes rich in detail, sometimes spare and subtle. Often drawn in perspective. Never stiff. Never blocky. Always surprising.

from Major Fun

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From The Osgood File - June 18

All work and no play makes jack a dull boy goes the saying. And a report by American Academy of Pediatrics says essentially the same thing. And by PLAY, they don't mean structured, adult-organized team sports. They don't mean get smart videos, or so called enrichment activities. What they mean is old fashioned spontaneous free play.

Numerous studies have shown that unstructured play has many benefits. It can help children become creative, discover their own passions, relate to others and have fun. Yes, FUN. Remember that?

Listen. Read. Enjoy.

Via Hugh McNally, Funspotter

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Social Art

Son-in-law Tom Weidenbach (Director of Education and Exhibits at The Children's Museum, Greenville, SC) used the term "Social Art" to describe the work of Playmotion and Snibbeinteractive. I have written previously about another Social Artist, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. (I love that term "Social Artist," though I think it could be applied to many people. Even a humble designer of Junkyard Sports.)

These pieces are predictors of the future of fun, and these artists are busy creating that very future in museums, on buildings, in public squares. They are providing us with a new premise for play. They distract us from self-consciousness, taking us away from ourselves so we can dance, move, walk around, hold hands, or just, as in the illustration, stand still and watch ourselves take root. They are fun by any measure. They give us a way to meet, to share a moment of wonder, to find ourselves together in a world that is only partly tangible.

Social art. Deep fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Online Dictionary of Playground Slang

The Online Dictionary of Playground Slang is, perhaps, not something you would share with your children. But it is most definitely something you'd want to share with your inner child.

Here are some of the dictionaries contained therein:
Buzzwords: The 'honey on the language vine.' (beyond the playground)
Dictionary of Playground Slang (Online)
Ghastly Games (my favorite)
Hymns and Arias (well ok - Dirty Ditties, Rugby Songs and Chants)
It's time, it's time, it's time for a Nursery Rhyme!
Limericks - The Poetry of the People
Seedy Songs and Rotten Rhymes - the poetry of the playground.
Wriggly Wigglies (tongue twisters)
There is much to be learned and appreciated here: Memories to be spurred. Childhood to be relived. And especially the yeoman-like devotion of its editor, Chris Lewis, and his minions. But, for me, as your local funsmith, the Online Dictionary of Playground Slang is rich reminder of broad reaches, and sometimes harder realities of the playful path.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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ActionQuest: ATL - Atlanta Big Game Merges Activism with Play

homeless camp
On the Mad Housers Quest, players, accompanied by trained volunteers, will search through wooded areas, along train tracks and underneath bridges looking for homeless settlements and campsites such as this one.
(Courtesy: Salma Abdulrahman/Mad Housers)

This looks like an important event for all playkind. If you can't be there in the flesh, at least you can share the spirit:
Georgia Tech's Emergent Game Group headed up by Celia Pearce, in collaboration with the Design Studio for Social Intervention will present ActionQuest: ATL, an activist Big Game being produced in conjunction with the US Social Forum, taking place in Atlanta June 27-July 1. Built on the premise that "Play is a renewable resource," ActionQuest: ATL takes players around Atlanta for a hands-on experience of what it might be like to realize the USSF's vision that "another world is possible." Players discover and uncover past successes in local activism, and perform activist actions to help make the world a better place in both the present and the future. In the process, they will be delighted and rewarded by this encounter with "serious fun" that dynamically fuses real-world activism with socially engaging cooperative play.

ActionQuest: ATL runs daily from noon to 8PM, June 28-July 1, 2007. Players can register online or in-person at one of two base camps at the Little Five Points Community Center (1083 Austin Ave. N.E. 30307) or Renaissance Park (Piedmont & Pine). Details can be found here and here. For more information or to volunteer as a Game Master, send e-mail
Celia sent me this to share with you. She is a remarkable woman who has dedicated her powerful intellect to bringing more fun into the world. I tend to endorse everything she does, because she brings so much passion and understanding to it. She is also a friend, and advocate, who has written a wonderfully insightful review of my book, The Well-Played Game (which, of course, makes her a wonderfully insightful friend).

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith



Searching, as I am oft wont to do, for evidence of newly, or relatively newly invented sports, I found my cursor resting contemplatively on the word "Trugo."

Trugo game - like croquet with mallet and wheel According to this vividly explanatory video, the idea is to use a large mallet to whack a wheel-shaped something (which makes one think that a perhaps more descriptive name might be "whack-a-wheel") a great distance (90 feet) so that it rolls across a quite narrowly defined goal.

Invented, so the story goes, by railway workers in the 1920s, the mallet-bearing player stands with his or her back to the goal, and whacks the wheel between his or her legs. A goal keeper stands behind the goal with a net, to scoop up the wheel. As a mature-bodied person myself, I can only admire the wisdom of incorporating a long-handled, backbend-preventing wheel-scooper into the official equipment of the game.

According to the video, the name of the game, Trugo, came from the expression a goalkeeper might use when a shot is successful: "true go." Get it? Trugo. True go. Unless you're playing the women's game, which is called Gotru. Go figure.

The game, invented by railway workers in Newport, Australia, was played with railway-working mallets and a "carraige buffer." The 90 feet was the length of a railway carriage. A most junkyard-like invention, embracing in spirit and practice the found-object tradition of all Junkyard Sports.

Trugo, which is rapidly becoming an historical artifact, remains basically unchanged from the original invention. We, on the other hand, who have no such need for remaining loyal to tradition, find in Trugo the inspiration for the invention of a veritable myriad of new wheel-and-mallet sports. Or perhaps toiletpaper-roll-and-foot sports.

from Junkyard Sports


Stack revisited

I am certain you recall that Stack received a Major Fun Award a little over 4 years ago. In fact, it was a recipient of several awards: the award, the award, the much-touted award, and even, oddly enough, it was found most . And you probably even recall why.

I, on the other hand, have been exploring the game in greater depth, especially recently as I work more and more with various groups of seniors hereabouts. And what I have been exploring, actually, is the, shall we say, "Super Stack" set - two different sets of the Stack game (the deluxe, jumbo, of course), each set having different color dice, thereby enabling me to play a game with 8 people.

The large dice that come with the deluxe version prove to be especially comforting for senior eyes and hands. Easy to read, even at a distance, enjoyable to hold because of their greater heft, and easier to stack because of their larger size. Having enough for eight people makes the game ideal for building a sense of community and friendship. Because the group is larger, people don't can play at a safe distance from each other (psychologically safe), but because they're all sharing the same set of dice, they feel connected. If we need to, we can easily divide into smaller, more intimate groups. But having all those dice means that each player has twice as many options to consider. On the one hand, it makes the beginning of the game that much easier and more inviting. On the other, it makes the endgame that much more dramatic. Stacks get built, options constantly get fewer and fewer, the need to play strategically gets more and more vivid.

Stack, even with only 4 colors, has never disappointed us as a game for almost all ages. But having twice as many dice turns out to be more than twice as flexible, twice as interesting, for at least twice as many people.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Junkyard Symphony

They call themselves Junkyard Symphony. Their motto: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rock. Their instruments, junk.

Junkyard Symphony - Recyled Circus

They play, they perform, they juggle, they teach, they bring people into a world of music and playfulness and mutual delight.

"For rhythm workshops students learn the importance of rhythm in music and life. In a drum circle fashion using buckets as drums, Junkyard Symphony teaches the basics of rhythm such as tempo, beat, and dynamics. They also cover the values of quarter notes, eight notes, half notes and whole notes and the students learn a series of syncopated rhythms. Add in a cheer box and a few rhythmic games and the workshop becomes a "Stomp" for students!

"For recycling workshops, Students learn how to make instruments from reused materials such as a maraca from a plastic water bottle and macaroni or a rain stick from a paper towel roller and beans."

They are the inventors of Rhythmball:

"On each side of the court are two gongs with a basket. Two players stand on each side of the court, and a drummer on the sidelines keeps the beat on a junk drum kit.The rest of the two teams also stand on the sidelines. The object of the game is for the two teams to rebound the rhythmball off the gong and into the basket on the opposite side of the court, but there is a catch. The rhythmball must hit the gong on beat 1 of a 4 or 6 beat cycle to get full points. The ball must also be passed every beat one for the play to continue."

And their music, played on junk, ranges from raucous to ethereal. Yes, I said ethereal. Listen to them, for example, playing and singing "Dream a Dream." And dream with us, how we might reuse junk to create musical games, recycle junk into song.

Discuss this article on the forums. (0 posts)

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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"Knitta began in August 2005, when the soon-to-be-Knittas were discussing their frustration over unfinished knitting projects: half-knitted sweaters and balls of yarn gathering dust. That afternoon, they knit their first door handle."

Knit their first door handle!

Which led them, inexorably, to becoming: " a tag crew of knitters, bombing the inner city with vibrant, stitched works of art, wrapped around everything from beer bottles on easy nights to public monuments and utility poles on more ambitious outings."

Alex of Neatorama adds the perfect label to this wonderfully playful, bizarre, and somehow socially significant act of rebellious knittage. He calls it "knit grafitti." He also notes that a group calling itself Masquerade posted a map showing how they are similarly engaged in knitting their nuances into the streets of Stockholm.

What a wonderful world playground this world can be!

via Neatorama

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Kids, Magic, and The Confoundingly Crazy Crate-O-Mystery

The Confoundingly Crazy Crate-O-Mystery (from Fundex Games, available here) is a confoundingly clever way to introduce kids into magic. They get magic apparatus (ok, toys), comic book-like instructions, and an instructional DVD that shows them how each of the ten tricks included in this kit is performed, and the secrets that make each trick work. These materials are central to the magic of the Cofoundingly Crazy Crate-O-Mystery. The biggest obstacle to mastering any illusion is learning how to do it. You can go to a magic shop and buy hundreds of wonderful tricks, but when it comes to learning how they work, and how to perform them, you have to rely on cryptically written instruction slips, usually in small print, that convey little if anything of the art of it all.

Most of the 10 magic tricks are performed with with the assistance of wonderfully toylike apparatus, which is exactly how it should be. There's plastic monkey with detachable tail, feet, arms, hat and banana. And a sheet of tattoos. There's the crate itself, made of sturdy cardboard with magnetically sealing doors on 4 sides. There's a special magic handkerchief. And some other stuff. I don't want to get too specific here, because it might give away some of the secrets to the Confounding Craziness of it all. You'll also need two cookies and a dime. And I can't tell you why.

Magic is a very special kind of play. It's part science and part theater. The Confoundingly Crazy Crate-O-Mystery is a well-presented introduction and invitation to a unique form of fun - one that can last a lifetime. Especially recommended for kids who are old enough to read (8 and up), disciplined enough to practice and perfect their secret arts, and enjoy being the center of awe-struck attention. Major FUN, indeed.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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It's a game of catch, is what it is. With score. It's called 500. And the point of it is: you're not really playing for points. You're playing for fun.

I quote:
"the game begins with the thrower calling out a number (typically a multiple of 100 between 100 and 500), and then throwing the baseball/football/flying disc,(hoseball), or hitting the baseball with a baseball bat, in the general direction of the group. The person that catches the throw gains the number of points called out. The process is repeated until one of the players reaches or exceeds 500 points. That player then switches places with the thrower, and the game continues. Typically, all player's point totals are reset when a new thrower is instated."
See, the thrower/hitter decides ahead of time what the catch is worth. And then the real catch is that when someone finally "wins," everybody's score goes back to zero. As if the score really doesn't count. As if you don't ever really win. You just get to throw/hit.

O, you can play with everyone keeping their score. But what, actually, is the point. Especially when the pitcher/hitter can also call "infinity" or "negative infinity" or, somewhat less mystically, "jackpot."

"Infinity?" you ask, pondering endlessly the mathematics thereof. I quote again:
"If a catch is attempted but missed (i.e. the object is touched but dropped), the player must deduct that throw's value from his total. When this rule is combined with the above rule (ie infinity is allowed), the math is bent slightly such that infinity accumulation is additive. This means that dropping two infinity/jackpot throws would yield a score of negative 2 x infinity. If an infinity/jackpot throw were then successfully caught, the player's score would be negative 1 x infinity, or simply negative infinity. Varying by region, this variation can be used selectively by using the term "hot" (e.g. calling "400 hot" would mean that the aforementioned variation would be in effect, however calling "400" would mean that merely the standard rules would be in play)."
500 is clearly a game that is played in what I have come to call the "Spirit of Junk." That is, rules may vary, apparently endlessly, the only point being the fun of it all. Or, as my friend Stork, co-Defender of the Playful, would call it: "The Spirit of the Game."

Funspotting by Noise

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Main Gasing - spinning tops in Malaysia

Montague Blister, in his playful weblog "Strange Games," recently wrote about "Main Gasing," the game/sport/ritual of top-spinning as practiced in Malaysia. In his article, he writes that "Teams, consisting of up to 40 people (throwers, makers, catchers), set their tops spinning at the same time and it is the longest spin that wins. A good length spin is a staggering one and a half hours. An excellent spin lasts an almost unbelievable 2 hours long."

Two hours long!? A single spin of a single top?! This immediately set me Googling. It seemed to me that any body of people, watching a top spin for two hours, has got to achieve a state of significantly deep fun.

I eventually clicked my way to this video showing a top of proportions significant enough to redefine my entire understanding of tops and the spinning thereof.

I also found an excellent article, of almost anthropological clarity, in which Eric Hansen describes a Main Gasing event. The article, called "White Bean vs Tiger Cub," notes the rituals, the socializing, the trade, and the celebration of community surrounding the event. I was especially moved by the Hansen's description of the players themselves. "The art of top-spinning," he explains, (is) "part dance, part discus throw, requires physical strength as well as finesse. With a reasonable amount of practice, most people can get one of these tops to spin, but real skill comes only after years of experience. Thus, though competitors vary in age, a tukang gasing, or 'master of the top,' is usually middle-aged, and when one of them prepares to throw, people fall silent to watch the performance."

To read about a thing we know as a toy, elevated to a work of art and display of mastery, is to find oneself on the border of understanding the mystery of deep fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Sports Inventors

Sports Inventors. They are meant to be a joke. You can even see how much of a joke they take themselvs as by watching their video.

Lacrastickball But, you see, we who are the promulgators of Junkyard Sports, we know that such jokes are the very stuff, the very meat, the very core of new and meaningful paths to peaks of playful performance.

As in, for example, Bowling Shotput, as illustrated in the video.

Not to mention Lacrasticball, as also illustrated here.

I select but a few of my favorites from their collection of half-formed, undescribed, yet clearly inspired conceptual leaps:

  • Crocockey - English croquet meets full-contact hockey.
  • Darchery - extreme barroom darts played with a mini crossbow.
  • Double Racketed Tennis - six-foot-long pole with a racket head attached to each end - doubles with half as many people.
  • Escalator Surfing - the Zen of surfing balance performed while standing on a descending escalator step.
  • Extreme Tetherball - three-tiered professional tetherball.
  • Fat Abner - oversized baseball bat for easy contact. (After baseball inventor Abner Doubleday).
  • Golfzilla - aggressive full-contact golf with running, blocking, tackling, and bigger holes for more hole-in-one's.
  • Hackie Bag - beanbag chair-size hackie sack.
  • Horseshoe Tag - players wear spiked helmets and try to ring toss one another.
  • I Got It Mitt - oversized baseball mitt for the visually challenged.
  • Jet-Ski Jousting - just like the medieval equestrian competition except played on jet skis.

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Rock-Paper-Scissors Revealed

Rock-Scissors-Paper. It's one of those so-called "kids' games" that has become emblematic of how profound a so-called kids' game might be.

I wrote about it in this article on more variations and applications of Rock Scissors Paper.

I recently received a children's strategy game for review. Called "Sizzletoad," it's a combination of Rock-Scissors-Paper and Tic Tac Toe. And then I checked Board Game Geek to discover that there is an entire category of games built around the "Rock-Scissors-Paper mechanic."

And even more recently I learned of an article that investigates the remarkable strategic depth of the game.

And it's fun, too.

via Bill Harris, via Andrew

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith