One of the variations of Duck-Duck-Goose includes something called a mush pot. The mush post introduces a consequence to “losing,” even though you don’t actually lose forever. “The goal,” explains the Wikipedist, “is to tag that person before he is able to sit down in the ‘goose’s’ spot. If the ‘goose’ is not able to do this, he become ‘it’ for the next round and play continues. If the person who is ‘it’ is tagged, he has to sit in the center of the circle (the ‘Mush Pot’ or ‘Stew Pot’ ‘Cookie Jar’ or ‘Pickle Pot’). Then the ‘goose’ becomes ‘it’ for the next round. The person in the middle can’t leave until another person is tagged and he is replaced.”
In all my many mentions of the game, I’ve never once described the Mush Pot variation – even though I knew it all too well. Yes, it’s a legitimate variation, and yes again, it adds a legitimately, shall we say, poignant wrinkle to the Duck-Duck-Goose experience. But, for my purposes, it was a wrinkle I didn’t find worth playing with.
My purpose, my not-so hidden agenda in playing games, has always been to play inclusively. Ever since kids taught me about the theater of games, it seemed to me that my one overriding goal was create a theater in which everyone is an actor. I could see no purpose, none at all, for excluding anyone from a game, even if the exclusion was only until another unfortunate goose fails at her appointed round.
So this became a rule for me, and has remained so my entire career. Everybody who wants to play gets to play. It seems so counter-productive to me to keep someone from playing, for any reason, for any time. And it’s gotten so that when I watch school teachers or gym teachers or camp counselors or anyone leading games excluding a child from play, I get so genuinely puzzled. Because it’s become such a basic assumption for me that that’s what games are for. That’s what I am for. To provide that opportunity. To create that kind of theater, that kind of community. The kind where everybody plays.
A playful path is the shortest road to happiness.
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