Friday, February 21, 2014

Oh The Games We Played

The first published article for which I received payment was titled "Make a Game of It." The concept had to do with using a more creative approach to teaching. By means of games, creatively crafted, we can sink home insights, ideas and facts in a manner that is both entertaining and engaging.

What brought this to mind was our recent snowstorm that has smothered the Northland. As adults we see these storms as inconvenient at best and troublesome or even dangerous at worst. More than a few older men have had heart attacks while shoveling snow. When we were boys, however, fresh snow meant either making some extra cash shoveling driveways for the neighbors, or just having fun.

There are plenty of games with widespread popularity that young people across the country were familiar with in my day such as Spud,
Kick the Can, Freeze Tag and the like. But I'm willing to guess there are places where a creative kid invented a few new games which, even if not widespread in popularity, were tremendously fun for the kids in that neighborhood. The two I'm thinking of here tonight were of my invention. Based on the buy-in from other kids in my New Jersey neighborhood they were pretty good games.

My family lived in one of the new mid-Sixties housing developments in Bridgewater Township. If you look at the topography of the Eastern United States you'll see the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains begin here in Central New Jersey. Our home abutted the Public Service Grounds where power lines climbed up and over the foothills which would eventually become mountains further west.

As a teen I was big-time into sports and had a subscription to Sports Illustrated. I read an article about a sled dog race in Alaska and the idea of racing through the snow down the side of the mountain seemed really cool to me. Somehow I talked a bunch of the neighbors into the idea and we headed up to Washington Valley Road and huffed our way up the Public Service Grounds. It took about fifteen to twenty minutes or so to climb to the top, and one minute to race back to the bottom, many of us losing control, flying through the air only to land in deep snow. Occasionally someone would lose a boot. Even when we landed on rocks it seemed we were so padded with winter gear that no one ever go hurt. And once at the bottom we'd all look at one another and say, "One more time?" It was a blast.

The second original game we came up with was more psychological in nature. This is the game that came to mind as I blew the driveway and shoveled walkways today. For lack of a better name we'll call it Manhunt.

Manhunt was a game we could only play when there was freshly fallen snow that no one had yet marred. It went like this. One of us would become the hunted. The others became the hunters.

Out of fairness, we always rotated who the hunted would be because this was a game of wits and it was tremendously fun to see if one could outwit one's hunter friends.

Here are the rules as I recall them. The hunted was given a head start of fifteen or twenty minutes, and the rest of us would begin our pursuit. There were boundaries outside which the hunted was not permitted to go, but the area was quite large. The hunted was handicapped by the size of the area, and the hunters were handicapped by the amount of time designated to find their prey.

Whether hunted or hunter, it was a thrill. I remember trying to hide my tracks by swinging through trees, or walking through a creek with several exit points to delay the hunters. Even with nothing at stake -- no one was going to beat me or arrest me or shoot me -- it was an adrenaline rush striving to escape, to not be caught or found.

Today, the fresh fallen snow may be beautiful, but it's getting a bit tiresome having to move it off the roof and the driveway. Maybe I need to think up a new game to make it more invigorating.

What kind of games did you play?



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