USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘games’
Game
general

Skiing Mt. Rainier in the 1930’s

BACKGROUND:

A man from Saratoga, California recounts the cultural traditions his father took part in, of skiing Mt. Rainier in the 1930’s as a child. According to his retelling, Mt. Rainier was a prime place for skiing among the youth of Pierce County, Washington. The reason not many people chose to ski that mountain, was due to the layer of volcanic ash that would settle on the snow. As kids would ski down the hills, their skis would wear down at a very fast pace. The solution to this: Buy cheap skis, throw them away when they were done.

INTERVIEW:

My interview with my source, S, went as follows:

ME: Were there any specific like games or events that happened up in your part of Washington?

S: There were a few… I think probably the most interesting one would be when my father would tell me about going skiing.

ME: Tell me about that

S: Well this was back in the 1930s. And he and his friends would go skiing on Mt. Rainier except when they went skiing. It was sort of an all day thing. First they would go to the army surplus store and buy the skis and these skis were really cheap. There were nice skis but they were really inexpensive and so they’d get their skis and then they’d hike up Mount Rainier and Mount Rainier as we know now is a volcanic mountain. But back then it was dormant but there was plenty of volcanic pumice and the wind would blow over the snow it would deposit a fine layer of pumice so they’d go up and they’d ski down Mount Rainier and when they get to the bottom their skis or they bought that day were basically sanded on the bottoms because of the pumice on the snow and so they just throw away the skis and the next time they’d go they’d buy another pair at the Army surplus store.

MY THOUGHTS:

I’ve honestly never heard of people skiing on active volcanoes–for obvious reasons. To the children of Pierce County, however, they saw this as an opportunity to have fun with no one around to stop them. Their cultural work around for the volcanic pumice on the surface of the snow is quite interesting. Had it not been for the ease of access to cheap, disposable skis at the time, I doubt this phenomena would have taken place.

Game

Stick Games

The interviewer’s initials are denoted through the initials BD, while the informant’s responses are marked as DG.

DG: Over the summer, I learned the stick game. Basically how it works is that you’ll have sticks, and you play with a group of friends around you in a circle. You tell them you’ll put the sticks out to signify a number, but you start putting them out in a random order, and what you’re actually doing is tapping the number out on your leg. So, they’ll try to guess it, but they’ll keep getting it wrong because it’s not actually a number from the sticks. You keep telling them that they’re focusing on the wrong thing or looking at the wrong thing, while you keep tapping out a different number. Usually people won’t get it for a good fifteen minutes, and so it’s something you do when you’re bored, or if you want to irritate your family and your friends. So usually, it’s people you know, because if it’s people you don’t know, it’s not that fun.

BD: Where’d you learn this game from?

DG: I learned this over the summer from my supervisor.

BD: Do you know where your supervisor learned this from?

DG: I have no clue.


 

This is the first time I have heard of this game, and searching for it on the internet yielded close to no results, because of the vague nature of a game with sticks. However, it is very similar to game played by children that are meant to trick each other. It is likely that there are variations of this game with different objects, but seeing as the informant does not know the origin of this game, that would be a poor inference to make.

 

Game

Sardines Game

“There’s this game called sardines, how it is is the hider is the person that everyone is trying to find, so it’s not like hide and seek, and so once you find the hider, you have to hide with them in the same spot. As people keep finding you, you keep getting larger in your group. So as the first hider, you have to find a spot that’s really good, so that people can’t find you, but then also good enough that if people start clumping in, they won’t be seen.”


While listening to my informant tell me how “sardines” is played, I began to think of how similar it is to hide-and-seek, despite her insistence it is not. I have also heard of this folk game, and it must be quite common across different communities in California, at least, if not the rest of America.
Huffington Post groups both hide-and-seek and sardines together as the same kind of hiding game, in the following article: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/08/01/fun-traditional-games-parents-played-when-children_n_7553124.html.

Folk Dance
Game

Cakewalks

“I learned this probably when I was about ten, in Florida, from other kids. There’s this thing called a cakewalk. I’ve only seen it in the south, never ever heard about it here [in California]. Basically, usually within religious functions, you would go to an event and they would have cake. And they would play music, and you would literally just walk around and they turn off the music and there are chairs. It’s like musical chairs. So you sit down as fast as you can, and whatever number you sit on on the chair, you got the cake. I don’t understand it at all—you’re getting free cake for doing nothing. I first saw it when I was like ten, first at a 4H function, and later at a church function. And it’s like everywhere in the South, but only there.”


 

Analysis:
I have heard of the cakewalk, despite never having lived in the South. Upon doing further research into this game, this game has very deep roots into American culture. It was first performed by slaves, pre-Civil War, and these dances were judged by the plantation owners. The winners of the dance would receive a cake. Now when we use the term “cakewalk,” referring to a task, we mean it to be something that is easy to accomplish. But winning these cakewalks were very hard—the idea they were easy came across because of how skilled the dancers were.

NPR covers the background of cakewalks in the following article: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/12/23/256566647/the-extraordinary-story-of-why-a-cakewalk-wasnt-always-easy

Game

Staying Close Through Minecraft

Informant:

Dina is a college freshman from Northern California, she comes from a large yet close knit Italian family.

Piece:

My brothers and I love to play all types of games. Like board games and video games and just all types of games. I mostly like board games, but those are way too hard for us to play since we are all at college and away from each other for so long each year. So to make up for that we play video games with each other online. They like to play league of legends, but I don’t like that game at all. But we all play Minecraft together and built this house together on Minecraft and it’s super cute. And we built it to be the same layout as our house so that even when we are in all different places we can be at home together.

Collector’s thoughts:

This is a great example of how the internet has allowed people to stay close to each other despite long distances. The informant’s ability to stay close with her family is completely dependent on the internet which links them up via a game.

 

 

Game

Tucanje jaja (Cracking eggs)

Tucanje jaja (Cracking eggs)

Informant: SK is my mom. She was born and raised in New York, but moved to Croatia in 2002 and has been living there ever since.

 

What’s your favorite thing to do on Easter?

 

“Play cracking eggs.”

 

What’s that?

 

“It’s a game my family plays every Easter.”

 

How do you play it?

 

“Ok, so you need two players, each player has an egg and you hit the egg with the other egg. The egg that’s the least damaged is the winner. The winner as a prize gets to eat the egg.”

 

This game is a traditional Easter game that’s appropriate for all generations, and it’s interesting how from simple things like eggs a family cam make up a game that will bring the family even closer. Having it played on a holiday like Easter makes it even better because the whole family is there.

Customs
Game
general
Life cycle

Family reunions and “batchi ball”

The informant was discussing several things her family does for family reunions, so I asked her to elaborate on the details.

“We do family reunions, and one of the traditions is we wear really horrible t-shirts that have our family crest on top. And they’re usually like a super garish yellow and they’re super ugly, and the back of it says, ‘memories build traditions,’ and during the reunions we usually play horseshoes and batchi and my grandpa makes ice cream… We used to hold them down by my grandparents’ house, and they live in southern Indiana on the Ohio river, and there was always a tree down, and so my grandpa would take slices of the tree, like he’d take cross sections of branches, and he’d write ‘[family last name] reunion whatever year,’ and then he’d write like a quote from the reunion, like something that happened and then he’d lacquer it and drill a hole on the top and he’d give it to everyone for Christmas.

We play batchi ball… batchi ball is like a giant rectangular area, locked off by a string, and then you toss a ball around and then you have a really little ball, and the goal is to get the little ball as close to the bigger ball as possible. It’s kind of hard to describe without showing. It’s like an Italian game, I think… it can be made of different materials. Ours is made of a kind of… I think it’s like a metal ball and it’s covered in plastic, and they’re about the size of two fists, and you.. there’s… like four different sets of colors and two teams will… choose a color and you can have up to four teams, I think. And then, um, you basically take turns… OH, no no, this is how it works: you toss this little white ball in the middle of the thing and you can toss it either really close or really far, and whenever you toss it you want to toss it to the furthest corner, because then the goal of the rest of the game is to toss the larger balls and get them as close to the small ball as possible… but if they go out of bounds, then it doesn’t count. So, if you put it in the side corner, then no one’s gonna be able to reach it. Because the heavier balls are heavier and hard to toss”

Family traditions, especially family reunions, are quite common. But as illustrated above by my informant, some families go to great extent to make sure those reunions are a big deal and memorable. Games seem to be a common theme of family reunions, but making t-shirts is probably less heard of.

Game
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Bands, Bands, Bands, Bands

Sara is a very gossipy, religious, fun girl. Sophomore at USC, she’s in the Helene’s and a sorority. She’s from Anaheim, California. And she has an incredibly interesting memory and past.

No not bands like music bands. Bands like the one you wear around your wrist. When I introduced folklore to Sara, and I talked about weird games or silly gestures this came to mind:

Took place in middle school: The new fad in the early 2000’s were these very cute plastic multi-colored bands. Very easy to put on, cheap, and stylish (for some reason). After the trend settled in, boys started coming up with ways to use this new fad to their advantage. There were several colored bands. They thought – what if each of them meant something. Then they came up with the game. When a boy comes up to a girl if he manages to break or “pop” the band, the girl would have to act out what ever action was attached to the color of the band. Green meant hug, pink meant a kiss, and eventually the list goes to: black means sex.

Analysis: Whether or not middle school-aged students were doing who knows what with those bands, I definitely remember seeing girls at my school wearing them. That goes to show the multiplicity across state borders. Sara and I didn’t go to the same school. IN fact, she was in California and I was in Pennsylvania. Games like this were very popular in middle school. Middle school is an age of experimentation. Especially with our sexuality. Middle school, while it may be a very painful time for some of us, is where we start growing into a more permanent person.  Phases and hats tend to lessen in high school where cliques and identities are formed.

Game

Kitty Wants A Corner!

About the Interviewed: Julian is a senior at Calabasas High School. He’s passionate about Oboe Performance and Theatre. At 18 years of age, Julian is also my younger brother. He generally identifies as Caucasian American, but like myself, he has a close ethnic lineage tracing back to Germany and Ireland.

Julian, my younger brother, was showing me a game he used to play when he was little.

Julian: “This game is called, ‘Kitty Wants a Corner’. To play you have to get a bunch of people, it has to be like, ten, in order to be fun.”

“First you have to get in a circle, and one person gets to be in the middle. That person is The Kitty. What The Kitty wants, is to get back into the circle. In order to do that, The Kitty has to replace somebody. But they can’t just walk back in. As The Kitty, they have to go around the circle and tell people they want a space. They do it like this.”

Julian gets up and begins to mime a conversation.

“Kitty wants a corner!”, says The Kitty.

“Not here. Try my neighbor!”, says the Corner (anyone in the circle).

Julian: “The Kitty just has to keep doing this.”

“How does the Kitty get back into the circle?”, I ask.

Julian: “This is the fun part. The people in the circle, the people around the Kitty, they have to switch places with each other. That’s their job. If nobody moves for 10 seconds, then the Kitty wins. The Kitty also has to do his job too, if he stops asking for a space for more than three seconds, then the circle wins. It’s sort of like a balance.”

“Anyway, when the people in the circle switch places, they have to walk across the circle. When they do that, if the Kitty is fast enough, he can take one of their places. The person in the middle becomes the new Kitty.”

I ask Julian where he learned how to play this game.

Julian: “I played it in elementary school. It was really popular then.”

Summary:

My younger brother played a game called “Kitty Wants A Corner” when he was little. The game’s objective is to not get caught in the circle. If you do, you become “The Kitty”, and then you have to get out of the circle.

I remember playing a lot of games like this when I was younger. I’m not sure where “Kitty” originates from, but if Julian can still remember how to play it after so long, then it must be impacting.

 

Game

Beerio Kart

About the Interviewed: Spencer is a former student of the George Washington University, now graduated and teaching English overseas. He describes his ethnic background as “Potpourri”, with his family having a mixture of Scottish-Polish origins with some Irish thrown in the mix. His family has lived in North America for generations, so he prefers to identify ethnically as just that. He is 22 years of age.

“Just don’t drink and drive man. That’s all there is to it.”

When I was at school at the George Washington University in the Fall of 2012, I met some ultra-cool people who I started to hang out with. One of them, a guy named Spencer, shared my love of early 90’s video games. When we were all together one weekend, Spencer introduced us to a game (supposedly of his own invention) called “Beerio Kart”.

What you need to play Beerio Kart:

*A Mario Kart video game, though any multiplayer video game that involves racing is fine as well.

*An alcoholic substance, though any beverage is fine.

*Friends.

Beerio Kart, is essentially a “drinking game”, though it can be played without alcohol. I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Spencer, and he was able to explain the rules to me in better detail.

“It’s pretty simple. All you do is load up a game that involves racing (the objective being to beat the other opponents to the finish line) and grab a drink. Your goal is to finish that drink  before you finish the race. The catch is, you can’t drink and drive your car at the same time, that’s illegal! You have to stop your vehicle in order to drink. The first person to reach the finish line with an empty glass/can wins. Just don’t drink and drive man. That’s all there is to it.”

Beerio Kart became something of a regular game that we’d play when we were together. I can almost guarantee that none of the original game developers could ever envision that their games would ever be played like this. We’ve all sort of gone our own ways; I transferred to USC, and most of them graduated. However, I still keep the tradition alive, teaching new friends the wonder and joy of Beerio Kart.

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