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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
My roommate, who grew up in Michigan, told me about a theater game that she learned at a theater camp.
The game is called Kitty Wants A Corner. To play it, you stand in a circle with one person in the middle and the goal is to not be in the middle (it’s kind of like being “it”). The person in the middle goes to each person in the circle and stands in front of them, looks them in the eye, and says “Kitty Wants a Corner” as though they’re the kitten and want a spot to sit. You don’t want to give up your space in the circle, so you’ll say “No, go ask my neighbor” so the person moves to the next person in the circle and says the same thing. In the meantime, other people in the circle, mostly people behind the person who is it, will make eye contact with each other, and silently agree to switch places while the person in the middle is distracted. The person in the middle can intercept the switch and try to get a spot in the circle, and the person who didn’t make it all the way has to be in the center.
My roommate learned it at camp in Michigan, so she was surprised when they played it at her improv class at Second City in Hollywood. She thought it was strange because the person teaching the game in Los Angeles had no connection to Michigan. The informant had also only ever played the game at the camp before, it wasn’t part of her high school theater program at all. It’s likely that this game spread through actors moving around (which is common) since I have also heard of/played variations of this game, but it wasn’t exactly the same thing. If the game was an official “theater game” it would be the same everywhere, but there’s variation in how it’s played in different places.
SCP: Containment Breach is a horror computer game that is based on user-generated stories on the wiki/website SCP Foundation. SCP stands for “Secure, Contain, Protect”. The game takes place in a facility that hunts, tracks down, and categorizes supernatural objects, or SCPs, that are either safe, euclid, or keter. You can come into contact with safe SCPs without getting harmed. SCPs that are euclid are unpredictable, and keter SCPs will kill you.
The main types of characters in the game are scientists with code names, the SCPs, and finally the D-class personnel. There is a seemingly infinite amount of D-class personnel, and you play as one of them. They are prisoners sent to the facility for experimentation purposes, and they die off very easily because they’re always dealing with the SCPs.
The first SCP you meet is this giant baby that’s facing the wall. You have a blink meter, and every time you are forced to blink, the baby moves closer to you. When it’s right in front of you, it kills you. [Informant's] favorite is the butler. It can do anything you want it to do, as long as it is reasonable. He would ask,” What can I do for you?” in a very butler-like manner. You can ask him to kill a D-class personnel in the neighboring room, and he would point at a surveillance camera, saying, “Is that camera on? I can’t do it if it’s on.” And once you turn it off, he would disappear and then come back, having accomplished the goal. If you ask him to get a bar of gold of, say, 99.99% purity, he would say no, but ask if a a lower purity were okay. There are also inanimate SCPs like a train ticket SCP, which would affect the train that the ticket-holder takes.
Anyone who passes the test to be a writer on the website can create an SCP. The SCP Foundation website is a wiki that is open for comment. If people see a bad SCP, they’ll mark it down, and if enough people dislike it, they’ll remove it. There are rules, like no using clichés, and no SCPs that can be described in two words (like “basically Wolverine”). The game developers then take these user-created SCPs and put them into the game.
I found it very innovative for a video game to be based on user-generated content. It throws into question the idea of authorship but it is also somewhat reminiscent of the way folklore was spread / the way people told stories before the institutionalization of writing/publishing/etc.
The informant is a 19 year old computer engineering student at UC Davis. He is currently a freshman there after graduating high school the previous year. He grew up in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and has no strong religious ties. His family has been living in Southern California for many generations.
I asked him about the customs and activities associated with the football games at UC Davis. UC Davis is located in Davis, CA. This is northern California, which is slightly different culturally than the informant’s hometown. Though UC Davis has had an almost continuous football program since 1918, the team was only established as a NCAA Division I team less than a decade ago. This contrasts greatly with other universities who have structured themselves around their football team, like USC.
The football games are free for students to attend, but the informant says that the main draw for students to attend the game is the free giveaways of UC Davis apparel from various sponsors before and during the game. He said that he knew of giveaways of clothing such as scarves, beanies and t-shirts. There does not seem to be much hype for the games themselves. In other words, the students do not seem to be going because they are interested in football or supporting their university’s team, but just as something to do on the weekends. There does not seem to be as much pressure on students to actively support sports teams as there is at other universities that are more famous for their teams. When asked how he decided to go the game and who he went with, he replied that the decision was pretty spontaneous. A couple of his friends asked if he wanted to go and he said sure. He did not look forward to the game in advance.
Tailgating is found at UC Davis, but the informant said it was relatively minimal compared to other universities and takes place mainly in an empty field outside of Aggie Stadium. Aggie Stadium seats roughly 10,000 people and opened in 2007. The informant does not personally take part in the tailgating.
During the game, the student section is called the Aggie Pack. There is no assigned seating and people come and go as they please. There is a student leader in charge of leading cheers, but the mascot (a horse named Gunrock) plays a relatively small role in the games and is merely a person dressed up in a typical horse mascot costume. The informant said that the most exciting part of the games is the UC Davis tube sock giveaways, in which pairs of tube socks are thrown into the student section randomly.
When asked about half-time, the first thing he mentioned was that people like to leave then. This reinforces the idea that the students attend the games merely as something to do and not to actively watch the games.
All in all, there does not seem to be much hooplah surrounding the football games at UC Davis. Football is not the defining feature of UC Davis and this is evident in the blasé attitude towards the games. This is also evident in the attendance of other sports, including basketball. Even when ESPN was going to be filming one of the games, the students had to be lured in with free items to fill in the usually pretty empty stands.
Context: The informant is an 11 year old girl of Pakistani descent. She is a 6th grader at a public school in Torrance, CA. Her social groups include friends of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds. The following game is a modified version of tag she learned around third grade from her close friends of Indo-Pakistani descent.
The game starts by choosing someone to be the Dead Woman:
Me: And how do you choose who’s It?
Inf.: Well sometimes–like, i like to be It because I’d rather be the one chasing other people than getting chased myself.
Me: Ok, but what if no one wants to be It?
Inf.: Then you could…then everyone goes “Not it!” and whoever says it last–or actually what me and my friends do is we’ll do Nose Goes?
Me: Yeah, i know what that is, ok, and then?
Inf.: And then whoever’s It lays down on the floor, and everyone runs around them going,
“Dead woman, dead woman, come alive,
when i count to the number five
1,2,3,4,5, come alive!”
and then the Dead Woman gets up and starts chasing us, and she can’t open her eyes, so it’s like, she has to–or he, he or she has find us and catch someone without seeing, and whoever gets caught has to be the Dead Woman.
Analysis: Like many childhood games, ‘tag’ being the prime example, this game is basically a chasing game. The interesting variation in this version is that there seems to be a backstory to this particular game: the Dead Woman who comes alive with the enacting of a special incantation and comes after the ones who have revived her. Death holds a certain fascination for all humans, and children are no different. The added fear factor of having someone come back from the dead, when everybody supposedly “knows” that such a feat is impossible, is probably part of the appeal. In this game, then, kids are literally running from death, something that is very representative of Western society as a whole–its obsession with youth and how it refuses to deal with or accept the prospect of death in any form. The fact that the Dead Woman is brought to life via an incantation is also an interesting reflection on society’ s obsession with control and wanting to be able to recreate life of imitate it in the very least–how many incarnations of Frankenstein have there been? How hotly is the issue of cloning and genetic engineering debated?
In my childhood, we played a similar game, but it was called simply “Mummy”. The Mummy had to lie down on the floor, and the other kids would enact a “discovery” of the Mummy (“Oh, look! It’s an ancient Egyptian tomb! I wonder what’s inside!”), only to “realize” that all their poking and prodding had brought the Mummy to life. The Mummy would then get up with an eerie groan and chase after the kids, stiff-legged and blind, until s/he caught someone. Here we see similar themes of bringing someone back from the dead and having them be vengeful because of it, though this time there is no deliberate life-giving incantation. Is the change in the newer version a reflection on humanity’s intensifying urge to (re)create life?
“One of the most elaborately staged pranks at a desi (typically North Indian or Pakistani) wedding is the theft of the groom’s shoes by the bride’s younger sisters and female cousins. The groom has to bargain for his shoes to be returned to him with these young girls, often offering them money, sweets, and jewelry in exchange for them. It has become a tradition emblematic to our weddings.”
The interviewee related her experience with this tradition to me: “The first time I got the chance to have my cousins do this for me was when I was getting married to your uncle. It was hilarious. He was running around, looking for the shoes like some desperate fellow, and they managed to swindle about a thousand rupees each from him! Not to mention all the sweets they got in exchange. It was amazing.”
There are a few explanations for this ritual-impeding prank. The first is that the Indian groom, who has to arrive at the wedding venue from another location, some distance away,and usually on a horse or an elephant, cannot proceed with the actual wedding sacraments if he doesn’t have his shoes with him. This, effectively, would put a stop to the wedding and interrupt the smooth flowing of a very important liminal period in one’s life – the time in which one is a groom, not yet married, and not really unmarried either. Secondly, India, being a rather patriarchal society, sees a wedding as the groom’s family taking possession of the bride. Therefore, in retaliation, the girls from the bride’s side take their revenge, symbolically and humorously, by stealing an important component of the groom’s outfit and thereby threatening the marriage. The money is supposed to be a sort of compensation for the bride being taken away. And finally, and perhaps rather obscurely, is the deeply-entrenched ancient practice of child-betrothal and child marriage in Indian society. In a time when children were the main participants in these weddings, these little games would have assuaged their confusion and engaged their attention to the very religious, and sometimes pretty long-winded sacraments.
Rajasthani Wedding Games and Pranks
1. After the wedding ceremony, the bride goes to her husband’s house where his family will put her intelligence, courage, strength and cooking experience to the test (in a friendly series of games). The exact tests to be performed vary by family, but some that Mayuri listed were:
– The bride enters the house only after kicking a rice-filled pot with her right foot (auspicious one).
– The ring game: a vat is filled with milk and small metallic objects (along with the wedding rings) are thrown in. The bride and groom must reach in together and try and fish out their rings with one hand. The one who does so first will have the upper hand in the marriage!
– The bride must try and hold as many of the gifts that her new family will deposit in her lap. Brides will often use their veils to wrap all her new family’s gifts and carry them around. She must carry as much as she can in her sari (test of her ingenuity and resourcefulness).
– The bride must also pick up every female member of her husband’s family. This is a test of her strength.
Later on, right before the wedding night, the bride and groom will be teased together (especially by the cousins) and pushed and shoved all the way to their highly decorated bedroom.
These rituals are done to ease the liminal period for the bride. Traditionally in India, the bride does not meet her husband or his family before the marriage and so these games are done to ease the transition from her old family home she’s lived in her whole life, to her new home with her husband and his family. In India, families live together and share the same house; therefore, the rituals and games involve the whole family. The bride is also going from an unmarried virgin to a married woman on the wedding night so it is important for the bride to feel comfortable with her husband.