Tag Archives: school games

School Game- Spundalele

Context: My informant grew up in Texas during the ‘70s. In elementary school during integration, he was one of the few white students transferred from a white school to a black school. He recalls a game the black students taught him called Spundalele. The first time someone “spundaleled him” he was surprised and angry because he didn’t understand it was a game. Once he understood, he and the other white students quickly adopted the game and played it every day. He says it was one of his first interactions at his new school, and it was a game that quickly brought together the white and black students. 

The Game: M: “Basically, if you have something in your hand, and somebody knocked it out of your hand, said ‘SPUNDALELE!’, and then picked it up before you could…it was theirs and you don’t get it back. Well I mean you can take it back under violence, but that’s not really part of the game.”

To Play:

  1. Find someone with something in their hand
  2. Knock the object out of their hand and onto the floor
  3. Shout “spundalele”
  4. Attempt to pick it up before they can
  5. If you succeed, you get to keep the item
  6. If you fail, they get to keep the item

The game works best if everyone knows the rules before playing

My thoughts: The concept of this game is strange to me; why would you play a game where people take each others’ things? But as an elementary school student in the ‘70s, you probably aren’t carrying anything of great value. Integration was a dramatic change to schools in the south, so if this game brought people of different races together, it sounds like a good game to me.

Rock Paper Scissors – Hiroshima

  • Context: The informants are two teenage boys, one 15 (B) and one 19 (A), who took upon the task of explaining rock paper scissors. At first they explained the simple game used to decide the winner in a tie or make a decision between two options, but as the time went on, they explained variations of the game. By adding the words gun, bazooka, nuke, Hiroshima, or God the game is continued on beyond the three options of playing rock, paper, or scissors to ensure an immediate victory.
  • Text:

B: “I say Rock, Paper, Scissors like a… a… a sane person…”

A: “I do as well.”

B: “And you have to go ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot!'”

A: “This is an audio… they can’t see your hands dude.”

B: “Ohhh…. so you have a closed fist and you hit in on your hand… and you go ‘Rock’ and you lift it up and hit it again and you go ‘Paper’… lift it up… ‘Scissors’… lift it up… ‘Shoot!’… and on ‘Shoot’ you show, well, a hand motion you want. And I always go with gun because gun can kill anybody.”

Me: “What’s gun? You can do Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot! and do a gun?”

B: “No, it’s just uh…”

A: “No. That’s like a joke people do… but the real game…”

B: “There’s more.”

Me: “Tell me about all of them.”

B: “So there’s like Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot! Bazooka. Or Rock, Paper, Scissors, Nuke. Or Rock, Paper, Scissors, Hiroshima.

A: “Oh God. Don’t say that.”

Me: “So what do all of the different ones do?”

B: “It’s a thing!”

Me: “It is a thing. So what do all the different ones do?”

A: “They just all try and one-up each other.”

Me: “Okay. So what do they mean? What’s rock?”

B: “Hiroshima blows up the person.”

Me: “What about Rock, Paper, and Scissors?”

B: “Rock is a Rock and Rock beats Scissors because they can break the Scissors. Scissors beats Paper because ‘cus they can cut the [Paper]. And somehow Paper beats Rock ‘cus it can cover [the Rock].”

Me: “And what’s a Gun kill?”

B: “Anything. Bazooka kills a Gun. Nuke kills Bazooka. Hiroshima kills a Nuke.”

Me: “Why don’t you say those when you’re…”

A: “Because one of those is very… uh…”

B: “Overpowered?”

A: “Well no, not overpowered. I was going to say not politically correct.”

B: “Sorry!”

Me: “So it stops at Hiroshima?”

B: “No you can go to like GOD.”

A: “It stops at…”

B: “GOD!”

Me: “God kills Hiroshima?”

A: “God kills everything, unless you pick something that kills God. It can go on forever which is why I just like doing Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

Me: “When do you play this?”

B: “Say if you were playing like a tag, like um… a game in P.E. and the P.E. teachers had you like you play Rock, Paper, Scissors so you can advance. You would always go Rock, Paper, Scissors, Hiroshima…”

A: “If there’s a tie.”

Me: “If there’s a tie?”

A: “If there’s a tie in a competition they do Rock, Paper, Scissors a lot…. Anyway… but what we were talking about before [B] went off on that tangent was…”

B: “That wasn’t a tangent.”

A: “…was the different versions of how to say Rock, Paper, Scissors which is… the two I have heard is Rock, Paper, Scissors and then people in Australia and then some other Asian countries say Paper, Scissors, Rock. And that’s the norm over there… I don’t know why…”

B: “Ive heard some people say Scissors, Paper, Boulder.”

Me: “Boulder?”

A: “What the fuck are you talking about bro?”

B: “Yeah! I know this kid… he goes Scissors, Paper, Boulder.”

Me: “Where is he from?

B: “Utah.”

A: “He probably made it up.”

B: “Or the weird kids who don’t even play Rock, Paper, Scissors. They go ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors, I beat you’ and then they run away. Those are the worst kids.”

Me: “So how old are you when you play Rock, Paper, Scissors?”

B: “Any age.”

Me: “Every age plays Rock, Paper, Scissors? Like if you’re in a business deal are you playing Rock, Paper, Scissors?”

B: “Most likely not.”

Me: “When do you stop? What kinds of decisions do you use Rock, Paper, Scissors for?

B: “Like if you’re playing like a team sport, in like P.E. you can play it… if you… if you’re trying to decide who… uh… who won… but like it’s a very close call, you can play it… um… if you’re trying to decide who to kick off your team you can play it… oh yeah… just like very simple decisions. Like I’m pretty sure when America signed that agreement with Japan so we would stop fighting each other they played Rock, Paper, Scissors. Maybe that’s why we say Hiroshima.”

  • Analysis: I played rock paper scissors as child in school when decision making, and even use the game to this day when making insignificant decisions. That said, I had only ever known of the first three options of displaying either a rock, scissors, or paper. No one has ever played a gun, bazooka, nuke, “Hiroshima” or GOD against me. Each of these tries to one up the next. For example, hiroshima kills nuke, nuke kills bazooka, bazooka kills paper, paper covers rock, rock smashes scissors, and scissors cut paper. I believe kids added in the extra terms for a few reasons. One to try and “out-kill” their opponent. Another to create an in-group and out-group of kids who know the alternate rules and kids who don’t. And lastly as a form of dark humor, poking fun at tragic historical events and utilizing their knowledge of the events in a game used mostly for mundane decisions. I would account for the variation in order of Rock, Paper, Scissors to regional differences in the way the game is taught.

The Game

  • Context: The informant (A) is a 19 year old college student. He describes to me a game he played, and still plays, with his friends entitled “The Game.” In the transcription, he explains the very simple rules of “The Game” and the wide variety of people who play “The Game.” This game was brought about in a conversation about schoolyard games, in which the informant told me of one on-going game, seemingly life-long, known as “The Game”
  • Text:

A: “The Game is a game in which you lose when you think about The Game… and so…”

Me: “Who plays the game?”

A: “A lot of people started it in like 2010-2012 range… at least that’s when my friends started… and uh…”

Me: “How old were you?”

A: “I was 9 I think.”

Me: “And you play it where?”

A: “You play it all the time.”

Me: “But is it in person? Is it online?”

A: “It’s all of the above. It’s not… it’s not like one particular thing… it’s just The Game and you lose when you think about The Game.”

Me: “Just thinking about it? Or do you have to say it?”

A: “You lose and when you lose you have to say it and then…”

Me: “You have to say what?”

A: “You have to say ‘oh I lost The Game’ to whoever you’re with or whoever you’re talking to or whatever. But, the catch is when you say it like they think about it… so they lost too…”

Me: “So how do you know who’s playing The Game?”

A: “Um everyone… any… anyone who thinks they are playing or wants to play is playing. And people just sort of lose and then start over. And forget about it… ‘cus you have to forget about it. It’s sort of a thing that like continues. The other week… like I’m talking like last week… my friend and I we’re talking… I sent him an Instagram post like ‘I want you to win’ and he was like ‘damn… I just lost’ and I was like ‘what are you talking about?’ and he was like ‘I lost The Game’ and I was like ‘that wasn’t even about The Game’ and he was like ‘yeah, I know. But it made me think of it.'”

Me: “And then it made you think of it?”

A: “Yeah.”

Me: “So you also lost The Game.”

A: “Yeah, but I don’t really care to play so like, I don’t… I don’t really keep track… but yeah, people who play The Game swear by it.”

  • Analysis: I believe “The Game” is used as a short of practical joke to test who knows of the game and who does not. The game relies on another person losing the game themself and bringing the game up to another player. Once the player remembers the game, they then also lose. It is unclear who created the game, but it seems to be played in a wide range of communities, and I have seen it multiple places on my social media feeds. The game also relies on people restarting the game at unknown times, but in order to start the game you must think of the game, and thinking of the game is what makes you lose the game. It seems to be an endless cycle.

P.S. This post just made you lose The Game.

Four Square

  • Context: The informant (A) is a 15 year old high school student in Utah. He explains the rules of the game Four Square to me and the various rules that can be added to the game. He notes that the game can be played with any ball as long as it bounces (though the ball typically must be the size of a basketball or soccer ball). The game is usually played on a designated court, though you can play it anywhere the ground is divided into 4 equal squares serving as the court. The game is also typically played at school, usually in elementary or middle school during recess. This conversation took place as the informant and I were trying to remember all of the rules of four square together, although he remembered them all, while I did not. 
  • Text:

A: “There’s so many types of four square”

Me: “What types?”

A: “Black magic… um… pac man, double-touch, single-touch, um… cherry bomb… um”

Me: “Are those different types of…”

A: “They’re different rules… those are different rules”

Me: “What is four square?”

A: “So four square you have this big square divided into four labeled A, B, C, D. A get’s to decide which rule is played with and starts out with the ball and you hit it to…”

Me: “What kind of ball?”

A: “It doesn’t matter you can play with a basketball, soccer ball, volleyball, um kickball… it just has to bounce. And then they hit it to the square and if it bounces twice in your square… um… then you’re out and then you’re sent back to the line… and then… then you’re sent back to the line. And then say you’re in C, the person who was in C goes to D and the person who was in the front of the line goes to… uh… D.”

Me: “Where do you play?”

A: “On the four square court.”

Me: “But where are the four square courts? Just in your neighborhood?”

A: “No… you play it at school.”

Me: “So what are the different rules?”

A: “So I’ll just go with the top 5. So, pac man is you got the person in A runs around the square and if you get tagged with the ball you’re it, but they can’t throw it at you… I mean you’re out… but they can’t throw the ball at you. Double touch is where you have to hit it up, like you have to hit it up so it bounces to you… so you hit it up then hit it into someone else’s square. Single touch you can hit it once. Cherry bomb is you go really far apart and you throw it at each other.”

  • Analysis: Four square is a school yard game played by both girls and boys in middle school. I was surprised to hear all of the rules the informant knew were the same I had played with in middle school even though I am 6 years older than the informant. The rules, such as black magic or cherry bomb, give the person with the ball a sense of power over the rules of the game. In addition, the rotation of players between the squares establishes a sense of hierarchy between those who stay in and those who get out. I believe this game is played at school because that’s where there is access to bouncing balls, a quart, and a large amount of players. I think the game is usually played in elementary school and middle school because those are the years recess is granted, so there is free time to play, where as in high school there is no designated play time.

Chicken Games – Proving Personal Vigor in American Childhood

Item:

M: Most of the games I had, like, heard about and observed were all the, like, chicken games where it’s like, “ah yeah, take an eraser over your knuckles. Whoever wimps out first loses.”

R: Well of course they- did you play quarters**?

M: Yeah, or um, slaps.  This is where people would like, hold the other person’s hand, slap each other as hard as they can

E: Until someone gave up.

M: Until someone gave out.

E: It’s so stupid I hated it.

A: A version I played was when you did the middle finger thing to their forearm until they gave out.  And you’d end up with these giant red spots.

 

Context:

**Quarters was understood by all as a game where each player places his fist knuckles down on the table and shoots quarters at the other until someone gave out.

I collected this piece about chicken games while hanging out with friends from the University of Southern California and we all began to talk about the games from our childhoods.  One of the participants in the conversation, denoted as ‘M’ , brought up chicken games from his elementary and middle school days, prompting others to contribute the variations they knew of and demonstrating on themselves when necessary.  Each interlocutor is denoted by a different letter.  The interlocutors were students of the University of Southern California, but of different class standings and two had already graduated.  The first informant, ‘M’, is a sophomore who went to elementary school on a military base in Japan but middle and high school in Texas; ‘R’ is a Ph.D. student who grew up in Maryland and Michigan; ‘E’ graduated in 2018 and grew up in Lompoc, CA; and ‘A’ graduated in 2018 and grew up in San Diego, CA.  They all brought up these games as something they had either observed or participated in during either middle or elementary school years, saying they viewed it as something either funny (a common opinion amongst the males) or stupid (as said by the only other female in the conversation aside from myself) at the time, but particularly viewing it as stupid nowadays.  There was also a general consensus that most kids would abandon these games by late middle school (8th grade) at the latest.

 

Analysis:

The wide range in age of the interlocutors is very indicative of how long these chicken games perpetuated, particularly with how the oldest interlocuter is ten years older than the youngest interlocuter.  Since you would pick these games up from other kids, it would make sense that as the older kids pass them down to the younger kids, they would continue through the years, particularly through neighborhood interactions where groups were not necessarily divided by age.  Another interesting point was the wide variety of locations in which each of the interlocuters grew up and/or attended elementary and middle school.  There were locations all over the United States, and even abroad in an American community overseas; I also knew of these games while growing up in Virginia.  As such, these chicken games are likely a part of greater American school-age children’s culture, especially amongst younger children because there was a general consensus that these games were abandoned once late middle school years came around.

What is more important, though, is why children would partake in these kinds of games, especially when they sometimes left physical marks on the body as mentioned by ‘A’ in the exchange above.  Particularly in the institutionalized schooling structure of the US, children are all brought up to think in particular ways and learn specific things and as such there can be a large sense of homogeneity among them.  These chicken games can establish another type of identity that is more counterhegemonic, considering these games were often strictly ruled against in schools and looked down upon by parents.  They can also establish a power dynamic amongst children who might otherwise be in an egalitarian environment.  If children can establish themselves as the strongest or the bravest in these games, it gives them something else to identify themselves with, which is why leaving marks may also be apart of why they take part in these games in the first place.  They become victorious signifiers of glory and pride, somewhat like battle scars; this also becomes significant when considering how children become increasingly aware of their bodies and their physical images as they get older.  These games were more popular among boys and with American culture so heavily centered around physical strength in men, these chicken games may be their attempts to embody these ideas from early on.  As for why they typically died out during middle and high school, partaking in certain subcultures becomes increasingly more significant during this time as children becoming adolescents begin to further explore who they want to be; these subculture identities begin to take more precedence moving out of elementary years.  This can correlate with why chicken games die out as students get older and more mature because they would no longer need these trivial markers of identity.

 

Additional Interlocuter Information:

The informant description for ‘M’ is in the section above the item, and the same information for each of the other informants is included below.

‘R’ – Nationality: USA; Age: 29; Occupation: Ph.D. Student; Residence: Los Angeles; Primary Language: English

‘E’ – Nationality: USA; Age: 22; Occupation: Non-Profit Arts Administrator; Residence: Los Angeles, CA; Primary Language: English; Other Language(s): Italian

‘A’ – Nationality: American-born Taiwanese; Age: 22; Occupation: Digital Marketing/Entrepreneur; Residence: Los Angeles, CA; Primary Language: English; Other Language(s): Mandarin, Japanese