“There are four squares [on the ground] and everyone stood in an individual square and one square was the “King” – the person who had done the best so far or got there first in the beginning. You are hitting a ball in a square [from one person to the other], calling different names out of moves or “tricks”. One move was “around the world”, where if the ball hits in your square you have to spin before hitting it out. You moved up in ranks if you did well, and if you didn’t hit it, lost the ball, if you hit it out of your square, or it double bounced [bounced twice] in your square you would be out. One move was called the “penny drop” where you hit the ball really lightly so it would double bounce in someone’s square, and they would be out.”
MM is a 24-year-old American Missionary from a town in the middle of California. I asked her about any games she remembers playing while growing up and what the rules were for the game.
Four Square is a game I played growing up during recess as well, but for me, it looked a bit different than the way my informant described it. While the basic rules remained the same, we had a distinct oikotype of the game that didn’t involve the tricks that my informant mentioned. When I mentioned some of the rules of the way I played it growing up, my informant hadn’t heard of those either. It’s interesting to me that I could’ve gone to any group of children where I am from and the rules would’ve been the same, but now if I tried to play it with people from a different state, we probably wouldn’t be able to agree on how it would be played to the point where a game with a basic concept has completely different rules in different places. Games like these can develop subcultures where children really take them seriously and competitively and they turn into more of a sport than a game. It showcases the inherent competitiveness of kids and their way to make creative fun of their own.