Informant: “Have you heard of gonggi? It’s a game we played as children, with these sort of like marble-ly things. They’re like round, and colorful, and they’re just like, made out of plastic and have little things inside to give it weight or something. But anyway, to play the game, you’d throw one in the air, and then try to catch it before it dropped to the ground. Then you throw two in the air and try to catch both the little ‘balls,’ I guess you can call them. Then you throw three, and catch them and so on.”
Me: “Did you play this game often?”
Informant: “Yeah, I remember our parents used to buy them for us, me and my brothers and my friends, like all the time. It was a really fun game to play.”
This was the first thing my informant thought of when she tried to remember something from her childhood. Evidently, she would play them all the time with either her brothers, friends, or even by herself, since it’s an easy game to learn and participate in. The gonggi pieces are sold in many cities here, probably in Koreatown shops, so my informant was able to play this traditional game while growing up in the Southern California area. Her parents didn’t seem to mind buying her multiple sets, either because she lost them or broke the pieces, because they still tied her to Korean culture. Since it appears that this was one of my informant’s favorite games to play growing up, if they continue to sell them here in the years to come, I’d imagine she would buy gonggi sets for her children as well.
The simplicity of the game is attractive, as well as the colorful balls, or pebbles, children use to play with. This makes it popular worldwide and a game that can no doubt make a lasting impression upon a young child. While gonggi is still only known to Korean children, there have been variations of this game that are known by other names, and there’s a possibility that this will allow gonggi to become more popular within other cultures and ethnicities as well.