My father always plays this ridiculous game with us. The premise is fairly simple: you inconspicuously hold out your hand (below your waist!) in an “OK” formation, meaning thumb and pointer in an “O,” other fingers out. If a friend (or in our case, a son or daughter) sees the hand, you get to punch him.

I asked my dad where he learned this, he said,

“It’s something we used to always play as kids. On the playground or in class or at home we’d always sneakily try to fool our friends just so we could punch them. Living in a house with four boys, sometimes this game got a little out of hand…”

Forty years later he passed it on to his kids. My dad isn’t very mature; he still finds this game wildly amusing. And it really is. Fooling someone into looking at your hand just so you can smack them on the arm is a great time. What I love about this game is that it can be “played” whenever. We’ll have a hiatus for an entire year, and my dad pulls out the hand signal, gets my brother to look down, and all hell breaks loose. It becomes a war of trickery and flying fists.

I asked my father what this game is called and he couldn’t remember. I’ve decided to call it “Gotcha!” because this is how my dad likes to mock us whenever we fall for the trick and get punched on the arm.

Simple games such as Gotcha! are interesting because they don’t really offer the same value as full-fledged sports or card games due, yet they are so popular in our culture. All ages and all types of people know games like paddy cake or hot hands. These games’ simplicity is probably the reason for their popularity. There is zero setup or materials required, and the rules are so minimal that anyone can learn to play in seconds. Because of this, these types of games become widespread. It amazes me how much entertainment humans can get out of simply messing with each other. Our capacity to create captivating competitive games out of nothing is astounding.