Tag Archives: children’s game

Informant: Shut the box is a game I picked up from a friend. She just liked collecting wooden crafts and games she had in her childhood. I think she had this while in France? It’s been a while since I asked her about it.

Interviewer: Do you remember when she first told you about it?

Informant: I asked her about the game one Thanksgiving because it was out on a counter as one of those party games. It looked like a homemade set, I wanted to know if it was easy to make.

Interviewer: And then she was the one who taught you how to play?

Informant: Yes, it was a long game but a lot of fun.

Interviewer: How do you play it?

Informant: Well, you need 2 dice and the specially designed box. In the box is a row of numbers counting from 1 to 9. The object of the game, as the name suggests, is to shut the box. To accomplish this the player whose turn it is has to roll the dice and add up the dice to get a total. With that number in mind the player has to use the numbers in the box to make that same total, this is indicated by flipping the numbers in the box down. If a player rolls a total they can no longer make with the numbers in the box, that total becomes their score. If a player manages to flip all the numbers in the box down, they have won the game and have the satisfaction of shutting the box. If no one manages to shut the box, the person with the lowest score wins.

Interviewer: Is there a limit to how many people can play?

Informant: No, this game is played one person at a time so as long as everyone is patient you can have as many players as can sit ’round a table.

Background: My informant learned about and how to play this game from a friend on an unspecified Thanksgiving. It is now apparently played every year by both the informant’s friend and herself. It drew attention because it appeared homemade. When asked, the friend allegedly said that it was part of her childhood while growing up in France and wanted to share that memory with her children.

Context: It was a casual interview setting, playing games when the informant’s husband brought this specific game, prompting me to ask about its origin. This specific copy of the game was a handmade set by the informant’s husband.

Thoughts: There is something appealing about the game. There’s definite satisfaction in flipping the tiles down, and even more so when one is lucky enough to shut the box. A lot of the game seems to rely on luck and an understanding of probability.

For more instructions, please see: Allan, Sean. “How to Play Shut The Box: Games Rules, Strategy & Instructions.” SiamMandalay, 25, Sept, 2017.

How to Play The Game Slap Jack

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Glendale, California
Date of Performance/Collection: March 18, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant: So the goal of the game is to get the full deck in your hand. The game starts with the stack of 52 standard cards being split into equal piles for the number of players sitting around the table. No one is allowed to look at their cards. The dealer who split the stack, plays the first card. Then the play goes around clockwise for the rest of the game. When a Jack card is played all players must slap the deck as fast as possible. The first one to slap the deck gets all the played cards under the Jack. Because of the nature of the game, more players can ‘slap’ in and enter the game if it’s already started. (but that makes the whole thing go WAY longer)

The initial version I was taught had one extra rule: if you got a ‘sandwich’ you could slap. A sandwich consisted of two of the same numbers and one different number in between them. So like 2, 3, 2 is a sandwich.

The second version, has the ‘sandwich’ rule but also somethings called ‘doubles’ and ‘faces’. Doubles is self explanatory two of the same card played one after the other. So 2, 2. ‘Faces’ is if a face card – Queen, King, or Ace – is played the next person must play a face or the played-card pile goes to the first person. If they succeed in putting down a face card, the next person must play a face card or the second person gets the pile, and on and on and on.

Background: My informant used to bring to school a standard deck of cards and teach us how to play in our downtime between classes or over lunch. They learned these different games from their uncle who lived nearby.

Context: I remembered a few games back from middle school and looked for this informant specifically to get the rules as they tell it. I brought up the game with the informant over Discord, telling them about the collection project and my interest in documenting the games that we used to play with friends over lunch. They responded with a written record of the rules as they remember it.

Thoughts: I learned how to play this game while I was younger from the same person. However, they called it a different name from what I remember. They now call it ‘Egyptian Slap Rat’, however, all the rules the same. I wondered how a group of kids got ‘Slap Jack’ from ‘Egyptian Slap Rat’ and extra research showed that the games has many other names as well:
‘Slapjack’
‘Slaps’
‘Beggar-My-Neighbor’
‘Egyptian Ratscrew’
‘Heartattack’
‘Snap’

How To Play The Game Bull Shark

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Glendale, California
Date of Performance/Collection: March 18, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant: This game rewards players who can lie convincingly. The object of the game is kind of the opposite of Slapjack, cuz you have to get rid of your hand as quickly as you can. The game is played comfortably with 6 players but I think it’s better with less. You don’t want more players cuz then it becomes too easy for people to lie their whole hand away. Someone splits a standard 52 deck equally for the number of players present. The players look at their hand and the person with the ace of spades plays first, the ace card face up.
All cards are played face down after the ace. The play then goes clockwise as each player has to play the next number up, so after the ace the next player plays a 2, the next a 3, and on and on and on. This is where the lying element of the game comes in, if a player doesn’t have the next card up for their turn they can lie and play an entirely different card and just say it’s the right one. After every play people can decide whether or not they believe the player, if someone does not believe them they can call ‘BS’ and flip over the played card. If the card is what the player said it was, the caller has to take the deck of used cards, making it harder for them to lose all their cards first. If no one calls the player and they WERE lying they say ‘popcorn’ to say that they were lying. If no one calls the player and they were NOT lying the game continues with no incident.
The game becomes more complex when multiple cards are played at once, if a person has more than one of a kind in their hand they can play up to how many they have OR play up to as many they are willing to lie about. The game ends when a person gets rid of all the cards in their hand.

Background: My informant used to bring to school a standard deck of cards and teach us how to play in our downtime between classes or over lunch. They learned these different games from their uncle who lived nearby.

Context: I remembered this game back from middle school and searched out for this informant specifically to get the rules as they tell it. I brought up the game with the informant over Discord, telling them about the collection project and my interest in documenting the games that we used to play with friends over lunch. They responded with a written record of the rules as they remember it.

Thoughts: While definitely a fun game I remember a mutual friend started abusing the lying rules to stack more cards than they said they played. There was a great deal of dispute as to whether lying was allowed when talking about the number of cards one played or only what number the card was. Everyone agreed that lying only applied to the number the card was but we were not always able to stop the kid when he continued to play more than he said for we never knew when he did it. We eventually stopped playing with him because he wouldn’t stop cheating.
The game also goes by:
‘Bullshit’ or ‘BS’

Rattlesnake: A Conga Line Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 56
Occupation: Health Care Administrator
Residence: Long Beach, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/20/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Background: The informant is a woman in her late fifties who grew up in downstate New York in Queens and on Long Island before moving to upstate New York for college. In her mid 20s, she moved out to Southern California and she had lived there ever since. She comes from a large family of Catholic Irish-Americans. She attended public grade schools.

Main Text:

“There was one that I loved! And it was…think of a conga line but it wasn’t really a conga line. It would be kids in this long line and they would do these intricate back-and-forth kinds of movements, yknow we would all move together. And it was [singing] “R-A-T-T-L-E-S-N-A-K-E spells rattlesnake” and we just did that over and over again while we did this little…I loved that game! I don’t know why, but it was just…but we did all these intricate, back-and-forth pattersn and it was all these kids in a line.”

Context: The informant specified that this game was performed on the playground during recess and at lunch, mostly during the earlier half of elemenatary school. It was not organized by teachers, and it involved large groups of children—around a class size or more, so twenty kids and up.

Thoughts: I’d never heard of this game before, but I’m familiar enough with a conga line to get the gist of what the informant was playing. It was probably a combination of the movement and accompanying song that made the game so compelling to TR as a young child. I do think it’s funny how they referred to it as a nearly hypnotic-experience, and I’m impressed that such a large group of young children organized themselves well enough to execute this game on a daily basis, not to mention their ability to transcend friend groups.

Road Trip Games

--Informant Info--
Nationality: White American
Age: 56
Occupation: media relations specialist
Residence: San Francisco, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/21/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context:

I asked my informant LP for these games in an in-person interview. She grew up in suburban Colorado in the late 20th century. These games are played with kids on long car rides. She learned these games from her parents when she was on road trips with her family as a kid. “They’re timeless, they last forever, they never get old,” She said that “they’re for alleviating boredom, but they’re word games so they’re focused on vocabulary and learning words as opposed to math and numbers games.” She always liked these word games more than number games.

Text:

LS: We would play the license plate game, where you try to get a license plate from every state. The alphabet game, we would spell out the alphabet on passing signs, whoever saw it first would just call it out.

Our favorite one was “I’m going to such-and-such and I’m bringing my such and such.” You keep building with words that start with the same letter as the place you’re going to and go around the car repeating the cycle and adding on one each time. Whoever can’t remember or does it wrong loses.

I spy with my little-eye, where we would say “I spy with my little eye, something…” and then you would say the name of a color. Everyone else would try to guess what the object was. You would have to do it with something that was really far away. (laughs)

Thoughts:

These games are techniques for parents to help their kids alleviate boredom in long road trips, where a group of people is sitting in the enclosed space of a car together for hours on end. As the informant said, “they’re timeless… but they never get old.” These games have unlimited replay value and can keep kids entertained, or sedated, for the long hours of fidgeting and restlessness. As my informant mentioned, these games have a pedagogical function, of teaching kids new words, the names of the states, the names of the colors. But these games keep car riders focused on fairly rote tasks to pass the time easier. This piece of car lore likely arose from the need to keep a family socially and mentally stimulated during the long road trips common in the vast American Midwest

Slide

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation:
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 3-27-2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Background: Informant is a 22 year old male who has lived in California his whole life.

Main Piece:

Interviewer: Did you play any hand games that were not based off of a musical riddle?

Informant: Yes, I remember playing a hand game called Slide. Well at least thats what we called it in school.

Interviewer: How do you play slide?

Informant: Slide is a game where you slide hands with whoever your playing with and then you clap, then clap your left hand to their right and and then your right hand to their left hand. You then clap again and then using your backsides of your hands clap against the backsides of their hands. You also count when you clap, so if you are at 2 then you clap each hand twice before clapping the backsides. You also clap the backsides the same amount of times as the number you’ve counted up to. It seems really easy but when you go at a fast pace it gets really hard.

Interviewer: How do you win?

Informant: Whoever messes up first loses.

Context: Interview with a family member, asking him about any childhood games he played with friends or family.

Thoughts: It is interesting to see how clapping can be such a fun game for kids. It is funny that it is also competitive. I think the game Slide has a proper name. I find it fascinating that the game requires you to multi-task, counting and clapping. Kids get really creative with games.

Pompyang: A Filipino Children’s Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Main Piece: Pompyang happens when you want to choose someone to be “it” for a game like tag or when we have to choose someone to do chores. It is a quick and easy game for choosing someone. First, everyone puts their hands in the middle after making a circle. On one person’s signal, everyone lifts their hands and positions their hands either facing palms up or down. The odd ones out are considered safe until you get down to three people then it is repeated. Once there are three people, the odd one out of those three is considered the loser.

Context: The informant lived the majority of her life in the Philippines. She then immigrated to the United States when she was 24. She learned about the game when she was in grade school in the Philippines.

Thoughts: I already knew about this game but I think it’s a really simple way to settle debates. Because it’s so simple, it’s a way to settle disputes for kids or even adults. By only giving two options it makes the game much simpler but the only time when it becomes remotely complicated is when there are an even amount of people and there are an even amount of upward and downward palms.

Bubble Gum In a Dish

--Informant Info--
Nationality: French American
Age: 16
Occupation: Student
Residence: Pasadena, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 28
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: 

This piece was collected in a casual interview setting on the informant’s living room couch . My informant (CH) was born in Pasadena, CA, but grew up in a very French household, learning English as her second language. All of her education has been in American schools, but she learned how to read and write French thanks to after school lessons her mom gave her and her older sister. She is currently a Sophomore in high school and enjoys horseback riding.

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant (CH) and interviewer.

Interviewer: Other than the classic “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” what’s another way you know of picking something based on a song?

CA: We had the bubble gum song! The girls started to use it in like, I don’t know, 3rd grade. We would sing it while going around pointing at someone in the circle. It went like this

Bubble gum, bubble gum, in a dish,

How many pieces do you wish?

*the girl who’s designated chooses a number, then they start counting to that number and who ever the last number falls on is it*

Thoughts: 

At school, the girls would use this song in order to pick out a girl when nobody volunteered to do something. For example, it was to see who would be the first person to chase others in Tag. This was a very fair and effective way to choose who would be “it” when we were young (around 6-8 years old) but once people started to figure out you can count who it would fall on so the person who chooses the “random” number can cheat, it started creating problems. For some reason, only the girls would use this song.

Annotation:

For different variations of the Bubble Gum Song, please follow this link: https://kcls.org/content/bubble-gum-bubble-gum-in-a-dish/

Blackout no Whiteout

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Animation
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Pasadena, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 28
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: 

This piece was collected over a casual FaceTime in which we were previously just catching up and talking about our elementary school experiences. We are close friends who met in high school and have known each other for five years. My informant (JS) was born in California and is now attending Carnegie Mellon as Computer Science major. He enjoys coding, playing video games, and weight lifting.

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant (JS) and interviewer.

Interviewer: What’s Blackout No Whiteout? 

JS: So, um, if you don’t want something you give it to someone and you say “blackout no whiteout” you don’t have to take it back and they have to keep it.

Interviewer: So can they give it to someone else?

JS: I think so. They just have to say “black out no whiteout” again.

Interviewer: How old were you when you used this?

JS: Um, like, kindergarten, five, six. I learned it from school friends. 

Thoughts: 

I like to think of Blackout No Whiteout as the opposite of Dibs. When I was little and we used this rule, it was often to get rid of trash and force someone else to throw it out. In my opinion, I thought it was funny and innocent at the time, but looking back, we used it as a way to pick on some classmates who always ended up getting stuck with the “thing” nobody else wanted. Children can be mean to each other, and this is one of the games that demonstrates that.

The Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Boston, MA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

  • 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.