Tag Archives: Game

Four Square (Game)


“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. 

Handkerchief Game

Everyone, children for this game, sits within a circle, someone goes around holding a handkerchief and everyone chants,
丢,丢,丢手绢. 小小的朋友请你不要打电话快点快点抓住他

Diū, diū, diū shǒujuàn. Xiǎo xiǎo de péngyǒu qǐng nǐ bùyào dǎ diànhuà kuài diǎn kuài diǎn zhuā zhù tā

“Throw throw throw the handkerchief. Little little friends, please can you not call the phone, hurry hurry catch him”

After this, the person outside changes with the person who they were at when the song ended and the new person is handed the handkerchief and the cycle begins anew.

S is an older Chinese immigrant who migrated to the US over 20 years ago. He still has very close contact with relatives in China and regularly participates in Chinese cultural practices.

Context: I interviewed S about Chinese cultural customs and beliefs. This is a children’s game. As such, is typically played by children.

This is a children’s game. Similar children’s games are played in the US as well. Duck duck goose is a very similar concept where children are in a circle and one person must choose who in the circle must get out. The main difference is the power to choose is held within the chooser in duck duck goose while the power is held within the song, making it equal. This is interesting to me because S was born after the Chinese Communist Party rose to power in China. This was during the Cultural Revolution, so many themes of equality were present throughout society. This more equal power sharing could be a result of the Communist Revolution.

Afikomen Ritual

In Jewish tradition, during Passover, um, there is like this big long dinner called a seder… One part of it, that is fun I guess, is the Afikomen, which is, at the beginning of dinner, you are supposed to take the middle piece of matzah and break it in half. And you eat one half of it now, and the other half becomes the Afikomen. So it usually comes in this fun cloth bag and the adults hide it, and the kids have to find it and ransom it back. People have gotten like, money from the Afikomen, and I always got like a dum dum lollipop. It’s kind of like the desert, there are other deserts, but the traditional dessert is the Afikomen once it’s found.


The informant is a college student discussing different family rituals that their family partakes in, leading them to bring up this specific tradition. The informant is explaining this ritual when discussing Passover, and how this is a common ritual that takes place during this time. 

Personal Thoughts:

This is an interesting ritual as it shows the overlap in folklore, since this is both a ritual and a game that takes place. From this, one can gather that this is not only a specific tradition to this family’s folk group, but also one that many folk groups take part in for Passover, as the informant discussed how this is a common ritual that many families participate in. As the informant mentioned, there are also variations to this ritual, children will get different prizes from the Afikomen. This is reflective of the multiplicity and variation of this specific ritual, and how when practiced by different families, or folk groups, that there may be different visions of this, allowing for the tradition to continue on. 

Anti-I-Over Game

Transcribed Text of Informant Telling me How the Game Works

“So, with Anti-I-Over (informant clears throat), you have two teams right? And you have to have a building. When we (in reference to her siblings) would play at the farm, we’d do it at the old white shed. You can do it with only two people…with one person on either side of the shed or building or whatever you’re using…or in teams with multiple people. But anyways, one team has a ball, like a tennis ball, and, um, you yell ‘Anti-I-Over’ right, and throw the ball over the roof from your side of the shed to the other side where the other team or person or whoever is…and so if the team catches the tennis ball you threw over, they run around the side of the shed and try to tag your team, either by throwing the tennis ball at you and hitting you…or you can tag them with the ball in your hands…and while they’re trying to get you with the tennis ball you and your team is trying to get to the other side of the shed where your opponents caught the ball. You’re, um, you’re trying to get there, uh, before the other team has the chance to get you with the ball. And you’re there you’re safe…oh, and if…if you throw the ball and the other team doesn’t catch it, you wait in anticipation and then they’re yell ‘anti-i-over’ and you’ll try and catch the ball. And…yeah…the game kind of just repeats like that…every time the ball is caught each person or team switches sides.”


My informant says this was a game that she learned about from her older siblings, and would play with both them and her younger siblings. While she says that this game was popular and known within the North Dakotan community she grew up in, she says she only played it with her siblings. When asked for an analysis of the game, she paused, squished her face into a pondering gaze, and eventually said “well I’m not sure there’s anything too deep with the game…it’s just something I played growing up. I’m not sure even why we say ‘anti-I-over…” it’s just what I learned and so how I played.”

My Analysis

Before having formally interviewed my informant about the North Dakotan German-Russian folklore and folk games she experienced growing up, I was aware of this particular game, as it had been taught to me by her and played with her years ago. It’s a very fun and aerobic game, and outside of North Dakota, I’ve never heard of anyone else mention it. While the history behind the game is unknown to my informant, I would guess that this game has been played by generations upon generations in North Dakota, since the game was familiar to my informant and her school friends at the time.

“Cracking an Egg” – Childhood Game

Text Transcribed from Informant

“Crack an egg on your head (mimes motion of breaking an egg on partner’s head), let it drizzle down, down, let it drizzle down, down, let it drizzle down, down.”


Just like the “giving one the shivers” game, my informant learned of this custom/game in his elementary school years. Generally a student will say the text above outloud, while using their fingers to act out the actions being described in the text. When asked for his interpretation, my informant replied that this motion and speech based game, and other games like it, are called “giving one the shivers,” even though this specific one he knew simply as “cracking an egg.” He often played this game as a child, either reciting the words to other students and pretending to crack an egg over their head, or having the game recited to him and motions done upon him.

My Analysis

While I never played this specific game myself, I remember partaking in similar games to this as a child. I think the goal of the “game” is to provide the game’s participant an ASMR-like sensation. I think this folk game also speaks to the near universality of ASMR sensations, as well as adolescent inclinations to trying and recreate a head tingling sensation that doesn’t quite have a term for it.