Tag Archives: schoolyard games

Rock Paper Scissors – Hiroshima

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19 and 15
Occupation: Students
Residence: Boston, MA and Salt Lake City, UT
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

  • Context: The informants are two teenage boys, one 15 (B) and one 19 (A), who took upon the task of explaining rock paper scissors. At first they explained the simple game used to decide the winner in a tie or make a decision between two options, but as the time went on, they explained variations of the game. By adding the words gun, bazooka, nuke, Hiroshima, or God the game is continued on beyond the three options of playing rock, paper, or scissors to ensure an immediate victory.
  • Text:

B: “I say Rock, Paper, Scissors like a… a… a sane person…”

A: “I do as well.”

B: “And you have to go ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot!'”

A: “This is an audio… they can’t see your hands dude.”

B: “Ohhh…. so you have a closed fist and you hit in on your hand… and you go ‘Rock’ and you lift it up and hit it again and you go ‘Paper’… lift it up… ‘Scissors’… lift it up… ‘Shoot!’… and on ‘Shoot’ you show, well, a hand motion you want. And I always go with gun because gun can kill anybody.”

Me: “What’s gun? You can do Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot! and do a gun?”

B: “No, it’s just uh…”

A: “No. That’s like a joke people do… but the real game…”

B: “There’s more.”

Me: “Tell me about all of them.”

B: “So there’s like Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot! Bazooka. Or Rock, Paper, Scissors, Nuke. Or Rock, Paper, Scissors, Hiroshima.

A: “Oh God. Don’t say that.”

Me: “So what do all of the different ones do?”

B: “It’s a thing!”

Me: “It is a thing. So what do all the different ones do?”

A: “They just all try and one-up each other.”

Me: “Okay. So what do they mean? What’s rock?”

B: “Hiroshima blows up the person.”

Me: “What about Rock, Paper, and Scissors?”

B: “Rock is a Rock and Rock beats Scissors because they can break the Scissors. Scissors beats Paper because ‘cus they can cut the [Paper]. And somehow Paper beats Rock ‘cus it can cover [the Rock].”

Me: “And what’s a Gun kill?”

B: “Anything. Bazooka kills a Gun. Nuke kills Bazooka. Hiroshima kills a Nuke.”

Me: “Why don’t you say those when you’re…”

A: “Because one of those is very… uh…”

B: “Overpowered?”

A: “Well no, not overpowered. I was going to say not politically correct.”

B: “Sorry!”

Me: “So it stops at Hiroshima?”

B: “No you can go to like GOD.”

A: “It stops at…”

B: “GOD!”

Me: “God kills Hiroshima?”

A: “God kills everything, unless you pick something that kills God. It can go on forever which is why I just like doing Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

Me: “When do you play this?”

B: “Say if you were playing like a tag, like um… a game in P.E. and the P.E. teachers had you like you play Rock, Paper, Scissors so you can advance. You would always go Rock, Paper, Scissors, Hiroshima…”

A: “If there’s a tie.”

Me: “If there’s a tie?”

A: “If there’s a tie in a competition they do Rock, Paper, Scissors a lot…. Anyway… but what we were talking about before [B] went off on that tangent was…”

B: “That wasn’t a tangent.”

A: “…was the different versions of how to say Rock, Paper, Scissors which is… the two I have heard is Rock, Paper, Scissors and then people in Australia and then some other Asian countries say Paper, Scissors, Rock. And that’s the norm over there… I don’t know why…”

B: “Ive heard some people say Scissors, Paper, Boulder.”

Me: “Boulder?”

A: “What the fuck are you talking about bro?”

B: “Yeah! I know this kid… he goes Scissors, Paper, Boulder.”

Me: “Where is he from?

B: “Utah.”

A: “He probably made it up.”

B: “Or the weird kids who don’t even play Rock, Paper, Scissors. They go ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors, I beat you’ and then they run away. Those are the worst kids.”

Me: “So how old are you when you play Rock, Paper, Scissors?”

B: “Any age.”

Me: “Every age plays Rock, Paper, Scissors? Like if you’re in a business deal are you playing Rock, Paper, Scissors?”

B: “Most likely not.”

Me: “When do you stop? What kinds of decisions do you use Rock, Paper, Scissors for?

B: “Like if you’re playing like a team sport, in like P.E. you can play it… if you… if you’re trying to decide who… uh… who won… but like it’s a very close call, you can play it… um… if you’re trying to decide who to kick off your team you can play it… oh yeah… just like very simple decisions. Like I’m pretty sure when America signed that agreement with Japan so we would stop fighting each other they played Rock, Paper, Scissors. Maybe that’s why we say Hiroshima.”

  • Analysis: I played rock paper scissors as child in school when decision making, and even use the game to this day when making insignificant decisions. That said, I had only ever known of the first three options of displaying either a rock, scissors, or paper. No one has ever played a gun, bazooka, nuke, “Hiroshima” or GOD against me. Each of these tries to one up the next. For example, hiroshima kills nuke, nuke kills bazooka, bazooka kills paper, paper covers rock, rock smashes scissors, and scissors cut paper. I believe kids added in the extra terms for a few reasons. One to try and “out-kill” their opponent. Another to create an in-group and out-group of kids who know the alternate rules and kids who don’t. And lastly as a form of dark humor, poking fun at tragic historical events and utilizing their knowledge of the events in a game used mostly for mundane decisions. I would account for the variation in order of Rock, Paper, Scissors to regional differences in the way the game is taught.

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.

Four Square

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 15
Occupation: Student
Residence: Salt Lake City Utah
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

  • Context: The informant (A) is a 15 year old high school student in Utah. He explains the rules of the game Four Square to me and the various rules that can be added to the game. He notes that the game can be played with any ball as long as it bounces (though the ball typically must be the size of a basketball or soccer ball). The game is usually played on a designated court, though you can play it anywhere the ground is divided into 4 equal squares serving as the court. The game is also typically played at school, usually in elementary or middle school during recess. This conversation took place as the informant and I were trying to remember all of the rules of four square together, although he remembered them all, while I did not. 
  • Text:

A: “There’s so many types of four square”

Me: “What types?”

A: “Black magic… um… pac man, double-touch, single-touch, um… cherry bomb… um”

Me: “Are those different types of…”

A: “They’re different rules… those are different rules”

Me: “What is four square?”

A: “So four square you have this big square divided into four labeled A, B, C, D. A get’s to decide which rule is played with and starts out with the ball and you hit it to…”

Me: “What kind of ball?”

A: “It doesn’t matter you can play with a basketball, soccer ball, volleyball, um kickball… it just has to bounce. And then they hit it to the square and if it bounces twice in your square… um… then you’re out and then you’re sent back to the line… and then… then you’re sent back to the line. And then say you’re in C, the person who was in C goes to D and the person who was in the front of the line goes to… uh… D.”

Me: “Where do you play?”

A: “On the four square court.”

Me: “But where are the four square courts? Just in your neighborhood?”

A: “No… you play it at school.”

Me: “So what are the different rules?”

A: “So I’ll just go with the top 5. So, pac man is you got the person in A runs around the square and if you get tagged with the ball you’re it, but they can’t throw it at you… I mean you’re out… but they can’t throw the ball at you. Double touch is where you have to hit it up, like you have to hit it up so it bounces to you… so you hit it up then hit it into someone else’s square. Single touch you can hit it once. Cherry bomb is you go really far apart and you throw it at each other.”

  • Analysis: Four square is a school yard game played by both girls and boys in middle school. I was surprised to hear all of the rules the informant knew were the same I had played with in middle school even though I am 6 years older than the informant. The rules, such as black magic or cherry bomb, give the person with the ball a sense of power over the rules of the game. In addition, the rotation of players between the squares establishes a sense of hierarchy between those who stay in and those who get out. I believe this game is played at school because that’s where there is access to bouncing balls, a quart, and a large amount of players. I think the game is usually played in elementary school and middle school because those are the years recess is granted, so there is free time to play, where as in high school there is no designated play time.

Cops n’ Robbers School Yard Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/28/2015
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

“M” is 21 year old male student at the University of Southern California, where he is a Junior studying Animation and minoring in Philosophy. M is originally from the outskirts of New York state where he describes himself as living in a rural area. He described himself as going to a high school of ~60 students, where cliche formation was rare as students could ‘jump from social group to social group’. He describes his parents as ‘hippies’ that were very relaxed in their parenting style as well as their personal approach towards life. He is of Irish descent on both sides and describes this aspect of his life as very active in his life.

 

Transcript:

“Me: So what game did you play again?

M: Oh! Cops n’ Robbers!

Me: When did you play that game?

M: Elementary school!

Me: How do you play that game?

M: Well you’re basically you got some cops, and you got some robbers, so there’s like people on teams and stuff. So you’ve got the cops chasing the robbers, they could get feisty with it and the robbers could beat up the cops. There were bases too, if the robbers got to the bases they were okay, it was a hideout.

Me: Were you usually a cop or a robber?

M: Man, I don’t remember, that was a long time ago. I don’t think there was one that I was more of, we all sorta did both all the time. It was like, hey! Let’s play Cops n’ Robbers, I’ll be on this team you be on that.

Me: Did the cops always win?

M: No. It’s not like real life, it’s more realistic than that.

(I laugh)”

 

Analysis:

The game seems to be “M”s version of the popular schoolyard game, Cops n’ Robbers, a fairly well known game in North America. In the April 1973 publication of The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, in an article titled Children’s Folklore in the Archive of Folk Song, the article suggests the splitting of children’s Folklore in their very large Folklore collection (at the time, the collection was near 150,000 entries) into categories. One of these categories, battle games uses Cops and Robbers as a classic example as to what sorts of entries would fit this sort, assuming knowledge in the reader about the popularity of the game (Emrich, 1973).

The game itself, as a school yard game, likely allowed “M” and his friends to try out ‘adult roles’ while also reinforcing basic moral ideas like ‘good guys’, ‘bad guys’ and ‘the good guys have to stop the bad guys’, while also allowing them to simulate more adult situations (apprehending a criminal). The lack of preference could indicate that the players had no moral or occupational preference and preferred the role playing aspect instead, this could be contrasted to a child who wants to play as the cop because his father is a police officer (or any other reason he/she may admire the profession). ”M”s version of the game also included a base that the criminals could get to to defeat the cops and get away. As the cops did not always win (or the robbers didn’t) the aspect of good triumphing over evil or any other sort of overarching narrative did not appear to be part of “M”s approach to the game.

 

Emrich, D. (1973, April). Children’s Folklore in the Archive of Folk Song. In The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress (pp. 140-151). Library of Congress.

Clapping game rhyme/song

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Pakistani-American
Age: 11
Occupation: Student
Residence: Torrance, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/24/2014
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: The informant is a Pakistani-American 11-year-old girl and a 6th grader at a public school in Torrance, CA.  The following clapping rhyme is a two-person game she learned in first grade.

Content:

“I went to a Chinese restaurant

To buy a loaf of bread, bread, bread

She asked me what my name was

And this is what i said, said, said

My name is

L-I-L-I, Pickle-eye pickle-eye

pom-pom beauty, sleeping beauty

Then she told me to freeze freeze freeze

And whoever moves, loses.”

The word “freeze” may be said either once or three times, and at that moment the players must both freeze. The informant also showed me the two kinds of clapping sequence that are used for the two parts of the game, one for the first four lines, and the other for lines 6-8.

Analysis: At first glance, the rhyme seems like complete nonsense; but upon further examination, the rhyme could conceal casual racism. “Li” could be an East Asian name. Rhyming it with “pickle-eye” (which itself could be referring to culturally unfamiliar food which is automatically dismissed as unnatural or revolting–for instance recall the urban legend where neighborhood cats/dogs were disappearing after immigrants from [insert Asian country here] moved in), which is essentially a nonsense word, could be meant to show disrespect towards all people with similarly “Asian” names. Then referring to oneself as a “pom-pom beauty” (perhaps referring to a cheerleader’s pom-poms) and “sleeping beauty” (the classic western fairy tale) as a contrast to the “Li” lady is like proclaiming, I am an all-American girl, like a cheerleader or Sleeping Beauty, and you are not.

Clapping game rhyme/song

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Pakistani-American
Age: 11
Occupation: Student
Residence: Torrance, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/24/2014
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Urdu

Context: The informant is an 11 year old girl of Pakistani descent. She is a 6th grader at a public school in Torrance, CA.  Her social groups include friends of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds. The following clapping rhyme is a two-person game she learned in first grade.

Content:

Lemonade,

iced tea

Coca-cola,

Pepsi

Lemonade, iced tea, Coca-cola, Pepsi,

turn around, touch the ground, kick your boyfriend out of town, freeze

Another version from the same informant begins with the same line:

Lemonade,

crunchy ice

Beat it once,

beat it twice,

Lemonade, crunchy ice, beat it once, beat it twice,

turn around, touch the ground, kick your boyfriend out of town, freeze

In the last line of both versions, the players may perform the actions sung: they turn in a circle, drop to a crouch to touch the ground, and may even stand up and make a kicking motion. At the word “freeze,” both players must stop moving, and the first to move loses.

Analysis: I learned a version of this game, similar to the second version recorded, from cousins who went to the same school district as the informant. Instead of the words “beat it,” however, the words “pour it” were used, and the last line was completely omitted. The rhyme ended with the players crying “Statue!” and the first person to move, lost. Somehow, however, a player was allowed to tickle the other person to get them to move, even though tickling would seemingly count as moving. 

The incorporation of Coca-cola and Pepsi, both globally-recognizable drink names, into the rhyme is evidence of how popular the drink is worldwide and how it has been incorporated into “American” or “Southern California” culture, that children are mentioning it in their songs along with the ever-popular summer drink of lemonade.

The last line “Turn around, touch the ground” seems to be echoing some long-dead magic ritual, especially when followed by a mention of the singer’s boyfriend (keeping in mind that 11 years old, the majority of children likely have nothing close to a romantic partner yet). Also, the pouring of the drink–once, then twice–would seem to recall the adult practice of pouring drinks for oneself and one’s partner after a long day or at a party. This shows this age-group’s (perhaps unconscious) desire to  mimic the adult relationships they see with their own peers.