The Stick Game

“It’s called the stick game, and you have to play it with people who have never played it before. You can be the only one who’s played it. It’s best if it’s the people you know. Ok, so, you basically take six sticks and place them in an order to signify a number. You place them on the table in front of them and ask them to guess the number. So, if you place them in the shape of a 3, they’ll guess 3. Then you go ‘that’s wrong because the whole time you’re tapping anywhere between 1 to 5 fingers on your leg. And you keep going through that process, telling them, ‘you’re focusing on the wrong thing’ because the trick is to get them to focus on your leg. If they continue not to get them, you throw the sticks on the table to try to signify that the sticks really don’t matter, but most people will keep focusing on the sticks and try to figure out what you’re doing. And then, as people start to get it one by one, you tell them to stop until everyone has figured it out or given up. And if they give up, you don’t tell what the trick is.”

Background Information and Context:

The informant learned the stick game over the summer from her boss during a slow period of work, but she has “no clue” where her boss got it. She was prompted to share this game after I shared a game from my childhood. She was prompted to share this ritual after I shared that a few items in my collection were about Dancesport rituals and traditions.

Collector’s Notes:

What I found most interesting about this game is that it is not necessarily about winning/losing or competing against rival players. It functions in a way that is similar to a practical joke in that it separates participants into groups, those who are in the know and those of whom the game is at the expense. Figuring out the trick initiates one into the group of those who have proven their worth by demonstrating the ability to think outside the box, while giving up keeps one  stuck outside.