Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Worst Recess Game

I played all kinds of games at recess. Four square, football, poker, octopus (what, you've never heard of octopus?), dodgeball. But I was just reminded of a failed experiment in a game we tried to play a few times. Though it sounds awesome, it is probably the worst game to ever attempt in real life: Calvinball.

As for many sixth grade boys of my generation, Calvin and Hobbes was hugely popular and influential to me. In the strip, Calvin and his tiger Hobbes would at times put on masks, break out the wickets and play Calvinball. It seemed logical at some point that we would try to emulate the game. But that proved an impossible task. First, none of us had masks. Why they are important I don't know, but Calvin famously said "No one is allowed to question the masks." We didn't have wickets either. But we had a volleyball, and imagination and we figured that was enough. It wasn't.

You see, the only rule of Calvinball is that you can never play it the same way twice. While this makes perfect sense for a boy playing with his imaginary tiger on paper, it's impossible to translate to a real world setting. Ultimately, we ended up recycling elements from the strip, and reusing them throughout the game. It was HARD to come up with new elements for a whole game. It was HARD to play consistently with four or five people a game that had no rules. What was the objective? In the end, it was chaotic and we had to give up, having failed admirably.

I don't know if there's any relevance to this, but I've been thinking about the nature of imaginative play recently and how much I actually engaged in as a kid. Some kids like Calvin are naturally deconstructionist. Others need certain rules and parameters. All I know for sure is that imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but you're wasting your time if you think you can ever imitate the wonder of Calvinball.

Note: all images of Calvin & Hobbes are the creative work of Bill Watterson. He's notorious about not licensing his images out, and it may very well be that their presence on the internet violates copyright and/or his express wishes. It is not my intent to upset Watterson or act against his will. My inclusion here is merely for illustrative purposes, and mostly confined to Watterson's original artwork. I found it all online, and have not reproduced any of it personally. Please do not contribute to Calvin piracy by creating or reproducing stolen imagery. Let's respect the work of a 20th Century pop art genius. ...and please don't sue me, Bill.

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