Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Camp Games

So I’m doing family camp again this year. The first time I did this I almost couldn’t handle the fact the adults go right along with everything almost as if they were campers, too. It just did not compute. (Isn’t camp supposed to be where parents dump their kids off for a week so they can get a break…?) I guess it’s a “thing” though for a certain type of family. The more time I spend with them the less they strike me as being the sort of hard core helicopter parents that I first suspected they were. But though I do get to spend vacation time with my own family without the hassle of cooking and cleaning and setting up camp… I do end up “playing” with the other adults as often as not.

No, really. The kids end up doing their own thing, coming and going… and I’ll be playing some camp game mostly with another parent after a while. It never crosses our minds that we should switch gears, though. We don’t stop, regain our dignity, pour a couple of glasses of gin, and get a game of bridge going the way my grandparents’ generation would have done had they been in a remotely similar situation. While it’s become fashionable in some quarters to bemoan the growing loss of “kid culture,” it’s moments like this that make me wonder if we’ve really lost adult culture.

Anyway, here’s the scoop on games that have been going on in this particular setting:

The Usual: The standard camp game is really more of an activity. There will often be a score for some reason, but it is not kept very closely and there seems to be an unspoken rule that you don’t announce it at the end. Not everyone seems to be clear on the rules and the best sorts of “games” for this are ones that are still fun even if they are played wrong at every conceivable level. (Something like canoeing around to get rubber ducks and then throwing them into other peoples’ boats.) This almost make sense given how much the ages range in this particular setting, but this about drove me crazy the first time I saw this sort of thing.

Paper Rock Scissors: Okay, this was cool. Everyone plays at once. If you beat someone, they follow you around cheering you on. If you beat someone that has followers, you get all their followers, too. I think everyone was starting by throwing rock. I think it happened a couple of times that I played someone and we both threw rock and then both threw scissors. After that there was a moment where I’d finally got a read on them and then won the game. (They were going to switch back to rock after doing scissors.) It got to the last two players then: me and some tiny little girl. I went with paper because everyone seemed to like rock, but I should have realized that she couldn’t have gotten that far by being just like everyone else. She threw scissors to my paper on that first throw. Her serenity, confidence, and perfect posture made my defeat that much more crushing.

Risk: There’s a copy of this in the main rec room. As much as serious gamers like to come down on this game, I have to admat that a lot of people play this and have their own pet strategies. We didn’t have the rules, so we had to agree to something before we could play. I pressed for random starting positions, 10 additional armies at start, no cards at start, cards worth 10/8/6/4 as in the “English” rules, and then getting 1 army for each three territories you’ve got at the start of each turn. I won fairly quickly by taking South America and North America, but my opponent quickly started pushing for changing to rules that he was more familiar with for a rematch. (I think the most obvious problem with our off the cuff made up rules was not starting with any cards– we should have started with three each.)

Four Square: Okay, I try not to be that guy that tells everyone how to play their game… but the total chaos of the “give the point to the most obnoxious camper” approach that was happening here was too much for me. I pleaded with everyone to not try chintzy stuff to get people out on the serve. I argued that it doesn’t make sense to allow people to interfere with the ball when it didn’t bounce in their square. This is a kids’ game that older kids and adults happen to play, after all. Another thing I pushed for was that it had to bounce in your square before you could hit it back. (This is not baseball or basketball.) One kid actually claimed that you could hit the ball into the air up to three times, but I told him he had this confused with volleyball. I did not bother trying to convince folks to give up their slams and do everything underhand style. But if you’ve got eight and ten year olds in the mix I really think this game ought to be dialed back.

Other games I see in play are chess, Trifusion, and Apples to Apples Junior. Also, there’s almost always someone putting a puzzle together. I may be a bit of a Luddite for saying this, but I’m fairly certain that the ban on electronic gadgets on the camp ground is the key factor behind the emergence of a gaming scene that is very close to what I remember from when I was elementary school.

Probably the most striking thing about games in this situation… everyone is almost constantly explaining the rules, making rules, and coming to consensus about what the rules should be. You’ve got to think just how much is involved in all of that when you’ve got people coming together temporarily that don’t all do things the same way back home. People who mostly play games run by computer programs do not experience this sort of thing either in kind or degree. There are so many tests of leadership, negotiation, and sportsmanship when people play “real” games… I have to wonder if the people that completely miss out on this are socially stunted.

But that’s just a conjecture. And hey, maybe it’s just me forcing everyone to negotiate constantly because I wore my game master pants to camp this summer…! I do try to lighten up and go with the flow for the most part, really. Really I do.

One response to “Camp Games

  1. Runeslinger May 30, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    This is a very important observation, I believe.

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