(In which I enumerate some of the games that I have played or learned here at Carleton.)
I was going to spend the end of the last post talking about a game called Ninja that I learned at a birthday party recently. Then it occurred to me that there are really a lot of games that I've learned at Carleton, or that are played a lot here, and I could spend a whole post describing such games. So that is what I did. The rules for one of them (you'll see which one) ran a little long, so I limited it to three games, but I hope you'll enjoy them just the same. Ladies and gentlemen, I now proudly present...
Three Games I Learned at Carleton College
Game One: Ninja
As previously mentioned, I learned this at a friend's birthday party not too long ago. It is an invigorating game, and to play it well, one needs quick thinking and reflexes, as well as politeness and a concern for the well-being of one's fellow players.
It begins with everyone standing in a circle with their hands stretched out in the center of the circle. The first person to get bored of this arrangement will draw his or her hands back from the center and strike a ninja-like pose. Everyone else will follow suit, until all players are frozen in a unique battle stance.
Then one person announces that he or she will go first, and makes a short, continuous motion. While he or she is making this motion, the other players may move too, but as soon as the person whose turn it is stops moving, everyone else must also stop. Then the next player clockwise in the circle makes a motion, and so on.
The person whose turn it is has a goal. The goal is to kill the other players, as politely and gracefully as possible. You kill someone by touching one of their hands with one of your hands while it is your turn. The other players will try to move their hands away from you while you are making your motion, so this can be difficult.
You could manage to kill your opponents by waiting until it is your turn, pausing for a long time, and then slapping the hand of the person next to you before they realize that you are moving. But this is bad form. You are supposed to kill your opponents politely and gracefully. So what you should do is pay close attention to whose turn it is (which is sometimes harder than it sounds), and when it is your turn, quickly but carefully try to tap the hand of a player nearby before they register that it is your turn and that they need to be moving their hands out of the way.
When a player is killed, they leave the circle, and when one player remains, he or she is the winner. However, the primary draw of this game is not the thrill of victory, but the fact is that it looks really cool when played correctly.
Game Two: Secret Service
This one is a very simple party game, but it only works if everyone around you knows how to play before you start.
Nobody ever says "Let's play Secret Service." Instead, the person who first has the idea to play Secret Service puts two fingers to his or her ear as if listening to a very small wireless communication device. Other people notice this and do the same. When only one oblivious person is left without their fingers to their ears, everyone else yells "Get down, Mr. President!" and piles on top of them.
If you are good at Nose Goes, you will be good at Secret Service.
Game Three: Silent Football
It has come to my attention that a certain esteemed online encyclopedia has deigned the subject of the great sport of Silent Football worthy of an article. While I am certain that the information contained in said article is useful as a survey of the warped and denatured variants of Silent Football common among barbarian peoples, let it be understood that the article must in no way be mistaken for an accurate portrait of the true rules and bylaws of Silent Football as it is played at Carleton College, which I will make an attempt to set down here for the edification of my readers.
Silent Football is played in a seated circle. Chairs, couches, pillows, and the floor may be used as seating, in whatever combination the players see fit.
The Importance of Formalism and Restraint.
The most important aspect of silent football is, indubitably, that of formalism. While playing Silent Football, a sense of propriety must be maintained at all times - in manner of speech, mode of action, and, perhaps most crucially, restraint from laughter.
For some reason which the foremost Silent Football researchers have been thus far unable to discern, players of Silent Football occasionally suffer from a sudden and uncontrollable urge to burst out laughing. This urge must be stifled at all costs, for grave reasons which will become clear later on.
Proper Names and the Commissioner.
A formal game calls for formal names, and thus each player must be referred to with their appropriate honorific (Mr., Miss, Mrs., Dr., etc.) followed by their unabridged first name. The single exception to this rule is that a certain important person (generally the person who has introduced or proposed the game) must be referred to as Mr. or Madam Commissioner.
Opening the Round.
Before the first round, the Commissioner gives an explanation of the rules of Silent Football, together with a brief history of the traditions associated with it, making certain to emphasize the necessity of formalism. Then, when everyone is ready, the Commissioner says "Let's begin the round," and everyone tips his or her hat toward the center of the circle in a gesture of goodwill and optimism. If for some reason a player is not wearing a hat, an imaginary hat will do.
When the round is in session, absolute attention must be given to the game, and the concentration of the body of players must not be interrupted by any disruptive sound. If a player wishes to speak, he or she must raise his or her hand and wait for the Commissioner to call on him or her by acknowledging him or her with his or her honorific and full first name.
Passing the Football.
When the round begins, the Commissioner is in possession of the football. The football, unlike the hats, is required to be imaginary.
Once one has the football, one's prerogative is to rid oneself of it again. The football is passed from one player to another by one of the following four methods:
-The tap. The bearer of the football taps his or her right or left knee up to three times. The football is thus transferred to the person sitting that many places to the bearer's right or left.
-The zoom. The bearer of the football dramatically swings his or her right arm around so that the elbow is near the nose and the fist is near the left ear, as if swirling a cape over the lower half of the face. The person to whom the bearer's elbow points becomes the new bearer. It can occasionally be difficult to see to whom the bearer's elbow is pointing; to combat this element of ambiguity, it is suggested that the bearer make unmistakable eye contact with the person to whom they wish to pass the football. This may resemble a longing gaze or a vicious leer depending on the context.
-The shrug. After receiving the football, a player may shrug, which returns the football to the person who had it before.
-The shwoop. This works exactly the same as a shrug, except that instead of shrugging, a player holds his or her arms in front of him or her to make an "X" with his or her forearms, then rapidly collapses the "X," folding his or her arms like a genie. The football returns to its previous bearer.
Restrictions on Passing.
The same mode of passing the football may not be used four times in succession.
One must never shrug immediately after a shwoop, or shwoop immediately after a shrug.
Reports to the Commissioner.
If a player comes to be in violation of the rules, it is the duty of the other players to file a report with the Commissioner. This is done as follows: the player who wishes to file the report raises his or her hand and waits for the Commissioner to call on them. When (or if) the Commissioner wishes to do so, he or she calls on the player by saying, "Yes, Mr. Samuel?" (or whatever the name of the player may be). The player responds, "Mr. Commissioner, it has come to my attention that Miss Julia has zoomed the ball for the fourth time in a row." The Commissioner replies with something to the effect of "You are correct; Miss Julia has indeed zoomed the ball for the fourth time in a row. She is awarded one demerit."
If the Commissioner does not agree that Miss Julia has violated a rule, he responds with something like "Mr. Samuel, I am afraid Miss Julia has only zoomed the ball for the third time. There will be no punishment for Miss Julia." At this point, Miss Julia may raise her hand, wait to be acknowledged, and say "Mr. Commissioner, it has come to my attention that Mr. Samuel has made an erroneous report regarding the number of times the ball was zoomed," and Mr. Samuel may be in hot waters.
The Commissioner may decide that an infraction (such as making a disruptive creaking noise when shifting in one's chair) is too mild to receive a demerit, and will only deliver admonishment.
The Commissioner is expected to pay very close attention, but may not make a report to himself, as this would be a sign of impending mental collapse and would be very indecorous behavior.
When making a report to the Commissioner, a player:
-may not laugh, of course
-must refer to everyone by his or her formal name
-must begin with "Mr./Madam Commissioner, it has come to my attention that..."
A player in violation of the conventions of report-filing is liable to be reported as well, which occasionally leads to chains of faulty reports, like so:
(Mr. Alexander raises his hand.)
Madame Commissioner: "Yes, Mr. Alexander?"
Mr. Alexander: "Miss Commissioner, it has come to my attention that Samantha has shrugged in response to a shwoop. This is a dreadful offense which no reasonable citizen could allow to go unreported."
Madam Commissioner: "You are correct, Mr. Alexander. Miss Samantha has indeed shrugged in response to a shwoop. The ball remains with Miss Samantha, and she is awarded one demerit."
(Miss Samantha raises her hand.)
Madame Commissioner: "Yes, Miss Samantha?"
Miss Samantha: "Madam Commissioner, it has come to my attention that Mr. Alexander has neglected to refer to me by my formal name. If shrugging a shwoop is dreadful, then disregard for formal names is... simply insupportable."
Madame Commissioner: "Miss Samantha, while I might not go so far as to use such a strong word as 'insupportable,' it is true that formal names must be used at all times, and Mr. Alexander is in violation of that principle."
(Mr. Alexander raises his hand.)
Mr. Alexander: "Madame Commissioner, it has come to my attention that Miss Samantha laughed briefly while making her last report."
Madame Commissioner: "You are correct, Mr. Alexander. One further demerit to Miss Samantha."
Reports to the Commissioner must also be made if a player is unaware that he or she is in possession of the football, though in some cases the Commissioner may award a demerit to a person who failed to make it clear to whom the football was being passed, instead of the person who is unaware of his or her possession of the football.
The Commissioner is bound by honor to give himself demerits if others report his errors.
The End of a Round.
It is among the duties of the Commissioner to sense when a natural time might be for the round to end. When such a time has arrived, the Commissioner waits (or requests) for the ball to be passed to him or her, then says, "That concludes the round. There is now an open forum."
At this point, laughter is once again allowed, often to the relief of all present. People may talk amongst themselves, and the players' demerits are erased. When any and all tension has been sufficiently relieved, and the players wish to play another round, the Commissioner announces that a new round has begun, everyone tips their hats, and play continues.
Demerits and Punishment.
There is no one winner of Silent Football; it is over when enough rounds have been played. However, while there may not be a win condition, there is a rather unfavorable outcome which a player may incur, and that is what happens when he or she amasses three or more demerits. At this point the Commissioner ends the round and asks the offending player to repair to another room while the remainder of the group decides on a suitable punishment.
Punishments may include being forced to stand on one's head for a certain amount of time, being obliged to speak Russian or Chinese at certain times (for people who are learning Russian or Chinese), or having the rules modified specially for you. In a game I played, one person was compelled to make reports by saying, in the style of Mr. T, "I pity the fool who shwoops a shrug" instead of the customary "Mr. Commissioner, it has come to my attention that Miss Emily has shwooped a shrug." If he forgot to abide by this rule, other players were allowed to report him by saying "I pity the fool who fails to pity the fool who shwoops a shrug."
Some players of Silent Football have remarked that devising punishments for one's fellow players is "the point of the game." Perhaps if one is in a particularly uncharitable mood, this is an accurate assessment of the game's charms, but I would posit that the "point" of Silent Football is to test one's ability to retain composure when one's friends have made it difficult to do so.
So there we have some of the interesting stuff I promised. There is an end-of-the-year post coming up, too, and I'll make at least one interesting announcement in it, so stay tuned!