Let's not understate the importance of a greatly named game. Of course some games are named in such a classic way, you can't mistake them. My two year old confuses pretty much every sport name but Basketball. It's so obvious. There's a basket and a ball. Simple. But when it comes to getting kids excited about playing a new game, having a catchy, memorable name is a big deal.
Here's a collection of some of my favorite names of games.
Let's start with the catchiest name I've ever given a game (I'm so sorry, I'm a dad. It had to be done).
The Deadliest Catch
This disc game started as a game I played with my college roommates called SANGO. It was like HORSE but with a disc. You throw it at somebody and if it's catchable, they have to catch it. If they don't, they get a letter (S, then A, then N, then G, then when they get O they're out). As it happens, it's an amazing game for improving reaction time but in a heated game, you're going to leave with some welts. When I adapted the game for my PE classes, I substituted a real frisbee for foam discs and found ways to keep kids in the game longer. Here's how to play:
Goal: Get other players out while keeping yourself in.
How to get out:
- Traveling (I call it the Ultimate rule. Pivots are allowed. Obvious traveling gets you out.)
- Getting hit anywhere but the hands (I want awesome catches, so hands are safe)
- Getting your disc caught
- Saying "You're Out" (you can say "I got you" or "Traveling" but not "You're Out" because either they already know and you're rubbing it in or they don't know and you're not helping them understand any better).
Fire in the Hole
Setup: Two sides, a "hole" or two on each side and a line to divide the two sides. I started using two lines and calling it "The River." It's an amazing way to create some distance between the two sides.
For the "holes":
- At my summer camp (seen above), I use mats standing on their sides, connected so there's a hole in the top. And I use two of these on each side. Because the mats are only 3 feet tall, I put a circle around the "hole" that they can't guard inside of.
- At the "gym" I teach PE at, I have stand-alone basketball goals that are 6 or 7' tall. I only have two of them, so I just use one on each side. I'll use a carabiner to close up the net so balls stay in there.
The goal is to get as much fire (balls) into the "hole" while keeping your "holes" free of fire.
Three Team Variation: I found that making three teams creates a sense of urgency. We'll play "2 minute to win it" style. Winner moves to the winning side, losing side moves to the mats to rest, resting team comes in to the Challenger side. Every 2 minutes, The Dinger will ding and whichever team has the most fire in the other team's hole wins. If it's a tie, the Challenger team wins (the team on the Winner side has been in longer and they should have more pressure on themselves to stay in).
Sometimes, you come up with a fun game that doesn't have a name or the name is super lame. I started playing this game with kids at my summer camp and struggled to come up with a great name for it. So I put a challenge out to the kids and staff to see who could come up with the best name. One of our leaders, an elementary school teacher, came up with Medieval Waiters and not only blew away the competition, but catapulted it into my list of best-named games. Here's a look at the game:
I like to only have a few strikers going (and strikers need a beanbag on top of their hands as well) around with noodles. When a Waiter gets a bag knocked off their hand, I have them run to the wall and do an exercise.
A couple notes about the slide pictured above:
- I have a small space, so I use 7 groups (usually 3-4 per group). I don't have enough space for all players to play at the same time, so I use my rock wall for one group and a small corner for another small group to practice dribbling in.
- I use colored, silicone wristbands for teams (blog post on those coming soon). This image shows up on the screen. Every minute or so, the slide will DING and the colors on the top row will switch. Kids look at the board when they hear the DING and see where their color is. If they have a pink band, they're the new Strikers so they grab a noodle and start to go after the Waiters.
- At the bottom of the screen is my rubric for the day. This lets them know how hard they worked and if they met the objectives for the day.
- Images are great tools. I try to have pictures of what they should look like. One of my class expectations is to look like a picture. Some kids can't read (or can't read English), but incoming Kindergarteners can look like the picture as can my students who English is not their primary language.
I needed an introduction to Four Square and other striking activities (such as Air Pong). I was calling the game Wall Ball. I wanted them to hit the WALL then the FLOOR then HANDS. We said it over and over. WALL FLOOR HANDS WALL FLOOR HANDS. Eventually, it just flowed into WAFFLE HANDS. The name stuck and my students are proud of the name.
No Hobo! You Can't Have My Turnip
Or "No, Nomadic Traveler! I'd Prefer You Not Have My Organically Grown Produce" if you're looking for a more PC name and not into the whole brevity thing.
Disclaimer: When I teach this game, we make sure to discuss what a hobo is. I have a friend I grew up with who described himself as a hobo. He hopped trains all over the world and slept on rooftops. He taught me an insane amount in his short life about living in the moment and to care less about commercialistic culture.
The name for this game came from a rousing game of Telephone Pictionary. I brought the name to my after school program. We built the game around the name. It took years to perfect but it's a quality invasion/capture the flag type game. Check it out:
Setup: Two circles, like a donut. The small inner circle is the FARM. A few whiffle balls/tennis balls in the FARM are the TURNIPS. The larger, outer circle marks the dividing line between the City Limits and the Outskirts of town. In the Outskirts, place several buckets to be the BURNING BARRELS.
The game works great outside if you can make two circles with cones, hose, paint, or nylon webbing. I've played in a gym before. I use the circle at midcourt for the farm, then the perimeter basketball lines for the city limits.
Players: Start with 3-5 Hobos. Everybody else is City-Folk.
- Hobos: Put a jersey over their head (not totally on, the goal is to look sloppy). Hobos begin in the Outskirts.
- City-Folk: All have a pool noodle (their Magic Soap Stick). City-Folk begin in the city.
Objective: Be a Hobo when the Hobos successfully get a turnip from the farm to a burning barrel.
- City-Folk must stay in the city. They cannot go into the farm and they can't go into the Outskirts.
- Hobos try to run through the city to the farm and steal a turnip. Then they need to get it back to the Outskirts to roast over their burning barrels. They can pass to other Hobos and work together.
- If a Hobo gets tagged by a noodle, roles are switched. The Hobo becomes City-Folk by receiving the noodle and the tagger gets to become a Hobo by receiving the jersey and taking it to a burning barrel to put it on. This is important so all Hobos begin their turnip adventure in the Outskirts.
Variation: substitute noodles for foam dodge balls
Side note: This started a new game I played with staff at this program and my summer camp. Come up with a great name for a game, then build a game around it. We still have some great game names, but haven't found the games to match. One was created recently via Twitter (see below) and eventually, I will have a game built around the name Hillbilly Love Triangle (probably not for my elementary students though lol).
Nitro Ball (and Turbo Ball)
I learned a game called Speedball in college. When I brought it to my after school program, I had to adapt the rules for the gym we had. Basically, it was played like soccer, except that when the ball was in the air, you could catch the ball and pass or shoot it (outside of the 3 point line). You could throw, kick, drop kick into the soccer goal (wall mats in our gym) or shoot a basket in the basketball goal. If we had enough players, you could pass to somebody in the end zone (between the baseline and the wall) for a touchdown. The Ultimate rule applied (no traveling). We needed a name for it and we had just been discussing the American Gladiators show, so we named it Nitro Ball after the character Nitro... then Gopher Sport bought a inverted volleyball game with the same name and popularized it. So I had to change the name but I kept the [American Gladiator]-Ball name-scheme and it's now Turbo Ball. Big thanks to Greg Blessing (@blessinggreg on Twitter) for helping me re-name this one.
Side note: Twitter is amazing. Where else can you create a new game with a total stranger from another part of the country. Daniel Tennessen @bigtennphysed (who I have never actually met in real life) and I were discussing great names for games. He told me about Scadoodle Ball, a scooter hockey game with pool noodles. I shared that I always wanted to name a scooter game Scootchy Bootchies and we came up with a scooter bocce ball game, similar to curling. Players toss out a bean bag then need to push a teammate on a scooter, attempting to land them closest to the bag.
Do you have any awesome names for games? Join the conversation on Twitter. Find me @bewellplayed. Or drop a comment here with the name of your game and a short description. I might need to make a curated list from people like you.