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:
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":
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 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.
Objective: Be a Hobo when the Hobos successfully get a turnip from the farm to a burning barrel.
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.
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