I’ve talked before about children playing Among Us on the schoolyard by making up the rules and trying acting within genre expectations.
I recently saw a schoolyard Pokémon battle in the same style.
The kids, who were about 11 years old, stood opposite each other a few meters apart, and took it in turns to summon or attack with their mons. It went something like this:
Child 1: (Throws pokeball) Go Litten! Child 2: Oh its a fire pokemon! I know, Gyarados I'm choosing you! (Picks a pokeball off an imaginary belt and throws it) Child 1: (looks up into the sky at where Gyarados' head should be) Oh no. Litten, Scratch! Child 2: Gyarados DRAGON RAGE! Child 1: Oh dang it. Come back Litten) (mimes holding out a pokeball to retreat Litten from the battle)
I was loving this.
These children aren’t being immature – they were simply comfortable enough with themselves to openly play imaginative games without any concern for derision or mockery.
Though they were taking turns, there was no strict set of rules, just an unspoken understanding that they would conform to the idea of a Pokémon battle as much as possible.
Then something happened.
Child 1: (throwing pokeball) Pikachu, I choose you! Child 2: Awww it looks so cute! (dodders closer to Pikachu, doe-eyed, then leans down to pat the Pikachu) Child 1: Pikachu, Thundershock! (Child 2 jolts around, mimicing being electrocuted by a mouse)
I gave them a cheer and a laugh in approval.
They were so genre-aware.
They were engaging in unbridled imaginative play with no concern for the social optics.
They were playing the world, not the rules.
True, pure free-kriegsspiel.