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.
I saw a group of four or five 8-year-olds playing with Pokémon cards recently. The kid who owned them poured a bag of a hundred or so onto the table and they picked six cards each. The kids took it in turns playing cards onto the table (regardless of the evolutionary stage of the card) and then attacking other player’s cards (completely ignoring the mana costs for doing so).
Obviously they had a vague idea how the game was played, but were making up most of it
I let them get on with it.
At one point somebody had played a poison Pokémon, maybe a Nidoran? We’ll assume it was this exact card:
The kid played the card and attacked with it.
What should have happened: Assuming the card had sufficient energy cards attached (a poison and one other energy card of any type), it would have done 20 damage (before applying weaknesses and resistances). Additionally there would be a 50% chance the target would be poisoned, meaning it would take an extra 10 damage each turn until it feints.
‘I attack that one with my sting, it does 20 so its dead’
‘Nooo that’s not how it works, because he is poisoned it means every time he is attacked he takes an extra 20’
No flipping coins, no initial 20 damage, no weaknesses and resistances.
Was it balanced? No
Were they having fun? Yep
I also saw a group of six-year-olds the other day playing with multilink cubes
They scattered the cubes out across the surface as unconnected singles. They then each chose a cube and began hoovering around the table, and whenever they connected to other cubes they added them on.
At one point one kid accidentally knocked the front of their snake into another kids and then had to dismantle it into its constituent pieces and start over.
So they were playing slither.io. But they could choose how quick or slow to move their snakes with only “hey, that’s too fast” as a mediation tool.