Games Are Not Just for Kids. Adults Playing Four Square.
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The summer of 2008, my best friend and I broke out of our routine with a question: “Think you’d still be good at four square?”
This question revealed an itch hiding in me since I left fifth grade. In elementary school, I loved to play, but middle school awkwardness, high school coolness and college studiousness had phased play out of my life. I don’t think I realized how much I missed it until the possibility of playing again as an adult suddenly flashed into existence.
So my friend and I decided to play four square. We picked a location and time and told all our friends--who told their friends and their friends’ friends. That first night, we stepped out of the car and were buzzing with excitement. We didn’t know these people who came play a children’s game in a poorly lit parking lot, yet we were all charged with positive energy. Why were we feeling this way? Someone later said it was “the freedom of childhood manifested in a ball and some lines of chalk on the ground.”
As we played, the delicate balance of structure and chaos started to unfold. We didn’t have a plan, we didn’t even know what to expect. Rules spilled from our memories when we hit the ball. Strangers became friends in line and competitors in the square. Everyone played, everyone laughed and everyone won. Hours passed, but no one wanted to stop.
This game, so simple, so basic, so fun, was something that we, as adults, had not experienced in years. For my friend and me, our playfulness had always been close to the surface, but as we aged, we had to stamp it down for fear of not being taken seriously. It had made us isolate ourselves, but on this night, we found that it connected us with the people around us. It was like magic.
The magic has held strong for four years as players continue to gather on a weekly basis in the same spot, at the same time. It’s the fun that makes the environment so welcoming and the appeal of a space to connect with people in a different, yet familiar, way keeps participants coming back. No one can take it too seriously because we (with the perspective of adults) realize that we are just playing a game. Mostly people are grateful for the opportunity to play again, to have an easy excuse to laugh or be silly, to experience a part of themselves they had kept under wraps.
No matter your age, everyone deserves to play. For me, it’s four square. Whatever it is for you, scratch that playful itch. You’ll find yourself full of an electricity you may have forgotten about. It might even break you out of your routine long enough to reunite you with your inner child. When that happens, play harder, because that kid has a lot of energy.
Guest blogger Sam Mende-Wong is the founder of 4 Square of the East Bay and serves as Lead Facilator and Creative Director. 4SEB meets every Thursday night from 9pm to midnight and has received many positive reviews on Yelp. Sam works a day job as the national Grants Administrator for Playworks where he has taped off a four square court in the office.
What childhood games do you wish were more acceptable for adults to play?