I guess it’s safe to say that everyone’s favourite time of the day as a kid in school was recess. Usually set around 9.30am, we would have already discussed how we were going to spend the coveted time through slick nods and whispers during lessons in the earlier part of the morning.
On days with special food items on the menus, a sizeable portion of your playing kakis will flock to the food queues, whilst your ride or die(s) would forego a meal for the game that’s equally as tempting as the dish of the week.
Here are 10 games that you spent countless recesses playing instead of squashing your hunger:
1. Pepsi Cola 1, 2, 3 (Thumb War Version)
A title that is widely used to describe an abundance of games, I fondly remember calling the thumb war game, Pepsi Cola 1,2,3.
Game Objective: Overpower your opponent’s thumb and pin it down with all your might. The game ends when a thumb is pinned down for more than three seconds.
The 1, 2, 3 comes from the countdown you make when pinning your opponent’s thumb. The speed of the countdown is in accordance with how sly you are; I’ve had opponents skip counting two altogether.
There were also the next-level players who would slip the middle finger out of my grip to tickle my palm into submission.
2. Catching / Block Catching
I will always argue that the easier the game, the better it will be; Catching is exactly that. It can be played in the parade square, the basketball courts or any available space. The setting does not matter, it’s easy since it brings out our primal instincts — get caught or catch your prey.
Usually, a game of catch would never see completion during our short recess breaks and tend to continue after school. There’s where the fabled, Block Catching, came to be. It is when scores will be settled with sets of rules applied so we can see an end to it all. In retrospect, the poor neighbours were the innocent bystanders in this madness.
Game Objective: Tag a person to oust them out of the game. The game ends when everyone is caught.
3. Eraser Flipping Game
The phenomenon that swept the nation. The Eraser Flipping Game had so many levels to it. For a game that looks so primitive in execution, it actually involves genius levels of strategy, technique and mind games.
Do you take a defensive stance or go for the kill? How much weight should you put behind each flick or would a light touch suffice? So many questions for a rudimentary game.
And let’s not get started on the countries. Finding a Singaporean flag eraser was as tough as finding a four leaf clover, and what about the bookstore aunties charging a premium for them? That price setting scheme even had a ripple effect as we moved from countries to Pokemon erasers with the legendary characters getting special treatment.
Game Objective: Flip your eraser with your thumb and get it atop your opponent’s eraser.
4. Ali Pom
How did this game turn out to be the most unknown on this list? I’ve asked all of my colleagues if they have ever heard of the name let alone played it, and not a single soul was there to back me up. I would liken Ali Pom to a dumbed-down version of Counter Strike (CS).
Game Objective: Imprison your prey by shouting “POM!” and touching the ball after you make eye contact with them. The game ends when all prey has been locked up.
- Guard the ball whilst looking for prey
- Once spotted, shout “POM!” and race to touch the ball
- If successful, prey will be imprisoned
- Repeat till no one is left
- Hide amongst the environment to not get spotted
- If your teammates are imprisoned, look for an opportune time to kick the ball and release them
- The game gets harder when more people get locked up
The whole catch is, the guard will have to stray away from the ball to find his prisoners while the other team is constantly looking for an opportunity to free the prisoners by kicking the ball away.
This game of cat and mouse is exhilarating when played correctly. The urban landscape of Singapore is the perfect setting for the game and I’m thoroughly surprised by its almost absent popularity.
5. Ice & Water
A game of two elements. Ice & Water is essentially a game of tag between two teams. Ice freezes water and water dissolve ice. “Eh, you ice already”, effectively means you’ve frozen in place and are now at the mercy of your water comrades.
With no visual differentiation between the two teams, games usually end up with players conveniently switching sides. This game didn’t really take off like the others on the list but still enjoyed it’s heyday once upon a time.
Game Objective: Taggers (Ice) have to tag the runners (Water) to freeze them in their spot. The game ends when all of Water freezes.
6. Police & Thief
Not to be mistaken with the Mediacorp production, this was by far the most well-known upgrade of the typical catching game. One team takes up the role of police whilst the other takes on the role of a band of thieves. A designated space will be assigned to be the prison, usually done by the most loud-mouthed classmate.
The police’s job is to put the thieves into prison and it’s the un-caught thieves’ job to get their fellow evil-doers out by tapping them out of prison. The push and pull aspect of the game is what keeps you having fun for hours or until your mother yells at you from your kitchen window.
Game Objective: Taggers (Police) have to tag the runners (Thief) and put them into prison. The game ends when all thieves are put into prison.
The game for any budding ladies man. Whilst the guys sweated it out in the blistering heat (either through soccer or just by generally being boys), the girls would keep to their cliques and play hopscotch at a secluded part of the school.
This game’s popularity, in particular, was at its peak at the same time when boys had metal chains and plastic spring chains that hooked onto their wallets. It was undeniably a boring game but the fact that you could mingle with girls was reason enough to abandon your bros.
Game Objective: Complete the pattern whilst hopping on one foot.
8. Scissors Paper Stone Leg Stretch
Through sheer muscle memory, I can actually remember how the game goes. We start by playing the classic dispute settler, Scissors Paper Stone, with the winner placing one foot behind the other creating a distance that the loser needs to cover.
The disparity widens with every round to the point where you’d be mistaken for an Olympic gymnast with that level of flexibility. This is where many people found out if they could do the splits at an early age.
Game Objective: Game ends when the person just can’t stretch anymore.
10. Spider Web
The only time where I could kick someone’s shin with a valid excuse and have any complaints laughed off. Often titled Pepsi Cola as well, the group starts off in a circle after which each player will take three steps back (the try-hards will often take three HUGE ones). The game then proceeds with each player syncing each stride they take by declaring each syllable in the phrase “Spider Web“.
To eject a player from the game, another player has to tap the other player’s legs with their own. You can dodge their attempts but that will only spur them on to be quicker and that often means kicking instead of tapping. A game of dexterity and agility, being the last one standing is always a sweet feeling.
Game Objective: Kick out at your opponent’s lower half to oust them from the game. The last man standing, wins.
I have to say that my best memories of school undoubtedly involved the fun that we’d have whenever possible. As we grow older, we’re always struggling to find group activities for team bonding these days, so how about we roll back the years by playing these games?
Maybe not block catching though; I think alarms will go off when they see grown men and women running around along HDB corridors.