How to Make a Field Game – Part 2 of 4

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Slightly abridged excerpt from Pete’s Guide to Working at Camp - Check out Part 1 here!

Part 2 - The Action(s)

 Copy & Paste

  • Tag + Throw + Catch + Goal + Rectangular Boundaries = American Football
  • Tag + Retrieve + Rectangular Boundaries = Capture the Flag
  • Tag + Hit + Base + Catch + Diamond Boundaries = Baseball
  • Kick + Goal + Rectangular Boundaries = Soccer
  • Shoot + Dribble + Rectangular Court = Basketball
  • Throw + Catch + Goal + Rectangular Boundaries = Ultimate Frisbee

Competitive outdoor games are made up of smaller elements that are commonly found in other games as well. Tag, a staple of playgrounds and universally nostalgic childhood pastime, is one of the main building blocks of many games and sports.

Taking elements that are common in many sports and combining them in interesting ways is a great way to create a new game.

Game Basics

Game creation can be simple. All you need to do is take a couple of successful games and find their essence - the stuff that makes this particular game unique from others. Here is a small slice of the elements that you will encounter when dissecting popular outdoor games.


Partial Table of Outdoor Gaming Elements

Throw A player projects an object from their hand at a target, other player or in the air.
Tag One player (normally designated "It") chases another player(s).
Jump A player must leap in the air.
Catch A player grabs a projectile out of the air.
Shoot A player projects an object upwards in the air (normally in an arc) toward a ring or similar target.
Tap A player uses their body, normally the hands, to keep an object in the air without catching it.
Retrieve A player or group of players get an object from one spot and bring it to another.
Goal A line, set of boundaries or structure that represents the an end location for an object in play. Goals generally deal with objects, not players.
Boundaries A set of lines or other discrete markers that form the playing area.
Base A line, set of boundaries or structure that represents a "safe" location or endpoint for the player(s). Bases generally deal with players, not objects.
Hit A player uses an object, such as a stick or bat, or body part to launch a projectile.
Kick A players uses their foot to launch a projectile, such as a ball.
Dribble A player keeps a ball bouncing. Conventionally done with the hands.
Dodge A player avoids a projectile or other player(s).
Blindfold A player's sight is restricted.
Balance A player must stay upright.
Shout A player must use a designated vocalization.
Replicate Action A player must repeat an action(s).
Follow One player must stay directly behind another player(s), in some cases replicating their action(s).
Race The player(s) attempt to run faster than another player(s).

Mashing Up - Be Creative!

Ok, now you are aware of your ingredients and you have a better idea of the ways to combine your ingredients. Here is the fun part - create away!

Take one of the aspects above - Tag. Tag is simple, right? Adding the twist Bases and the game is more complex and more fun. Add the Replicate Action of a player being frozen and you have Freeze Tag. Add a Shout and you get Zoolander Tag. Add some Boundaries, make the field smaller with each round. Add a Rubber Chicken!

Yes, here is the part of the lesson where you need to take over and stitch the pieces together that you want in your game. Remember your ingredients: huge Boundaries with a small group will cause a different game than small Boundaries with a large group. Props alter the game significantly. Playing soccer with a soccer ball is much different than playing it with a playground ball or a beach ball.

Think outside the field. PacManhattan took Pacman and made it into a tag game using a set of urban blocks as the board. There are thousands of places to find inspiration for new games - look for examples on and off of the playing field.

On the sheet that you recorded the ingredients on, start writing the actions and conventions you want to include. Your game is not finished yet - you are still in the planning phases. The next step will take the loose assembly of various elements and combined them into a working idea. Writing down exactly what you are thinking at this point is important, as you will need to document the game so your experience can be helpful to other game developers.

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