10 Playground Games that should be Video Games

iD Tech in action

Howdy - It’s (the other) Pete here with another rant from the back alleys of my overly active imagination.

I create new games all the time - particularly for the field, as it’s one of my many jobs with iD Tech Camps. I like to also teach instructors how to create their own games to customize the camp experience. I believe that at a place where we teach computer classes for kids, getting everyone outside and excited is really important. This means that most of my days, I look at the world through a lens of game creation. What will inspire a new game idea today?

One of the simplest methods for creating games for our specialty summer camps is to play a ton of video games. This is important because our tech campers would rather go out into a field to play a Mario-themed game instead of Tag, regardless of whether they are identical (sometimes it’s all about branding). Some staffers from our various overnight summer camps have cleverly created some captivating experiences with that particular direction, from Outdoor Left4Dead to Field Pong.

What happens, however, when the tables are turned? How can we take some popular field games and turn them into incredible video games? There are already a number of different video game genres and subgenres—what's adding another?

First off, there is a precedent - Capture the Flag. Almost all Shooter-genre video games have some flavor of Capture the Flag. While commendable, these hardly scratch the surface of the greatest field experiences played on playgrounds everyday.

Here’s my list of the top field games that have yet to be fully realized in the digital sense (and if they did, would instantly take position among the best video games for kids). If there *are* accurate representations of mentioned games that I am unaware of, please leave a comment after the beep.

By the way, before I begin and open myself to criticism and scorn, here are some criteria that I have chosen as requirements for all of the following games:

  • Must be simultaneous multiplayer - Remember, these are outdoor physical games that can only be played with groups of people. I am not as interested in playing against AI, especially when I am translating field games into digital ones.
  • Must be available on a popular system - I am limiting my yearning to the three big home consoles, the two main portables, Windows and OSX. Phones don’t count for this exercise because *if* there is in fact a playable version, I don’t want to have to borrow a phone from someone else.
  • Must be current - This may sound redundant seeing as I limited the platforms, but I don’t want to play a game from 1983 that best simulates something that can be a thousand times better with today’s networking, processing and graphics technology.

1. Tag


Tag is a wonderful staple of the outdoor gaming experience, but I have never seen a great example of this anywhere in the digital world. The simplest form is that one player is “It” and must transfer the “It” status by tagging another player. Pac-Man has aspects of Tag, but is not multiplayer, nor is there any way to transfer “It” status.

Challenge: Create a 2D multiplayer version of Tag that employs various rule sets, such as Freeze Tag, Everybody’s It and Hospital Tag. I can imagine an online version being really interesting - perhaps a maze would enhance the difficulty and make the game more strategic.

2. Spud


Spud is another common playground game that has never been created for a major gaming platform. The concept is that one player tosses a ball into the air and yells another player’s (random) number. This player (“It”) must get the ball and yell “Spud!” in order to freeze all of the others (who are quickly running away). “It” then takes 2 giant steps toward the closest player and throws the ball. A miss gives “It” a letter and a hit gives the player a letter (S P U D). The game continues until one person is left without the completed “SPUD.”

Challenge: Create Spud! The game can be 2D or 3D, but must integrate the fundamental rules summarized above. I think that the ball throw can be replaced by an “Angry Birds” (or “Worms”)-style launcher... and it would be crazy fun!

3. Red Light, Green Light


Red Light, Green Light is incredibly fun for younger players. The game is simple: One player, the “Traffic Light” turns away from the others and yells the colors of the light. On red, the “Traffic Light” can turn around and call out any player that moves. The goal for the other players is to tag the “Traffic Light” without being caught moving on a red.

Challenge: Create an interesting version of Red Light, Green Light. This is one of the few games that can be done without dimensionality - the movement can simply be another action, such as typing on a keyboard, moving the mouse or yelling!

4. Hide & Seek


Everyone (I’m guessing) has played some variation of Hide & Seek. The simplest rule set involves an “It” counting down from 10 (or so) and then running off to find the various players that should, theoretically, be safely hiding behind garbage cans or in trees (at least in my neighborhood).

Challenge: Hide & Seek is a really difficult game to create digitally - the problem is that once hid, the players must simply wait. In the real world, waiting is tense and sometimes electrifying, but virtually, it’s fairly uninteresting (unless you get up to make a sandwich). I think that creating a 2D version of Hide & Seek, similar to Tag, could be pretty interesting if you use layering (perhaps with colors?) and barriers. Perhaps even integrating a “Hot / Cold” tool for “It” to locate devious hiders?

5. Duck Duck Goose


Another game that is always happening with younger players is Duck Duck Goose. All of the players, except “It,” sit in a circle. “It” travels around the circle, lightly tagging everyone on the head, naming each player a “Duck.” When “It” names someone a “Goose,” that player must get up and run around the circle to tag “It,” who is trying to escape the tag and take the “Goose’s” spot in the circle.

Challenge: Duck Duck Goose is another very hard game to turn into an interesting video game. I think that using some challenging pattern of button presses or keystrokes, similar to Patapon or Guitar Hero, could make the game fun and challenging (at least during the running part!) Motion gaming could also be an interesting direction, particularly using the Kinect.

6. Kickball


Kickball is an awesome game that combines Baseball with kicking. Two teams compete for the high score in an all out battle for kicking supremacy!

Challenge: This is a game that NEEDS to be made! I challenge you to make this in either 2D or 3D, but integrate rich multiplayer experiences. For instance, many people should be able to play on the same team cooperatively - if not, there should be an online ranking system with brackets! Also, trick throws and kicks should be added, just for some flair!

7. Ultimate Frisbee


Ultimate Frisbee is by far my favorite sport to play - and a popular choice at iD Tech! The game is like American Football (without any contact), where the players cannot move beyond a pivot while holding onto the Frisbee. If the Frisbee hits the ground, the possession changes to the other team. Both teams are trying to get a fair catch inside of the End Zone.

Challenge: This is another game that NEEDS to be made! Beyond integrating some of the multiplayer features from Kickball, Ultimate Frisbee really needs a novel approach to actually throwing the disc. Unfortunately, there is no perfect example of Frisbee throwing in the gaming world, but the closest has to be using the Sony Move for the Playstation 3 or the Wii Motion Plus for the Wii.

8. Sharks & Minnows


Sharks & Minnows is a newer favorite around the country. One Shark starts as “It” in the center of a rectangle and the Minnows start at one end with the goal of reaching the other end. If a Shark tags a Minnow, they also become a Shark. Each round there are more and more Sharks, until a single Minnow wins the game!

Challenge: I’m fascinated to see what this would look like as a 2D game - where would players move? What would the hotspots be? I want you to create a 2D game where humans control all of the players and the positions are recorded and can be played back, visualized and analyzed to create strategy.

9. Red Rover


Red Rover is a banned game that is rarely played anymore, but was around for many, many years. Two teams square off in a battle of arm hold. One team locks arms and the other sends a single player over to break through the weakest link. If they succeed, the broken players join the other team - if not, the running player joins the defensive team. Either way, everyone leaves sore and grumpy!

Challenge: I think that Red Rover could be a fantastic game. How are the chains made and maintained? Perhaps a button challenge (such as perfectly inputting a button sequence in rhythm) determines the strength of each connection. Maybe there are power ups as well, that change the quality of the chains. I would love to see this as a video game, because while I don’t like to see a game disappear from culture, I never want to experience the pain of holding tightly and being assaulted by a Rover again!

10. Dodgeball


Dodgeball is a semi-banned game that is a favorite of most people I meet, and a fond memory for many adults. Two teams face off with one or more balls on a rectangular court split into two. A hit sends the victim to “Jail” behind the opposite team’s side, while a catch sends the thrower to “Jail.” Last team with players in the game wins!

Challenge: I know, there *have* been some decent Dodgeball games - Super Dodgeball for the NES (and recently remade for the DS) in particular. These, though, have hardly been modernized for the current generation of gaming systems. Imagine creating a fake 3D (ala Little Big Planet) version of Dodgeball for the home consoles with hundreds of player-types to choose from - and glorious multiplayer?! It would be truly fantastic!!!

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