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League updates + Tag report

League updates

After an impromptu off-season, League has three events in April.

  • Saturday 12 April, 2-4 pm — League play at Satellite Gallery for Canadian Art Gallery Hop
  • Sunday 27 April, noon-2 pm — League play day in Elm Park
  • Tuesday 29 April, 7pm — PushupKucha, our brand-new short presentation format. Stay tuned for more.

Over the past couple months, we’ve been running play workshops for groups and working with Simon Fraser University student Louise Rusch. Below is the first of a few pieces of her research that Louise will be sharing with us here. This includes some reflections on the game of tag arising from our January play day. One of the games that emerged that day was an ongoing game of tag, marked by the passage of a toy medal. From now on, the person in possession of the medal at the end of each League event is It until the next one. Jay is currently It.

Noodle fencing, from League tag day

Studying Tag

by Louise Rusch
Arts & Culture Studies student, Simon Fraser University

Notes following League Tag day

The theme for League this month was tag – a game of chase. In tag, someone is “it”, and they need to chase others, and either transfer their “it” status to the person they tag, or continue to be “it”. The simplistic structure allows for an infinite number of variations of the game, depending on the space, props, group dynamics, number, and age of the people involved.

From a physical literacy perspective, tag is about learning to self monitor and control your body in motion and space. Players practice the skills of agility, efficiently moving from a resting to a sprinting mode and building stamina for the long chase.

From a cognitive context, tag is about being chased or chasing, strategically considering the skill of balancing and shifting between defensive and offensive position, often simultaneously. During the League session we explored this idea when we did team fencing bouts with long foam noodles in the tennis courts. One team would often single out one player and try to create an opportunity for a quick side tag of the other opponent using speed, control of the noodle, and surprise.

Socially, tag is about power dynamics, especially around the concept of being “it.” Is “it” a desirable place because you want to be the centre of attention? Because you have the confidence to know your place in the group and can easily assess who may or may not be your equal? If you are playing team tag do you have the experience and skill to both keep yourself active in the game and also be a support to your team members?

In Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman’s book Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, they cite Chris Crawford as stating that all games are a system of conflict and that, paradoxically, it is the staged conflict found in games that makes the play meaningful. Thus playing games is also playing with (dis)comfort with conflict situations (Salen & Zimmerman 250). Later they also note that the simplicity of being either hunted or hunter leaves no room for ambiguity, and that this simplicity is part of the appeal (317).

Historically, “it”ness was attached to illnesses like the plague, thus being less than desirable. Transferred into a game situation, this undesirable state of social isolation is what motivates the “it” person to find someone to tag, which also extends the momentum of the game.

Emotionally, tag tackles the concept of winning and losing, and of being singled out from the group. “It” might represent a place of fear that one will not have the skills to successfully complete a tag.

There have been recent controversies about letting children play tag. These centre on tag as an elimination game, older children dominating the game, the potential of one child being victimized as the “it” person, and the ramifications this might have on self-esteem.

Play theorists often connect tag to rough and tumble play. Anthony Pellegrini reported in a 1995 study on rough and tumble play, that as children enter school age the similarities between “hit at” and “tag a peer” allow for an easy transition into games with a more cooperative structure. He notes that as children get older, rough and tumble play is more likely to be about dominance and related to negative social behaviour (Pellegrini 121).

In terms of formal studies of tag, a study entitled “The ‘It’ Role in Children’s Games,” by clinical psychologist Dr Paul V. Gump and play theorist Brian Sutton-Smith, focused on two different types of “it” games. “It” games were chosen because they are so common in children’s play, and they define specific roles for the players. Power, seen as separate from player skill, was defined as having the ability to choose when the competitive encounter would begin and which kind of play would be chosen for the chase. One game was defined as a low-power because the “it” did not have a lot of control in the game, while the other high-powered “it” game allowed for more control. The research tested the assumptions that high-powered “it” games were more successful generally for players, and especially for unskilled players. Forty boys between seven and ten were tested in advance for athletic ability, to ensure that unskilled players were not needlessly put in positions that would be discouraging for the players or create boredom for the group (390-3).

The results indicated that the low power game was most discouraging for unskilled players and more likely to encourage the group of other boys to behave inappropriately to the “it” person. Often the unskilled player would try to avoid these games before they started. Successful players in either game possessed athletic ability, a sense of power, used strategy, and had “personality factor,” defined as drive or perseverance (395). It was felt that unskilled players were more likely to be successful in games that included an element of chance. I thought the comment about the correlation between skill and chance was interesting, and it corresponds to my own observations from my work (in the field of recreation). I also thought it was interesting that in the low-power games, not only was the “it” person not having a good time, but the other boys also seemed more likely to taunt him (394-7). This speaks to the reality that, without being good or bad, games can have a darker side.


Played: The n Games, Nuit Blanche edition

The n Games at Nuit Blanche

This edition of The n Games was conceived for the particular conditions of the larger Nuit Blanche event, a 12-hour overnight contemporary art festival that draws audiences of more than a million to downtown Toronto. The projects in Nuit Blanche tend to be spectacular, crowd-friendly, and built to face rowdy msses that don’t necessarily play by contemporary-art viewing conventions.

With the expected chaotic atmosphere and short engagement time in mind, this version of The n Games was conceived as a rolling pick-up game of invented sports into which a changing group of participants could readily jump: a laboratory for experimental play. Members of existing groups such as the Toronto Roller Derby League and Puckish shinny hockey were on hand to play. To organize these n Games, League collaborated with Department of Biological Flow, an experimental collective interested in the intersection of the political and kinesthetic. (We hope Sean from DBF will also post an event report here.) DBF brought some movement experiments, League brought some of our play-tested games, together we prepared conditions and equipment for some new games, and we agreed to let it all evolve like a League play event.


Based in the courtyard of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, the games rolled swiftly from one into the next, as players continually came and went. We soon realized that the kind of deliberate negotiation of rules and strategy that is usually a hallmark of League play would have little chance to take hold with an ever-changing and impatient large group. Nor would games with complex rules or strategy work in an intense, frenetic environment in which verbal communication was difficult. We were dealing with crowd rather than group dynamics, and pressure closer to a match than a practice. Rather than strategize, the crowd had a strong will to just play. We adjusted by mustering stripped-down versions of the games we’d prepared or improvising new ones, but still created moments in which the playing group was presented with opportunities to make twists or adjustments to the games. This was how a two-ball soccer game evolved into Human Foosball, and how some random dribbling of a ball turned into Moving Goalposts, then evolved again to have multiple goalposts.

Scrumble players sorting themselves

The courtyard was filled a mixture of people arriving primed for play (a number of whom stayed for hours), those attracted by the action and game to join, and crowds arriving, leaving, gathering, and waiting in line for the museum’s exhibition. Thus the social conventions around museum attendance and large social events were also part of field of play. Many games saw players recruiting bystanders to participate, as in the many instances of Scrumble that broke out as people recognized words they could spell using the Scrumble pinnies. At times the museum lineup extending into the courtyard was drawn into the action, as when the queue was recruited to be the defensive line for a game of Red Rover.

The dynamic setting produced a multitude of interesting social interactions. It was fascinating how absorption in play altered conventions of behaviour. We saw strangers suddenly manhandling each other into position, pulling pinnies onto each other, holding hands to play, tackling each other, and ordering each other around with the particular urgency that game play sometimes demands. It was also interesting to observe how people got drawn into play, and the changes in behaviour when they did. We saw some watching eagerly on the sidelines until they could no longer restrain themselves from joining in. Others waited for the formal offer of a pinny before they joined in, while others seemed to be repelled by the appearance of a uniform.

The permeable margins of play

Play also transformed the space and movement through it. The games organically spread to accommodate players or contracted to allow for communication, while some of the games actually played with the flow and disposition of people in the space, as in the Force Field experiment or Red Rover. In some cases, the play melded with or intersected with the crowd, as in the multiple instances of Scrumble or a game of chain tag. For other games, the ring of gathered spectators organically defined an arena of action. Sometimes the games created a somewhat hostile environment, with an acute difference in the intensity of players and non-players. We were reminded that the energy generated within the ‘safe’ space of play can be threatening to those outside that emotional/physical space, when the normally well-behaved space became filled with flying bodies, projectiles, and shouting, and balls bounced alarmingly against the neighbour’s glass doors.

Unplanned play

Some of the most interesting play was not any particular or directed game, but arose from improvising in the moment. For instance, a deliberate attempt to invent a game using a long length of rope eventually disintegrated into a situation in which the rope was strung between people on opposite sides of the courtyard, in such a way that it caused the people flowing into and out of the museum to duck or climb over, movement that the players responded to by adjusting their positioning as different people approached. This was wordless, physical play between strangers. In another instance, at the end of the night, as we were untangling the rope from a game of Zigzag-o-war, we found ourselves with the rope held at opposite ends of the length of the 100-foot courtyard, and the very last activity emerged as the simple play of jumping rope, in the pouring rain.

Here in no particular order are some of my highlights from the quick succession of games:

Topogical Soccer Lab, Human Foosball, & Moving Goalposts

Human Foosball

Several of Department of Biological Flow’s movement experiments have to do with making simple but fundamental shifts to the known terrain of soccer, which they conceptually unite under the title of “Topological Soccer Lab.” Amongst the possibilities are no-ball, two-ball, and three-team soccer. In practice, at these n Games, a two-ball soccer game transformed elegantly and almost instantly into Human Foosball once that simple idea was inserted into the hive mind of the crowd. It was fascinating to see a number of bystanders puzzling for a few moments, suddenly exclaim “Oh! It’s foosball!”, and race in to grab the nearest stranger’s hand in a foosball line. On a different occasion, and evolving a bit less smoothly, a game of soccer with shifting human goal posts was crafted, and then modified by multiplying the number of goals to try to find a rewarding balance between numbers of players and the challenge of the moving goalposts.

Scrumble & Red Rover

Scrumble faceoff

The Scrumble pinnies, which feature different single letters on front and back, created many sudden irruptions of play, as people noticed the possibilities for text-based play using the pinnies worn by people in the crowd around them. Many undirected versions of life-sized wordplay unfolded over the night, as well as attempts to organize players to use the spelled words to determine game actions, and word-building battles between pinny-clad teams. The confusing physicality of arranging one’s own and other bodies, in the correct order and facing the right way, is a surprising challenge with this play equipment.

With that atmosphere of physicality established, and a feeling that it could be directed in some way, at one point I suggested a modified game of Red Rover that would engage the people in the museum lineup as the defensive line. The people in line were not given a choice: they were simply ordered to play defense, and the game began. Some accepted wholeheartedly, others more tentatively, but many did rise to the challenge in some way, whether working solo or with others in line.

Extra Sensory Proprioception & Octopus

Chain tag

Countering the more intimidating aspects of play as it encounters non-playing masses, there were also moments of impromptu consideration within the frenzy. On a couple occasions, we tried playing the League-tested game Extra Sensory Proprioception, in which blindfolded individuals attempt to navigate as close as they can to a whistle blown once. Although the conditions were not exactly conducive for the use of non-visual senses, it was interesting to observe how the crowd responded to the incongruous and vulnerable blindfolded people making their way through the courtyard. It seemed that an empathetic protective space formed around them as they made their way through the crowd. On another occasion, a game of chain tag or Octopus broke out in the courtyard, which was filled with people who didn’t realize what was going on. The octopus seemeed naturally to avoid people who were not prepared to join the play, but reach out to those who would be game to join. That wordless communication seemed to be what eventually also signalled to the octopus that the game was over.

Pamplemousse With a Catch

A couple participants arrived with an idea for a game of Pamplemousse with an added challenge – throwing and catching a ball at the same time as performing the counting. (Pamplemousse is an existing game in which players take turns counting up, replacing any number containing or divisible by 7 with the word “pamplemousse”.) It was a good mental challenge, but also a surreal instance of two guys arriving to throw down a challenge, see it taken up, and then ride back off into the night.

Force Field

Force Field was one planned experiment that turned out to be well-tuned to the crowd dynamics. Sean started it by arranging the assembled group into a grid spaced at arm’s length, with arms outstretched. On a regular cue, everyone pivoted to alternately face or align with the established pedestrian movement, essentially cutting off or permitting the foot traffic to flow. Different pedestrians responded in a several different ways: advancing and stopping when the path was opened or cut off, hesitating outside the field of action, simply barging through, or joining the arrangement. Over time, the synchrony of the human grid broke down, so that alternate paths appeared. Although I heard questioning from both participants and pedestrians about the point of the exercise, the point actually felt obvious: it was an informal dance of conventions performed by unsuspecting partners.

Zigzag-o-war, Contract, & JuuuuummmmmmpRrrrrrrooope

Unplanned play

Throughout the night, I felt a real distinction between the prepared and unplanned. At one point, I had the idea to try to set up a tug of war with the rope zigzagging between members of the opposing teams. The idea was that each group would need to pull just one person across the line, and assumed that the group could work together to position the zigzag in order to protect its weaker members and use its strongest, essentially maximizing the pulley-like arrangement. Although the energy of the crowd wasn’t really attuned to that kind of strategic calculation, I think it could be worth trying in a different setting, with some opportunity for the teams to strategize. This is one to try at a future League play day.

Another provisional ‘plan’ had been to have some of the group define a spatial arrangement using a 300-foot-long rope, while others decided on an action that would make use of the defined space. When we tried it, although the moveable hourglass-like shape that was created did spark the beginnings of a game resembling pig-in-the-middle, with people moving between the two defined ‘yards’ depending on whether or not they made a successful pass, the organized efforts disintegrated before long. However, attempts to then untangle the long rope produced a provocative situation which saw the rope strung between people, across the width of the courtyard, essentially complicating flow into and out of the museum. Before long, something vaguely similar to the hourglass arrangement was organically re-established by the group as a way of playing with impeding this flow by causing museum visitors to duck under, lift, or step over the rope. The players in this non-game instinctively ‘let up’ in the presence of people with mobility issues, and tightened up when challenged. There was no deliberate organization that caused the change in either the game or the rules of engagement; it was unspoken group decision-making.


A similar recognition of conditions is what was behind the last bit of play. As we were untangling rope along the length of the courtyard at the end of the night, Sean and I caught each other’s eye as we simultaneously recognized the situation: a 100-foot-long jump rope. We started twirling the rope, and all sorts of individuals rushed to jump in. Guys arriving from being drunken louts elsewhere in the city dropped their attitude as they intensely waited to jump in, while strangers confidently and fearlessly called advice to them about improving their jump-rope technique. It was a beautiful, brief phase in which normal social interactions were surrendered to the energy of the moment.

Upcoming League events

League gathers to play on the last Sunday of the month in Elm Park in Vancouver. Play days are free and open to all; bring both body and mind.

Played: The n Games

On Sunday 8 September, six different teams from across the city met in Elm Park for The n Games, a tournament of League-style invented sports (background on the tournament and teams here). Half of the games had been invented at previous League events, a few were adapted from the annals of play traditions like the New Games movement, and some were hatched especially for the tournament by the League group.

Organized into two three-team round-robin pools followed by playoffs, the tournament had a new game starting every 40 minutes (schedule here). Immediately before each match, MC Jeremy Glen or a spectator drew the name and rules of the game to be played, and the teams set quickly to strategizing how best to play the game. Individual game reports follow below.

10:00 — Rethink vs Theatre Replacement


Pool x. Game played: Petri

League organizers were secretly glad that the first game to be drawn was one of our home-grown ones, which we had play-tested a lot over the past few weeks. Petri is in the family of bocce- and curling-like games, but uses a metaphor of viral infection, with the possibility of runaway scoring. A number of ‘dishes’ are marked on the field, and the goal is to infect them without being inoculated (neturalized) by the other team. Scoring is by multiplication rather than addition, so that landing multiple molecules (balls) in multiple dishes that have not been inoculated creates the possibility of large scoring jump. Playing Petri most effectively therefore requires not only placing your molecules accurately in order to either infect or inoculate, but also planning ahead in order to maximize your score.

Taking turns selecting their molecules to start the rounds, for this matchup between advertising agency Rethink (in sporty whites) and Theatre Replacement (in jaunty yellow headbands), each team stayed with their choice of balls — golf or ball-hockey — throughout the game. We only had time to complete four rounds, with Theatre Replacement coming out on top.

10:40 — Roadhouse vs Double Rainbow

Pool y. Game played: Extra-Sensory Proprioception

The first matchup in Pool y saw game studio Roadhouse Interactive, in collegiate grey T-shirts, playing the neon-clad Double Rainbow Dodgeball League.

Proprioception is the knowledge of where one’s body is in space, and the game of Extra-Sensory Proprioception requires one to use all one’s non-visual senses to navigate through space. Blindfolded pairs from each team start on different sides of the field, a whistle is blown from somewhere in the field, and each person walks blindfolded to try to place a marker as close as possible to that place. Only the marker for each pair was recorded, so there were possible strategies for minimizing errors. Blindfolded players were allowed to communicate with each other, and we saw some pairs use that to triangulate and get close to each other, while others used it to maintain a distance, thereby averaging out possible errors. Other pairs did not communicate verbally but relied on their own senses.

Double Rainbow proved themselves to be masters of this quiet activity just as much as the boisterous one they are known for.

11:20 — Manhunt! vs Rethink

Pool x. Game played: Field Pong

The game drawn for the match between urban sports group Manhunt! and Rethink was another one hatched at a previous League event, but not fully tested. As is typical with League, it required a bit of rule adjustment and negotiation.

The basic objective is for some of one’s team to collect cones from the other team’s end line, while others defend their zone from opposing runners. Defenders must hold a stick with another teammate in order to defend, and can deflect opposing runners back to their end line by touching them. Runners may only advance forward or laterally and must return to their end line if they are touched by the stick-holders.

This game is very demanding of the runners, and several different strategies were tested over the course of the match. Rethink successfully made a sudden switch from defense to full-on offense, and at one point both teams attempted full-defense setups with only one runner. Consensus was that this game could do with a bit more clarity in order for the best strategies to emerge.

Rethink began to show their strength in agile field-based games, and finished with the win.

12:00 — Daughters of Beer vs Roadhouse

Negotiating tiebreaker round for Petri

Pool y. Game played: Petri

Again Petri was the game drawn, and because neither craft beer aficionados Daughters of Beer & Co. (wearing race bibs and lanyards) nor Roadhouse had played it already, we proceeded. This Petri match featured some effective placement of molecules and inoculations, and saw Roadhouse come from behind to tie the game in the final round. Not having invented a tiebreaking mechanism in advance, we had to decide on one, and settled on a three-ball sudden death round, which Roadhouse won.

12:40 — Theatre Replacement vs Manhunt!

Pool x. Game played: Scrumble

For the final match in the x pool round-robin, the game drawn was Scrumble, a game hatched by League for The n Games. Teams Theatre Replacement and Manhunt were each issued a set of pinnies with single letters on the front and back, and given 30 minutes to photograph themselves and recruited bystanders wearing the pinnies to spell out words visible within the photos. A point was awarded for each letter of each word, with double points given for the most inventive picture of the bunch, as decided by judges recruited from the bystanders.

The words produced by the two teams were quite different, and ranged from simple nouns to actions to a few abstractions, and even a conjunction. Manhunt’s score was tallied first, an impressive 119 points, then Theatre Replacement’s, then the judges deliberated over the most inventive picture, considering Theatre Replacement’s use of a player standing on her head to turn an M into a W, but finally declaring that team’s ‘TEAHOUSE’ picture the most inventive. The doubled points for that word brought TR to 117 — a very close score for two quite different approaches.

13:20 — Double Rainbow vs Daughters of Beer

Pool y. Game played: Satellites

Satellites, the final game drawn for Pool y play was one one might have expected Double Rainbow’s dodgeball skills to carry easily. It was one that started by posing a strategic decision about whether to use a more deliberate turn-by-turn approach or a continuous play option for the game, the overall goal of which was to propel a large ball over the opposite end line by throwing or kicking smaller balls at it.

For the first half of the game, Double Rainbow chose the turn-by-turn option, but neither team was able to advance the large ball very far with their three throws per turn. For the second half, Daughters of Beer chose the continuous play option, and the game play turned raucous. The Daughters quickly developed an effective strategy of using some players as primary throwers and others as feeders, and they scored three times to the Rainbows’ one.


With pool play done, all six teams remarkably finished with one win and one loss, so tiebreakers were required to break the three-way ties in both pools.

For Pool x, Manhunt did not have enough players to continue, so they defaulted the playoffs. We decided that we would fall back on the head-to-head matchup between the remaining pool teams, which put Theatre Replacement in first place and Rethink in second for Pool x.

To break the tie in Pool y, we played a three-way sudden-death round of Extra-Sensory Proprioception. Continuing their dominance of the earlier game, it was no surprise to see Double Rainbow finish first, with Roadhouse second and Daughters of Beer third.

The first and second-place finishers in each pool then played a team in the opposite pool to determine who would advance to the final.

14:20 Semi-final Theatre Replacement vs Roadhouse

Whoseball rules

Pool x 1st place vs Pool y 2nd place. Game played: Whoseball

The League principle of having teams contribute to making decisions about the character of the game had already appeared in earlier matchups, and played a big part in the semi-final match between Theatre Replacement and Roadhouse. Whoseball is a game based on soccer/football, except that for each half, each team is asked to introduce or modify one of the accepted rules of soccer, while remaining within the spirit of the original game. One can imagine the gamut of possibilities.

For the first half, Roadhouse decreed that one had to be stationary while playing the ball, while Theatre Replacement specified that players had to be holding hands with someone else in order make a play. Perhaps unexpectedly, this arrangement worked, even more unexpectedly prompting players from opposite teams to link up in order to mark each other.

For the second half, Roadhouse decided that all passing had to be done laterally or backwards, though carrying and shooting could be done forwards. Theatre Replacement came up with a rule that brilliantly solved the problem of diving in soccer, by requiring that after making their play on the ball, every player had to roll three times on thee ground. Introducing this disincentive to the play effectively produced a more efficient — not to mention hilarious — style of game play. Roadhouse again pulled off a late-game comeback to move on to the final.

14:40 Semi-final Double Rainbow vs Rethink

Pool y 1st place vs Pool x 2nd place. Game played: No Look Pass

The game played in the second semi-final appeared well suited to both Double Rainbow’s agility and Rethink’s preference for swarming strategies. No Look Pass is a sport in which teams alternate playing offense and defense. Offensively, they attempt to bring balls to the other team’s end line, without being tagged by the defensive team. The balls are carried and passed behind the back, so there are possibilities for deception and synchronized movements.

In the spirit of League, we took feedback at half-time about whether any adjustments to the game were required for more rewarding game play, and at that point it was decided to try the longer, narrower orientation of the field.

Rethink particularly excelled at the coordinated formations, often placing multiple balls with a fewer number of carriers, and they advanced to the final.

15:20 Final Rethink vs Roadhouse

Winners of semi-finals. Game played: Lotto Rules

The final game determined which team would claim The n Games Cup, a thrift-store sports trophy mashed up with 3D-printed elements, devised by Brendan Lee Satish Tang and Suzanne Ward. Fittingly, the final game was a game-invention game: Lotto Rules. From a stack of cards printed with words, four cards were drawn, and these words had to figure into the rules for a game that each team would design.

The words drawn were: HIT, DIVIDE, BOUNCE, and KEEP. Following a seven-minute design process, the teams introduced their games, and then played both.

Roadhouse’s entry was a game entitled ‘Siege,’ in which each team attempted to defend their KEEP by catching a ball HIT into it by the other team, before it BOUNCEd a second time. The penalty for missing a catch was that one’s keep would be DIVIDEd until it was no longer playable.

Rethink’s game described a sequence of actions that unfolded over the length of the field a number of times over a set period: HIT a large ball with a stick, BOUNCE it once from where it lay, take five large steps while KEEPing it in one’s grasp, and finally DIVIDE a set of vuvulezas (Rethink’s contribution to maintaining the sports atmosphere throughout the day) for a point.

With both games play-tested and minor adjustments made along the way, a group of judges recruited from the other teams conferred to decide which invented game was the better game. With their opinion that Siege had somewhat more potential for fulfilling play, Roadhouse Interactive was declared the winner of this inaugural n Games.

Thank you; come again!

League would like to thank all the teams and players for their enthusiastic and creative approaches to the challenges. As with all League events, it was active participants who truly made a rewarding day.

Upcoming League events

On Tuesday 24 September League hosts “How To Kickstart“, a workshop by Kickstarter art director Stephanie Pereira, featuring some projects successfully produced through that crowd-funding platform. This free event is sold out, but check the ticket page in the days preceding the event, as we will move it outside for greater capacity if the weather will be nice.

The next regular League play date is Sunday 29 September, starting at 1 pm in Elm Park. League play events are free and open to all; bring both body and mind.


The n Games tournament schedule & results

Go to event page | Read event report


10:00 — Pool x Match 1
Rethink vs Theatre Replacement
Game played: Petri   Winner: Theatre Replacement

10:40 — Pool y Match 1
Roadhouse vs Double Rainbow
Game played: Extra Sensory Proprioception   Winner: Double Rainbow

11:20 — Pool x Match 2
Manhunt! vs Rethink
Game played: Field Pong   Winner: Rethink

12:00 — Pool y Match 2
Daughters of Beer vs Roadhouse

Game played: Petri   Winner: Roadhouse

12:40 — Pool x Match 3
Theatre Replacement vs Manhunt!
Game played: Scrumble   Winner: Manhunt!

13:20 — Pool y Match 3
Double Rainbow vs Daughters of Beer
Game played: Satellites   Winner: Daughters of Beer

Pool x: Manhunt defaults, Theatre Replacement won head-to-head vs Rethink
Pool y: Sudden Death Extra Sensory Proprioception. Results: 1-Double Rainbow, 2-Roadhouse, 3-Daughters of Beer

14:20 — Semi 1 (x 1st place vs y 2nd place)
Theatre Replacement vs Roadhouse
Game played: Whoseball   Winner: Roadhouse

15:00 — Semi 2 (y 1st place vs x 2nd place)
Double Rainbow vs Rethink
Game played: No Look Pass   Winner: Rethink

Consolation (y 3rd place vs x 3rd place)
(not played)

15:40 — Final (winners of Semis)
Rethink vs Roadhouse
Game played: Lotto Rules   Winner: Roadhouse


Pool x

Manhunt! Vancouver


Theatre Replacement






Admins only: update


League report – The Arbutus Corridor

by Jay White

The late-July version of League was a little different than the other ones I’ve attended. Usually we invent games at Elm Park in Kerrisdale, but this time we walked the eleven-kilometre Canadian Pacific Railway right-of-way known as ‘The Arbutus Corridor.’ Germaine encouraged us to come up with our own way to walk the line. In one respect, this focused us on our own individual means of play, but for the most part, the day was a long and pleasant get-to-know-you session. I felt like I was a teenager again, with nothing to do on a hot summer’s day but wander and laugh with friends.

In the early years of the colonization of Canada’s West Coast, the Canadian Government granted the CPR a surprisingly large amount of land in Vancouver. As of 1886, the CPR had legal title to the area between Mackenzie Street in Kitsilano and Main Street, and between False Creek and 57th Avenue. They also had title to almost half of what is now the downtown core of Vancouver.

Land granted to the CPR by the Canadian Government
in 1886, and the Arbutus Corridor.

Most of that land has been sold off, but the 45-acre Arbutus Corridor that winds through the city remains as a reminder of this bygone era. This fifty- to sixty-foot wide strip is now caught in a no-man’s land of legislation between the City of Vancouver and the CPR. It’s still owned by the CPR, but it can’t be commercially developed, and can only be used as a rail, walking, or cycling corridor. A lack of dedicated use has transformed the corridor into a unique part of Vancouver’s landscape. The route is interspersed with community gardens, renegade vegetable patches, walking trails, cattails and blackberry brambles. Trees shade the majority of the route, and the rail tracks are still there to balance along. Except for street crossings, the entirety of the corridor feels far removed from the pace and the development of the rest of the city.

I didn’t know what I would encounter when walking this route, so I decided to let the railway speak for itself. Every once in a while, I’d pick up an object from the ground, scratch it along the metal rail, and do my best to transcribe the sound it made back onto the track.

An untranslatable conversation between the rail and a stone

Germaine’s means of walking the line was to take a glass of seawater from False Creek, and carry it (without spilling too much water) for the whole length of the line, and deposit the water at its southern terminus at the Fraser River.

Sarah found nine pages of a discarded book in the first few minutes of walk, and made it her goal to finish reading them before the day finished. Thankfully, it was a decent book. She surmised that ‘something dramatic happened’ earlier in the story, but the nine pages maddeningly skirted the actual event without saying what it was.

Ian was raised in this area of Vancouver, and was a treasure-trove of information about the railway. Glenda, a city planner living in Whitehorse, Yukon, shared her own experiences with land allocation and transportation planning.

When I look at them separately, I don’t suppose that any of our mini-projects or stories were of any consequence. But I think something significant happened on the walk, as it does on every League day I have attended. A diversity of people, many who have never met before, get together and enjoy each others’ company for an afternoon. For me, this is the important thing about League — we are devoting time to the dying art of informal play, and we are remembering the joy of doing nothing in particular – making rules and games not as a means to win, but as a means to enjoy spending time together.

At the Fraser River, Germaine dumped her glass of False Creek water in the river. Mission accomplished. We quietly dispersed for a few minutes along the bank of the river, kicking at stones and examining the detritus that the river had left on this muddy shoreline. The sun was starting to fall in the West. Tired, hungry and sunburnt, we hopped on a bus and headed back to our respective lives.


[i] Source: A Railway, a City, and the Public Regulation of Private Property: CPR v City of Vancouver by Douglas C Harris. http://www.law.ualberta.ca/plpr/2011/Harris_Constructive_Taking_2011.pdf

Weekend play report: 15-16 June 2013

Vancouver Draw Down

For this city-wide drawing day, we had the idea of walking or running with the field-marking equipment to spray-chalk new fields for play, which would in turn suggest the games to be played. Many participants had not experienced drawing on that scale, or the seeming “responsibility” for configuring space themselves. But hesitations were quelled through encouragement, and more than a dozen drawings were laid out on the field, with the beginnings of games emerging from them.

One of the games — Petri — offers something potentially new to the pantheon of bocce-like games. It began with Danita spraying a number of circles with the radius of her reach. Through various iterations of tossing balls and other objects, we eventually developed a coherent narrative for the game: the circles as petri dishes and the balls as viral agents. In order to score, your circle(s) must be pure, containing only one type of ball particle. If it becomes inoculated/contaminated by another agent, it does not count. Scoring is also viral, through multiplication of the numbers in each player’s pure circles. For example, if one player ends with two circles, each containing two particles, she scores 4 (2 x 2). If the other player ends with one ball in each of five different circles, she only scores 1 (1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1). The potential for exponential, runaway scoring opens up a lot of strategic possibilities.

Play building at the Western Front

Coinciding with Main Street Car-Free Day, pioneering artist-run centre Western Front was celebrating its 40th anniversary with an open house featuring interactive projects in and around the building. League dove into the Front’s stocks of old construction materials to build improvised play tools and structures, including:

  • Cross-country drawing skis, aka Rube Drawberg, aka the most impractical drawing implement imaginable, using scraps of gypsum as the mark-making brakes
  • A cross between teeter-totter and physiotherapy plank, borrowing a beautiful length of old fir
  • “Skaters of the Cross”, a skateboard with 2×4 yoke
  • A drawing wheel chair using a borrowed garden chair, gypsum, surgical tubing, skateboard wheels, and metal beading
  • An elaborate snow-cone holder that grew from an idea to make stairs using stringers cut randomly by different people
  • A drinking machine for misanthropes, which creates an inhospitable zone around the drinker
  • Manual nose manual plank: a single skateboard truck on the end of a 2×8.

Bean Race 2013 progress

Bean Race 2013 report: as of mid-June, the Team Gropp’s is far ahead in terms of sheer volume of plant material, but the kids of League have a slight edge in altitude. Insects or other plant-munchers are proving to be an issue for the sprouts that haven’t yet reached escape velocity.


Played 25-26 May 2013 — League Easy + B.Y.O.Bocce

League Easy

League collaborated with The Everything Company to host a small event at the Bomford Studios, a temporary building in which Cedric, Nathan and Jim Bomford are constructing their monumental artwork Dead Head from recuperated building materials. The Everything Company is a project of the artists Chris Dahl, Jason Gowans, and Michael Love, who see art-making as a playful process of work, and have been hosting a series of speakeasies in interesting locations around Vancouver.

The main event of the night was a bicycle delivery service to Vancouver. For 45 minutes, we received texts from individuals around the city, requesting free bottles of gin, and for the next two hours, teams of cyclists raced around the city to deliver bottles. The game was a mimicry of the Hell’s Angels “Midnight Express,” an after-hours alcohol delivery service that operates in Vancouver. The courier teams’ progress was tracked using a smart phone app, and the team that delivered the most bottles received a special prize.

Apart from the delivery service, we played games around the Bomfords’ skeletal building-within-a-building. (Look for it to be launched on a barge in Burrard Inlet in 2014.)


The next day was League’s regularly-scheduled play date, unfolding for this day only in two locations. Participants were asked to B.Y.O.Bocce: that is, bring objects that were lobbable, pitchable, or tossable, with the idea of using them as the starting-point for games of precision.

The starting-point was thinking that games such as bocce, bowling, curling, golf, and marbles all use objects and terrain that have peculiar characteristics which must be taken into account in order to really master the game. The locations have uneven surfaces and friction, or the objects are wobbly, for example. We imagined that any of these games would be quite different if played using objects with other unexpected tendencies, such as softness, size, bounciness, fragility, lightness, permeability, etc..

We played versions of bocce using different targets selected by participants, expecting that the various objects we tossed, rolled, put, or kicked towards it would have not only different flight patterns, but also different potential for displacing the jack or other objects. In addition, one of the park locations was uneven and slanted, and the in the other the grass had been uncut for some time. Our strategic choice of weapons was affected by the factors such as distance, wind, and terrain, not to mention individuals’ different throwing or kicking skills.

Upcoming League activities

  • Vancouver Draw Down: Saturday 15 June, 10 am to noon at Elm Park.
    For this city-wide drawing day, we’ll play with marking the field at Elm Park. Our version of drawing will involve full-body motion: running and walking with the field-marking equipment, and working together to invent a game to match the lines.
  • Western Front 40th Anniversary: Sunday 16 June, noon to 5pm at the Western Front, 303 East 8th Ave, Vancouver [map].
    As part of the Western Front’s anniversary celebrations, we will mine the building’s storage for leftover construction materials accumulated over the past decades. The first part of the day (12-2), League group and drop-in participants will build structures for play, and the rest of the day everyone is welcome to drop in for improvised play using these structures.

Workshops: play and process

Reminder: next League play day is this Sunday, 22 April, noon to 3pm at Elm Park. We’re going to slow things down in recognition of Slow Art Day.

League is available to facilitate workshops on topics such as play and creative processes, strategy, collaboration, and team-building.

Here are some images from recent workshops exploring games and process, with the teen scholarship program from Arts Umbrella.

After an introduction to the notion of creative problem-solving as a kind of play and to the game-like structure of much artwork, the students embarked on game-design exercises involving existing games or conventional materials. The objective was to find some productive ground between convention and invention.

The groups displayed quite different problem-solving patterns:

  1. The everything-but-the-kitchen-sink brainstorming approach, in which a proliferation of ideas was unleashed before being reined in towards something coherent
  2. A methodical step-by-step form of process that stays more or less on track, but might produce fewer unexpected surprises
  3. A wild zig-zag following an ever-changing idea.

Of course there are other forms and patterns, and habits can be trained and changed. What are your own team’s habits?

Played: 24 February 2013


On this day, we set out to explore the idea of walking as a tactic for turning urban space to other uses. “Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go” (Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: a History of Walking).


A couple League regulars brought materials related to their art practices. Jay White, who has undertaken a number of process-based projects involving walking (one of which we wrote about here), brought surveyor’s tape and an idea about flagging alternate trails through the city. Those who spend time in the bush or hiking know flagging tape as a material that, flimsy as it is, can have consequences for survival. It’s used to mark human routes or lines that may or may not correspond to natural cues.

The group divided into two, with the idea that the smaller groups would head in separate directions, flagging a trail for the other to follow, making it as challenging as they’d like and not necessarily corresponding to existing or established routes. Both groups ended up taking ‘roads less traveled,’ through alleyways, and both created a sort of narrative along their route. One group wrote a story in widely-spaced snippets of tape, to be discovered and read through the time and space of following the flags. The other group flagged a variety of trees and plants. In both cases, what was interesting about the experience was how it brought a different kind of attention to one’s surroundings and how, through the different pace and ‘lens’, we began to notice details in the environment that we might otherwise have passed right by.



Leah Weinstein also brought materials from a current project, in this case welcome mats related to her project Welcome Shoes. With the thought of the welcome mats as the only ‘safe’ areas one could stand on, we tried a game in which a team, with a set of only a few mats, tried to get from one place to another by moving their mats with them. Since this was a group that enjoyed competition as much as cooperation, it quickly turned into a race.


WalkshoppingWe continued to play around with the mats, replicating a caterpillar tread, moving section by section.


Lastly, Ian handed the group a GPS showing geographical coordinates, which they used to navigate and find a geocache he had hidden. This geocache will eventually be recorded on the worldwide Geocaching site. Geocaching is a real-world game that involves hiding containers or objects and using GPS or smart phones to find others.

For more hunting and seeking, save the date for the next League gathering: Sunday 31 March, noon to 3pm.