The Games We Used to Play
By: Fatini Idris
Kids are too attached to their gadgets these days. There’s nothing wrong with it – iPads, smartphones, even gaming consoles provide great entertainment and can be useful educational tools when used correctly and with close adult supervision. When I see my niece playing with her dad’s iPad, I can’t help but reminisce about the times in my childhood when my free time was spent playing outdoor games with my friends, and I wonder if there will come a time when a generation in the future may not know about gasing, konda-kondi or teng-teng. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and remember the games, and maybe it’ll inspire you to take your kids out and play them like you used to:
Known in English as spin-top, gasing is a popular game among Malay youths, especially boys. There are many other versions of gasing in Malaysia alone – let alone the world – but a simple one as pictured above is the most popular. The top is usually made of wood or iron, and a long string is wrapped around the top halfway from the bottom where the tip is, towards the middle of it. To play, the player throws the top on a flat ground where a large circle is drawn on and make sure that the top lands into the circle. Other players will then join in, and the one with the longest spinning gasing wins the game.
Another version of the game involves one player trying to strike out another player, by throwing their gasing to move their opponent’s top out of the circle. You can play with just one other person, or as many as 10 others. There’s no set rule when it comes to the number of players… it’s all about making the most of your time.
This game looks simple, but looks can be deceiving! The game reportedly has Indian origins, and to play, you need to have a sharp mind and be quick on your feet. There are actually several ways to play the game, although the requirements are similar: players are divided into two teams (offensive and defensive), it is usually played on a clear field, and two sticks are required; a long one of about 2 – 3 feet in length to flick and a shorter one of about 6 inches. A small hole is dug in the ground to place the smaller stick to be flicked and flung by the longer stick.
One of the common methods to play is to have a player of the offensive team to flick and fling the smaller stick as far as he can using the long stick. The long stick is then placed inside the whole, while the players of the defensive will try to catch the short stick before it hits the ground, and throw it back to the long stick in the hole. If it hits the stick, the offensive player is out, but if the smaller stick lands right across the longer stick, the whole offensive team is out, and the roles between the two teams will reverse thus giving the defensive team a chance as the offensive.
It’s like sledding, but instead of using sleds during winter time, we play it by using palm fronds all year round. It requires at least two players – one to sit on the frond, and the other to pull the frond on its other end. You can make a competition out of it by racing with another duo, and whoever crosses the line first is considered the winner. The game is usually played in the rural or suburban area and it’s a rarity to see them being played in the city. So on’t miss the chance to play if you come across it!
Chapteh or sepak bulu ayam in Malay is a popular game in many Asian countries, including Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. The game requires dexterity, and tests your ability to balance and keep the chapteh in the air for as long as you can by kicking it upwards using the heel of your foot.
Usually played in a small group, players are judged individually on the number of kicks they make. The players agree on a winning tally of kicks before the game starts, and the first person in the group to reach that tally, or the player with the highest score in the group, is considered the winner.
Ketinting or teng-teng is another traditional game that can also be found in other parts of the world, such as in the USA, where it is known as hopscotch. The two basic features of the game are the square boxes drawn on a flat surface (either by using chalk or drawing up the soil), and the players’ jumping skill. It is usually played by two or more players.
To play, the first player must throw their gundu (a small item that is used as a ‘marker’ in a game; in this case, it’s usually a pebble) on the first box. If you miss it, your turn will be void, and the next person takes their turn. If it lands, you then hop on one leg on each boxes except where the gundu lands on – meaning that, if it lands on the first box, you must skip across it. You can land on both feet when you’re at the ‘home’ or the last box, and make your way around back to the beginning on one leg, picking up your gundu when you reach it. The next player will then take their turn. As the game progresses, you must aim your gundu at the next number, until it reaches the ‘home’ box.
There are many other traditional outdoor games that I did not mention here, and some may have already been forgotten. Why not we take our time to teach our little ones these simple games, and make it into a fun activity for the whole family? It’ll be a great bonding experience, while at the same time preserving a slice of our heritage.