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Before Video Games - Strange Games Children Played Before Technology

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 3

Before children had video games, what did children do? Sure there are the old childhood classics like red rover, hide and go seek, and tag. Before those even gained in popularity, children's games were a lot stranger and infinitely more dangerous. Since the dawn of technology, kids these days have become so uninspired and safety oriented. Let's discover and yearn for the days when all a kid needed was a few knives and a belt to have a funtastic time.

catch and pull

Catch and Pull

Catch and Pull is a bit like a poor man's dodgeball sans the ball or maybe tug of war only with people instead of a bit of rope. This game pits two teams against each other, a line was drawn and then the carnage would commence. The goal was to grab whatever body part you could get your hands on and drag the opposing player over the line to your side. As fun as that sounds, it also sounds like a real good way to break something, mainly your teeth when another player pulls you feet from under you.

Even though danger is clearly present, Catch and Pull was a popular gym class game in the 1920's as it was a fantastic form of physical exercise. However, it is unclear what happens to the last man standing on the opposite side. Does he just dangle out of reach until the players give up or submissively walk  across the line? I suppose it depends on the attitude of the person, though.

kick the can

Kick the Can

Kick the Can seems like an innocent enough games. Get a group of kids that didn't have Great Depression Era pre-child labor law jobs, a can, and kick a it around. However, a true game of kick the can was actually more like hide and seek than poor man's soccer.

The kids would pick a person to be "it" who would hunt kids down and when they were found they would go to prison. However, a player who was still free could run out, kick a designated can yelling "All ye, all ye, out and free" and the prisoners would scramble to hide themselves again. Apparently, yelling "olly olly oxen free" was just some drunk slurred phrase that had evolved over time for the modern day hide and seek.

After the can was kicked, "it" had to replace it and start anew. Thinking that this was a difficult game to win? You would be right. According to the testimony of my grandparents, the game most often ended when "it" got far too tired and hungry and went home.

trussed fowl game

Trussed Fowl

This early 1900's past time is possibly the mother of bondage games. The games starts by wrangling two friends (or enemies), binding their wrists and ankles with sturdy rope, bringing their wrists down around their knees then sticking a stick above the forearm under the knees and out on top of the other forearm. If you think the object it to escape the binding, you are far too soft of a person. The actual object is to put two people bound this way toe-to-toe and watch them try to tip the other over.

Since the knees make it so you cannot use your head, the only tools left at your disposal are your toes and fingers. This is probably more of a fun way to torture those friends that you really hate but hang out with because their family is rich. It is obviously probably more fun for the spectators than the participants. Especially when there is always that risk the other kids will leave you tied on the ground, trying desperately to roll yourself home.

mumbly peg

Mumbly Peg

This forgotten classic is truly the breeding of war era children. Nothing says building character and preparing to potentially die young in the next Great War like tossing knives around for sport. Mumbly Peg was popular primarily among boys, we all know how boys love their knives. The idea was to take a knife and perform a bunch of trick throws, increasing in difficulty. At the end of each throw, the knife had to stick into the ground, the closer to your foot the better. Of course, if the knife landed in your foot, you automatically won, so there's that.  Thought there is no commentary on if you won if the knife slashed you on the leg or elsewhere on the way down.

If your knife failed to stick in the ground, the loser would have to fetch the mumbly peg, a stick or piece of wood that the previous winner had driven in the ground using their knife as a hammer. However, the loser had to fetch it using only their teeth.

Mm, soil and grass. Breakfast of champions.

hot cockles

Hot Cockles

You thought mumbly peg was a weird game for the boys? Here's one for girls! Of course, Hot Cockles is much simpler. It is also basically another strange BSDM game as well. Hot Cockles is played by one woman laying her head in another's lap with her rear in the air, then the other players would commence beating the wholly heck out of it. The goal of the game was to guess who was hitting you.

If you guessed correctly, you won the best prize of all! Being able to leave and beat the crap out of their backside. Luckily, this game died out after the Victorian era. Well, except maybe in certain bedrooms.

Dog Fight

This is the epitome of creative game making from the past and it is quite simple too. Dog fight was where two people got down on all fours, tied belts around their necks, and then would try to strangle each other. Of course, everyone watching would be expected to bark at them for encouragement. Such a delightful way to spend a sunny afternoon, amassing grass stains and choking your friend until he falls over frothing at the mouth while people bark at you. I could not find how exactly you win at dog fight, but the obvious answer would be when someone gives up or…you know…gets strangled to death. Here's hoping you don't snap their neck with one hearty tug!

You know how some people say that we truly are animals, I think there may be something to that.



Jul 7, 2013 10:39am
Really great article Amerowolf, I hadn't heard of any of these games
Aug 4, 2013 11:08am
Glad we have video games :p
Aug 8, 2013 10:45pm
I love this-especially mumbly peg and hot cockles-um holy crap. We grew up playing kick the can in my neighborhood in the 80's- 20 neighborhood kids-we'd start the game at night, and play it all over the neighborhood-everyone including parents felt pretty safe to do that- lots of fun memories. Interesting article-thanks!
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