“Games give you a chance to excel, and if you’re playing in good company you don’t even mind if you lose because you had the enjoyment of the company during the course of the game” – Gary Gygax
I walked into a restaurant recently for a takeaway order and while I was waiting for the food to be packed, I noticed a kid around 6 to 7 years of age sitting with a laptop in the corner of the restaurant and watching a cartoon with full concentration. Both the parents were busy attending to the customers and other engagements. As I watched the kid occupied with this gadget, it made me recall the childhood that I had when I was of the same age. There were only memories of me being outdoors more than I was indoors. The neighbourhood was friendly and everyone knew each other well. There was no discrimination of any sort to make us feel different. Anyone whom we assumed was of the same age as we were, are already our playmates. Simplicity was the word then!
I was born in the 1980s and when I try to narrow down on the category which I belonged to, based on the breakdown by age, I fall under Gen Y, or Millennials. The categories are 1. Baby Boomers: Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. They’re currently between 56-74 years old. 2. Gen X: Gen X was born between 1965 and 1979/80 and are currently between 40-55 years old. 3. Gen Y: Gen Y, or Millennials, were born between 1981 and 1994/6. They are currently between 24-39 years old. 4. Gen Z: Gen Z is the newest generation to be named and were born between 1997 and 2012/15. They are currently between 8-23 years old (Kasasa, 2020). The segregation of these ages also implies differences in various aspects. Sports activities, behaviour, marketing, life style, way of thinking, understanding of life, approaches to life, life skills traits, and how one would have spent their childhood would vary significantly. The breakup of these generations has a very important hold on employment, career planning, counselling (client’s age) and easy adaptability to working environments and society at large. Millennials: Generation Z is officially the most accurate label to describe the youth of today. The Pew Research Center periodically updates the age ranges it uses to define the generational groups known as the Silent Generation, born 1928-1945 (74-91 years old).
One thing that I was sure of at that point in time is that we made friends very easily and we would enjoy long hours playing in any free space we could find. The good time would stop, either because it was getting dark or because we were called back home by our parents. I remember, there wasn’t that much pressure on us to stay clean at all times. We were dirty, our clothes were dirty and we would have mud and sand all over because we have been out all day long. We would rush to our homes in between when it was time for us to have lunch/evening snacks or we need to use the toilet. Other than that, we are either in our neighbour’s place, in the open ground or we were out to roam from one area to another. While television was available only in a few elite houses, Sunday would be a day where such houses would be packed with neighbours to make sure the evening Hindi movies are not missed (5 to 8:30 pm slot). That was our only attachment with television besides viewing news.
In the present times, when I sit with friends and colleagues who are my contemporaries, we would have an endless number of stories to share and such stories would bring laughter, smiles and fond memories. What is more fun is trying to recall the games that we used to play. ‘Kot cigarette’ – roaming around the neighbourhood to pick up cigarette covers, to play with them. The game was in trying to win by having the maximum number of cigarette covers. ‘Dieng Hai’ (Gilli Danda/Lippa) – using two pieces of wood, one, a small piece and another long one, used to hit the smaller piece and accordingly measure the distance. Playing with ‘marbles’ (Kancha) and ‘lotom’ was common throughout the year. ‘Chor Police’ was another game where we would play with a newcomer we met a few minutes ago, that person may be a cousin, a visitor at home or when we visit other people’s places. Similar to this is the hide and seek/chhupam chhupai. ‘Kite flying’ season was one of the most cherished seasons of any year. We would get hurt and scares all over while competing with others to chase for a kite that got cut by an opponent kite. ‘Ball Bearing’ was common amongst the guys, whereby, we would ply the roads and enjoy the rides with such thrill and excitement. Luckily, there were few cars on the roads then, to cause us any harm. Amongst the girls, ‘Soh Tyngkoh’ (Nondi/Hopscotch) is common. I remember seeing them drawing squares on the ground either with a stone or charcoal, throw a flat stone in those drawn boxes, after which they keep hopping to kick it till their turn is over. Another common game for the girls is the ‘Maw Kynting’ (Gutte/Five Stones) but the most enjoyable one that both boys and girls would play together is ‘Leh Poin’ (Satoliya/Pithoo/Lagori).
Television viewing is one of the most popular spare-time activities across generations. However, for Gen Z (ages 15-20), they take a back seat to music listening and reading (As per results from a Nielsen survey). Gen Z respondents indicated that listening to music is one of their top-three spare-time activities, ahead of reading and watching television. In fact, younger respondents selected reading over playing online video games and reviewing social media as a top spare-time activity. For Generation Z, as we have seen, the main spur to consumption is the search for truth, in both a personal and a communal form. This generation feels comfortable not having only one way to be itself. Its search for authenticity generates greater freedom of expression and greater openness to understanding different kinds of people. The involvement of games per se for Gen Z – indoor and outdoor are for those who want to pick them up, either for exercise purposes or are playing such games to pick up as a sportsperson. Their involvements with games are specific and if not, they venture into something else that they enjoy doing. For Gen Zers, the key point is not to define themselves through only one stereotype but rather for individuals to experiment with different ways of being themselves and to shape their individual identities over time. In this respect, we might call them “identity nomads”. Gen Zers say they are religious, yet at the same time, they are also the generation most open to a variety of themes not necessarily aligned with the broader beliefs of their declared religions. They do not consider themselves exclusively heterosexual, as opposed to other generations. They think that same-sex couples should be able to adopt children more than people in other generations do. Gen Zers are always connected and it is their modest way of maintaining friendship, as opposed to the Millennials maintaining friendship based on proximity and physical presence and meeting.
I might have missed a lot of other popular games played during my childhood days – three decades ago, but one thing that was very appreciable when I recollect the past years was the trust factor that we had on our neighbours, our playmates, people from the locality, shop keepers and others who would take care of us and equally show concern for our welfare. What is left now are memories that were spent leisurely with nature, good people, filled fun and laughter, free from the bondage of electronic gadgets – television, mobile phones, video games and computers. The air that we breathe then was different, surrounded by simplicity, vibes of innocence, a sense of togetherness irrespective of caste and creed and less of modern complexities of life. I would end by quoting Susan Gale who once said: “Sometimes a short walk down memory lane is all it takes to appreciate where you are today”.