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8 Surprisingly Fun Games Uncle Sam Told Soldiers to Play in 1943

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Getty Images

In 1943, the U.S. War Department issued a manual packed with "informal" games that men might play if they were lucky enough to have downtime. The games were intended to occupy mind and body, manage stress, and subtly provide tactical training. Which might explain why so many games involved tackling and beating your fellow soldiers. But other, less physical games translate great from the barracks to the backyard. Here are eight of our favorites.

1. One Out

Equipment: Any easily obtained objects, such as sticks, shirts, or rocks

How to play: This is basically a game of musical chairs meant for soldiers instead of toddlers. So, no music, no graham crackers, but probably a comparable amount of shoving and punching. A line of sticks or similar objects are laid about 40 feet from the players. If there are 10 players, only 9 sticks are laid out, and so forth. At the signal, the players race to the line, "secure" themselves a stick, and race back. The player left stick-less is out, until only one remains.

2. Team Stick Guard

Equipment: A ball and two sticks

How to play: This game is a small serving of Capture the Flag with a heavy side of basketball. Each team has their own stick driven into the ground, surrounded by a 10-foot circle and a "goalie" to protect it. No other players are allowed in the goalie's circle. The referee begins play by throwing the ball between two men of opposing teams. The aim is for them to maneuver the ball close enough to knock the other team's stick out of the ground. Many of the rules from basketball apply: no running with the ball, holding, tripping, tackling, or touching. Such fouls results in a free throw at the opposing stick from the center of the field. The losing team is the one with the most knocked over pin.

3. Box Hockey

Equipment: A homemade box (7 feet by 3.5 feet, with or without a bottom) matching the one above, two sticks, and a ball or piece of wood small enough to fit through the holes

How to play: First, build the box, which probably took all of 20 minutes for men of this generation. From there, it's air hockey with less finger pinching and more accidental knee clubbing. Start the game with the ball balanced on the center partition. Clap sticks three times above the ball, and the game is on. The goal is to get the ball through your opponent's hole. If the ball is knocked out of the arena, it is rolled back in on the opposite side. No stepping inside the box; first person to five points is the winner.

4. Rooster Fight

Equipment: None

How to play: A man from each team is called out, and he must hop on one foot, hands held behind his back, to meet his opponent. The winning man is the one who knocks the other over, or causes him to put his foot down or arms out for balance. Another posture for the game is called "The Drake," which is hands never leaving ankles, as shown in the circle above. (This game thinly avoids becoming bloody combat by wisely removing most dangerous appendages from the battle.)

5. Log Roll

Equipment: Grassy area or floor mats

How to play: Two teams lie side by side on the ground. Starting with the end man, each player must roll over his entire team as soon as he himself is rolled over. The winner is the first team to have their front man roll over all of his men.

6. Chain Dodge Ball

Equipment: Kickball or other soft ball

How to play: This version of dodge ball adds a complex but fun twist. The men form groups of four to six players, each player holding the waist of the person in front of him. Everyone else forms a circle around them. The object is to hit only the end man of the "It" team with the ball. Players in the circle can toss the ball any way they think will accomplish this, and the "It" team can weave and run and flex in any formation possible to avoid it. The front man of the team can even use his hands to bat away the ball from the end man. The players are picked off one by one until the whole team is eliminated. Whichever team stayed inside the circle the longest is the winner.

7. Quick Line Up

Equipment: None

How to play: Simon Says with a loyal army at his feet. The players divide into four equal teams and line up, tallest to shortest, forming a square around the man who's "It." The four lines are designated, "1, 2, 3, 4." Now "It" can walk anywhere he wants on the field, and wherever he stops, the other players must scramble to reassemble their lines around him, same position, same sides. One point to the team who assembles correctly the fastest, first team to five points win.

8. Baste the Bear

Equipment: Buttocks

How to play: As full as this manual was of beating gamesfull-on assault games, and uncomfortably intimate games, it seemed unprincipled not to include at least one. One of the "tamer" rough games is Baste the Bear. The "Bear" in this case must bend at the center of the circle, his posterior presented. He has a "Keeper" whose job it is to protect his rump. The rest of the players circle, trying to slap the bear's buttocks with their open hands. If the Keeper tags a slapper when they reach toward the Bear, the slapper is the new Bear and selects his own tush guardian. Under scoring and winners, the manual simply lists, "None."

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"American Mall," Bloomberg
Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]

Live Smarter
Why the Soundtracks to Games Like 'Mario' or 'The Sims' Can Help You Work

When I sat down to write this article, I was feeling a little distracted. My desk salad was calling me. I had new emails in my inbox to read. I had three different articles on my to-do list, and I couldn't decide which to start first. And then, I jumped over to Spotify and hit play on the theme to The Sims. As I listened to the upbeat, fast-paced, wordless music, my writing became faster and more fluid. I felt more “in the zone,” so to speak, than I had all morning. There's a perfectly good explanation: Video games provide the ideal productivity soundtrack. At Popular Science, Sara Chodosh explains why video game music can get you motivated and keep you focused while you work, especially if you're doing relatively menial tasks. It's baked into their composition.

There are several reasons to choose video game music over your favorite pop album. For one, they tend not to have lyrics. A 2012 study of more than 100 people found that playing background music with lyrics tended to distract participants while studying. The research suggested that lyric-less music would be more conducive to attention and performance in the workplace. Another study conducted in open-plan offices in Finland found that people were better at proofreading if there was some kind of continuous, speechless noise going on in the background. Video game music would fit that bill.

Plus, video game music is specifically made not to distract from the task at hand. The songs are meant to be listened to over and over again, fading into the background as you navigate Mario through the Mushroom Kingdom or help Link save Zelda. My friend Josie Brechner, a composer who has scored the music for video games like the recently released Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, says that game music is definitely written with this in mind.

"Basically, successful video game music straddles the balance between being engaging and exciting, but also not wanting to make you tear your ears off after the 10th or 100th listen," Brechner says. Game music often has a lot of repetition, along with variation on musical themes, to keep the player engaged but still focused on what they're playing, "and that translates well to doing other work that requires focus and concentration."

If you're a particularly high-strung worker, you might want to tune into some relaxing classical music or turn on a song specifically designed to calm you. But if you want to finish those expense reports on a Monday morning, you're better off choosing a fast-tempo ditty designed for seemingly pointless activities like making your Sims eat and go to the toilet regularly. (It can help you with more exciting work responsibilities, too: Other research has found that moderate background noise can increase performance on creative tasks.)

These types of songs work so well that there are entire playlists online devoted just to songs from video game soundtracks that work well for studying. One, for instance, includes songs written for The Legend of Zelda, Skyrim, Super Smash Bros., and other popular games.

The effect of certain theme songs on your productivity may, however, depend on your particular preferences. A 2010 study of elementary school students found that while calming music could improve performance on math and memory tests, music perceived as aggressive or unpleasant distracted them. I was distracted by the deep-voiced chanting of the "Dragonborn Theme" from Skyrim, but felt charged up by the theme from Street Fighter II. There's plenty of variety in video game scores—after all, a battle scene doesn't call for the same type of music as a puzzle game. Not all of them are going to work for you, but by their nature, you probably don't need a lot of variation in your work music if you're using video game soundtracks. If you can play a game for days on end, you can surely listen to the same game soundtrack over and over again.

[h/t Popular Science]


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