Having a kid in kindergarten is reminding me of this simple way of looking at the world: there are good guys, there are bad guys, and there’s no in between. No mixed motivations, no ambiguous actions, no questionable qualities. Good guys do good things, bad guys do bad things, and that’s that.

Except we invented a game this weekend that kind of mixes the two. Here’s how it works:

Setup: There are two teams in the running and tagging game. Players are divided into either good guys or bad guys at the start of the game. Each team is trying to convert all the other players to their team type by tagging each other.

Goal: Good guys want to turn all the bad guys into good guys, and vice versa.

Game play: Players convert an opposing team member by tagging. For example, when a good guy tags a bad guy, the bad guy becomes good. The new good guy then has the new goal of converting former teammates, other bad guys, into good guys. This works both ways.

  • If players tag one another simultaneously, they swap roles.
  • No tagging above the neck or anywhere on the head or face.
  • Two players of the same role, touching each other, are protected against one player of the other role. For example, if two bad guys are holding hands and one good guy touches them, they remain bad. In that case, nothing happens to the good guy unless one of the bad guys tags him.
  • Tagging hands by slapping hands doesn’t count. It has to be an arm, leg, or body tag. (This rule remains under development.)
  • Good guys tag with right hands, keeping their left hands behind their bags. Similarly, bad guys tag with their left hands, keeping right hands behind their backs. This makes it easier to know who’s who.

The team that ends up converting all the other players first wins.

So the interesting thing about this game, to me, is the ambiguity. When we played we never really knew who won, because eventually everyone is converted to the same role, but by then you’re all on the same team, so it’s like you’ve all won.

At the same time, you’ve probably swapped roles so many times, you loyalties aren’t even to any particular role–just to tagging people of the other role.

I feel like this game is creepily like real life in so many ways. The shifting loyalties; the looking out for your own interests and then the team’s, when they coincide; the never being sure someone’s still on your team; the bring able to team up again weaker individuals — it’s a pretty cynical way of seeing the world, true, but not necessarily untrue.

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