Prone to Wander

The Game of “Lion”

I wrote this post in the style of one my favorite blogs, “Hyperbole and a Half”. Check it out – highly recommended for a good long laugh.

It’s amazing what boredom can do with the blank slate of a child’s imagination. When I was a kid, the typical after-dinner scene with my two younger sisters, C. and L. (names abbreviated to protect the innocent guilty) went a little something like this:

Amy: Can we watch TV?
Mom: No.
C: But we haven’t watched it all week!
Mom: Go play a game.
Amy: But we’ve played all the games already!
Mom: Then find something else to do.
C: Ughhhhhh.
Mom: Hey, I’ll bet I can find something for you to do.
Amy & C.: No!
Amy: Let’s go.
L.: Heyyyy, I want to play!

Then the three of us would retreat to the living room, where we planned to sulk in silence for as long as possible.

However, like most children, we found it difficult to continue sulking after approximately 3 minutes.

Here is what typically happened:

Cue groans from C., the middle sister. She was old enough to know better than to fall for my hairbrained schemes. They often involved things like mad-science experiments, writing novels, starting companies, acting out an entire plays from memory (in which I usually talked her in to playing the guy’s part), making movies, or building an entire working city out of legos, etcetera. Once in a while I had great ideas, but they were usually way too grand in scale to be realistic for three girls under the age of 8.

This time, though, it was different.

Disclaimer: I’m NOT going to take credit for the following stroke of childhood genius, as it was likely a group effort. However, the game that we came up with that night ended up being our favorite game for years. It was our go-to game when nothing else seemed interesting – we played it for hours and hours. We taught our friends how to play, our neighbors, our parents, random passers by. After that fateful night, the phrase “Let’s play Lion!” became commonplace in our vocabulary.

“Lion” was a fairly simple game.

First, the playing field needed to be constructed. Ideally, you would have at your disposal two unattractive couches that your parents secretly hate and want you to destroy. It would also be smart not to have much of anything else in the room. Lucky for us, this is just what our living room contained. The couches need to face each other approximately 3 meters apart.

After the playing field is set, something magical happens. Suddenly, it looks like this:

Of course, to innocent bystanders not playing the game, it looks a little more like this:

The problem is that the monkeys get bored easily in their own trees (pesky monkeys) and they want to move to new trees all the time. They can run from tree to tree, but they risk being eaten by the hungry Lion if they set foot in the grassland, so they have to be very careful. One of the central rules is that the monkeys can run on their feet, but the Lion always has to crawl. Anyway, as you might have guessed, the object of the game is for the lion to catch a monkey. And for the record, tackling, grabbing, or tagging all count as “catching.”

But of course, we all knew what was happening (We’d seen it on “Nature” on PBS, of course):

Once a monkey is caught, it becomes the lion, and the old lion gets to be a monkey. It was truly the game of National Geographic-themed tag that never ended. Ever.

As we played the game more and more, it became clear that being the Lion was not desirable. The monkeys definitely had more fun, and their strategies and tricks in order to evade the Lion got more and more advanced.

There was the fake-out:

The old around-the-back:

The coordinated effort:

And the distraction (which sometimes backfired, especially if it became less of a distraction technique and more of a full fledged taunt):

I don’t exactly remember the last time the three of us ever played Lion. I suppose there just came a time when someone said “Let’s play Lion!” and one of us said, “No.” I guess that’s what happens when you grow up.

However, It was probably no coincidence that not long after we stopped playing Lion, my parents had a fantastic day:

The end.

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