Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Manhunt: More than just tag in the dark

I've always found it amusing, the games that kids make up to keep from being bored. I was one of those kids that always broke the rules so I wouldn't lose. If you shot me with your imaginary gun I'd say I had an imaginary bulletproof vest on. It's sufficient to say that playing Cowboys and Indians with me was never fun. As I got older I learned to play better with others. Which is good because the games just got better as we got older.

Back in the day, wall-ball was the best. A whole school yard could play, all you needed was enough wall space and a tennis ball (how cool did you feel being the tennis ball kid?). As we got older we realized that instead of throwing the ball at the wall we can try and hurt each other with it, and the suicide variant of wall-ball was created. Our school eventually banned the game because our grade got so out of hand. To this day there are probably still some confiscated tennis balls in our math teacher's desk.

My personal favorite was tag. Tag was great because it was an excuse to run around. There is no such thing as a lazy child at recess. Different kinds of tag sprung out of the basic "touch-somebody and-run" template that is so easy to remember. Freeze tag was great and TV Tag was a personal favorite, if only because I knew a lot of television shows. The person about to be caught would yell out a television show name to make themselves safe. The cool kids would yell out The Simpsons or Beavis and Butt-head. I would relegate myself to Diagnosis: Murder, Price is Right and Nash Bridges. You know, old people shows.

Don't hate.

There was one form of tag that went past the school yards and into the streets. It was a hybrid mixture of two amazing games: tag and hide and seek. It was tag's badass older brother that let you hang out in his room. Manhunt was the game, and it was the best. Fall was the best time to play. This is because it's not too cold where you need a big, poofy jacket and it wasn't too warm where you overheated yourself. Once you get into middle school, tag seems juvenile but manhunt is still acceptable. There were two rules for manhunt: it had to be at night and it had to be in a certain defined area. Once you get past those two rules you were free to run through whatever backyard you wanted to or hide in any tree you could. The neighborhood was now the playground and whoever knew it the best was probably going to win. Oh and try not to run out of bounds or you'll get yelled at by the opposing team and they'll never trust you to play the game again (bunch of babies).

Fritz Lang even made a film about it.

My town played team manhunt, which consisted of two groups of people. One hid and the other seek. Flashlights were a point of contention. The way my town mostly played, once you got caught you had to hold on to them and count "one, two, three you're my man." Sometimes skill in the game depended solely on the ability to count to three very fast. Caught members would be taken to whatever was designated as jail. The brilliant part was, people can be freed from jail by being tagged by an uncaught hider. The kid who jailbreaked his whole team was the hero for the night or the most hated, depending on which team you were on.

Picture unrelated.

There was one rule that everybody broke, babysitting. If you, dear reader, say that you never babysat the jail in your life then you are a liar. Babysitting, for the uninitiated, was staying next to the jail in order to guard the slow bastards that got caught, and to catch the athletic kids that cared enough to free them. Sometimes just looking at the base is enough to get called a babysitter, and therefore a cheater. Games lasted either until everybody was found or until the seekers got tired of looking. Lets face it, nobody wanted to be a seeker. The game was about hiding, there's no fun in tripping through thorn bushes, unable to find the one jerk that climbed a tree. Either way, manhunt was a fun game to play. I still want to play it and I'm in college now. It's hard to escape the thrill of hiding in a bush with two seekers right next to you. You feel like an action hero.

Hmm, just a box...


  1. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ofer-agam/tag-in-the-dark/

  2. I play this in my school, and I'm in year 7, or 7th grade, but we play so much differently. I'm probably the most respected manhunt player in year 7, I'm super fast and I can dodge past 5 people at a time.