My guy rode an excitebike
August 20, 2012 1:06 PM   Subscribe

The Games We Play. [SLYT] And you thought you were the only one.
posted by Christ, what an asshole (114 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wonder if there's an iphone app that you point out a moving window that does this. Basically do some quick image processing to build the level and render your guy on the horizion, and add jump commands.
posted by hellojed at 1:14 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yup, it was a light saber for me.
posted by brevator at 1:17 PM on August 20, 2012


i count things. multiples of 5 and 7 only, please. thanks.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:17 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why are these things so universal?
posted by desjardins at 1:18 PM on August 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oooh, hellojed, I like this idea. Though I'm envisioning "Fruit Ninja" for reality.
posted by jferg at 1:19 PM on August 20, 2012


Who else plays the "shadow? game while driving?

I look at the road ahead and mentally jump over any shadows that cross the car's path. Sometimes I do this in time to music.

Also, surprisingly good video.
posted by bpm140 at 1:26 PM on August 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


What was the holding breath near cemetery thing? Never heard of that.
posted by dobbs at 1:26 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing I used to do was imagine lines perpendicular to the long axis of my foot, emerging from my toe and heel as the foot landed. If those lines both intersected the same object, all was good. But if those lines intersected different objects, I had failed.

I did this all the time for about twenty years. Then one of my sisters pointed out that it looked like I was walking with some really weird handicap because I would seemingly randomly rotate my foot just before impact or choose bizarre stride lengths so that the lines would work out.
posted by Jpfed at 1:29 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


My kids LOVE 'Don't Step on the Lava'. My four year old might play it at some point in every single day.

I'm also still addicted to 'Jump and Touch' as a nearly-40-year-old. One of my fondest childhood memories is jumping and FINALLY touching the top of the door frame at school. I remember stopping in shock as I finally touched it after hundreds (thousands?) of attempts.
posted by Phreesh at 1:29 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


The family and I hold our breath when going through tunnels in the mountains (the Eisenhower Tunnel is pretty much impossible to get through in one breath).
posted by jazon at 1:30 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


You hold your breath going by a cemetery so you don't get possessed by ghosts! Man, you may be possessed already.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:31 PM on August 20, 2012 [27 favorites]


I did the little platform game thing a lot in my mind, running along telephone wires mostly. Or it'd simply be following the parabola (or whatever curve a hanging wire is) with my hand.

I'd try to make it to and from school in the fall never taking a step that didn't land on a leaf.

In grade school I'd try to step only on the foot-square linoleum tiles in the halls, never on the cracks; for greater difficulty I'd try to only step on the odd-man-out colored tiles laid down in apparent random distributions among the majority plain-cream tiles.

I'd count powers of two at night in bed, two, four, eight, sixteen; I'd count out patterns on my fingers in sets that ended on powers of two.

I remember learning about OCD at some point in like the fifth grade and becoming concerned for a little while that maybe these things were compulsions. Eventually I figured out that I was just kind of bored a lot.
posted by cortex at 1:35 PM on August 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


What was the holding breath near cemetery thing? Never heard of that.

In my family we'd hold our breath while going through tunnels. Possibly this was a clever plan to get us to be quiet, though.
posted by cortex at 1:35 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who else plays the "shadow? game while driving?

Me. I was just about to ask the same thing. As a passenger, I "jump" with my hand/fingers. Raise the fingers to jump and back down to land. Kinda like doing the wave thingy with your hand. Variation is to have your hand out the window, "jumping" with the help of the wind.
posted by Bort at 1:38 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to think I played the same types of games everyone did. Avoid cracks, count signs on the side of the road, count steps when I go up stairs, count the number of windows in any given room, tap on the walls when an elevator is going down (don't touch the walls when an elevator is going up), read all sentences that are not part of a paragraph forwards and backwards...

...it took me until age 37 that I actually was suffering from OCD. I didn't realize that other people don't think that they'll literally die if they don't win these games.
posted by xingcat at 1:38 PM on August 20, 2012 [15 favorites]


Hot-lava grocery store tiles. You know what I'm talking 'bout.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:39 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a moderately athletic basketball fan, the world is my dunk contest. I still do this.
posted by Turkey Glue at 1:42 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was going to say, "Ah, before non-creative distractions like smartphones were invented," and guess that the first frickin' comment is to this post...an idea for an iPhone app. Unreal. And depressing.
posted by TinWhistle at 1:44 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Two not-necessarily-games-but-still-fun-times from my youth:

1.) When sitting around a campfire that was emitting a lot of smoke, shine flashlights into the smoke and the beam of light would solidify. Instant lightsabers!

2.) While in a car with open windows, stick arm outside window to actually feel and experiment with aerodynamics. Vary shape of hand to flat against the wind or horizontal to direction of travel - then angle hand to simulate airplane wing. See if you can achieve enough lift to keep your whole arm suspended without having to strain any muscles (depends on speed of car).
posted by pyrex at 1:44 PM on August 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


(Hell, I still do the second one whenever I have the chance.)
posted by pyrex at 1:45 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to do three-digits-into four digits long division while mowing the lawn. Does that count?
posted by notsnot at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2012


My wife came up with an awesome car game recently. Wait for the GPS to say "in 50 yards, bear right"... Then wait 50 yards... Then when it says "bear right" everyone in the car makes a claw motion, leans right and says "grrrrrr!". Endless fun.
posted by simonw at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2012 [60 favorites]


We would try to be first to spot the next mile marker on the highway. Also, it was Very Important to pick up our feet while crossing railroad tracks.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Another one I used to do was, if I was sitting around somewhere with a view down a street toward an intersection with cars coming left and right, I'd track a car coming in from the left until it came across another car coming from the right, and then I'd track that new car until it passed a car heading in from the left, and back and forth like a game of pong. If a car passed out of view it scored a point and the other side would get to "serve" when a car came into view going the other way again.

I was always rooting for the long volleys.
posted by cortex at 1:47 PM on August 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


What was the holding breath near cemetery thing? Never heard of that.

haints
posted by elizardbits at 1:48 PM on August 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm amazed when people don't do these things. What kind of boring lives they must lead!

Once in college, I was hanging out with roommates I barely knew on the stereotypical college sofa-on-back-porch roof. Someone spilled a beer, and it ran down the slight slope to the roof's edge, its path splitting into two meandering streams on the way down.

Naturally, I saw a potential game right away.

"Hey guys! Which one of these two streams of beer do you think is going to make it to the edge first?"

The people I grew up around all would have quickly assessed the break of the roof, potential obstacles in the paths, and current flow rate, and shouted out our preferences. "Left!" "No way, look at that bump there! Right!" and we would have had ninety seconds of anywhere from moderate amusement to outright silly cheering.

But the reply I got instead?

"Who the fuck CARES? Ha ha ha ha!"

That was when I started to realize that apparently there are more proudly unclever, unimaginative people in the world than I ever would have guessed, and that trend has sadly continued since then.
posted by scrowdid at 1:49 PM on August 20, 2012 [50 favorites]


oh totally did this... I wonder why, of all those things, the "floor is lava" one is the only one that really gets under my skin?
posted by rebent at 1:49 PM on August 20, 2012


What an interesting topic. Well, I know for a fact that commercial breaks on half-hour network TV shows are 6 30-second skips long on my DVR, while feature films on channels like TNT or TBS are typically 7. Am I the only one who has turned perfecting commercial-skipping into a game?
posted by phaedon at 1:50 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Totally did the imaginary-line-extending-from-finger-planes-off-all-objects-with-which-it-intersects game. Still do. Never even thought to articulate it.

My version did not spare trees and hills though, which makes me feel like kind of a dick.
posted by Sokka shot first at 1:51 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, I have a ton of these games.

When I was a kid and sitting in the back seat, if it was raining I would race the raindrops across the car window.

I play a weird tetris-like game with bathroom tiles where they are randomly distributed and I have to make them into various repeating patterns by flipping or swapping them according to rules I can't really articulate.

When on the phone, I pace around the room according to a path that I think a laser would take, if the walls and other obstacles were reflective.

Basically every room I'm in, I mentally divide it up into regions that are safe to walk on and regions that aren't, and I try to walk on the safe ones. (No consequences if I step on an unsafe area -- I like to think that's the difference between me and OCD).

I know I do others, just can't think of them now.
posted by gauche at 1:51 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


scrowdid, I would totally have played the beer race game with you, in college or any other time.
posted by gauche at 1:52 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was also a big fan of the following game playable on a grid of non-square rectangles (e.g. the walls of some buildings): try to find a set of lines on the grid that identifies a square. Once you get something as close to square as possible, count the number of rectangles subtended by your big square in the vertical direction, then the horizontal direction. These numbers tell you the aspect ratio of the rectangles that make up the grid.
posted by Jpfed at 1:56 PM on August 20, 2012


Looking out the window, close one eye and look at a dot. Then focus on items far away. Try to keep the dot in the sky. Switch eyes to make it jump past a tall object.
posted by rouftop at 1:59 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Would recognizing cars of the same manufacturer as the one you/someone you know own count as a "grownup game"? Because for me at least; my parents used to own a little Hyundai and the only cars I would really 'see' would be that particular make and model no matter the color. Now my parents own a Skoda and I feel like they're everywhere I turn.
posted by pyrex at 2:00 PM on August 20, 2012


These numbers tell you the aspect ratio of the rectangles that make up the grid.

Oh yeah, I've definitely done this one, a lot. Gallingly I find that I even do it with our bedroom ceiling if I'm tired but my eyes are open; it's not like the ceiling is going to change any time soon and the shapes involved are very large, so it's duplication of effort and doesn't take more than a second, and yet there my brain goes, wondering how best to make that square.

There isn't even a good square, either.

Would recognizing cars of the same manufacturer as the one you/someone you know own count as a "grownup game"?

For a while I was shouting "car buds!" every time I saw a Mazda 3.
posted by cortex at 2:02 PM on August 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


My pacing route for talking on the phone takes me through the kitchen, where my feet must fall in diagonally adjacent squares. The challenge is to maintain that grid on the rest of the route so that it lines up seamlessly when I make it back to the kitchen.

In grade school and middle school, I'd imagine what I could destroy with one short burst from my lazer eyes like one of the things the fluorescent lights hung from or a table leg that would fall and either directly or though a chain of events hit someone I didin't like or otherwise majorly disrupt a boring class. Later, this game changed into popping tires or felling power lines in order to remove idiot drivers from the road without disrupting the rest of traffic. The short burst was necessary to minimize the chances of "the authorities" to trace the event to me.

The lazer eyes also leveled the horizon, but according to the relative position of a spot on the window I'd use as reference. When the weather was right, a better game was to try to regulate my hand-airfoil so that it supported my arm.
posted by cmoj at 2:07 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Using pop-up door locks in the car to launch torpedos in submarine wars.
posted by Decimask at 2:08 PM on August 20, 2012


The other day I almost punched a stranger in the arm.

Luckily, before doing so, I realized that it was just an old Citroen.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:08 PM on August 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


My pacing route for talking on the phone takes me through the kitchen, where my feet must fall in diagonally adjacent squares. The challenge is to maintain that grid on the rest of the route so that it lines up seamlessly when I make it back to the kitchen.

About right, although mine are not diagonally adjacent but chess knights.
posted by gauche at 2:10 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


phaedon: " Am I the only one who has turned perfecting commercial-skipping into a game?"

No. In fact if you perform poorly at that game in our house, you get laughed at and/or the remote taken away from you. It's like the ONLY thing we are competitive about.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:11 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who has turned perfecting commercial-skipping into a game?

For added difficulty, try this with a remote control where the batteries are starting to go a little bit.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:17 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Would recognizing cars of the same manufacturer as the one you/someone you know own count as a "grownup game"?

At night I will look in my rearview mirror and try to identify a car based on its headlights, and then wait for it to pass to see if I was right.

Although this probably has more to do with cops than it does playing games. Of course I know what a Caprice's headlights look like (that was the mid 90's Chicago cop car), and then you have to check the top to see if it's a cab.
posted by phaedon at 2:18 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The whole point of a road trip, in my mind, is to figure out how long it will take you to get to your destination, and then see if you can nail it within a minute.

Or it was, until I got satnav. Now the whole point of any trip, long or short, is to see if I can beat the original estimated satnav time-to-destination, without having to do anything illegal or stupid.
posted by davejay at 2:22 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Two Three more thingamabobs:

- In boarding school, whenever someone farted, whoever recognized it first had to yell "doorknob!" and both the offender and recognizer had to race to touch the closest doorknob. If the farter got there first they were safe, and if the yeller got there first they were allowed to dispense a punch on the arm of appropriate strength (usually depending on the severity of the smell produced, but not always)

- Yelling "jinx!" whenever you and a friend happen to say the same word either at the same time or right after each other. Punishment by arm-punching may or may not be dispensed depending on mood.

- Attempting to follow individual rain drops or snow flakes with ones' eyes in order to catch a short glimpse of what the entire falling mass looked like (I still do this)
posted by pyrex at 2:27 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Back in the olden days of the seventies, moviegoers could still smoke in cinemas. This left a very (or not so very) faint haze in the air of the auditorium, which the image projected onto the screen would pass through. This meant if you sat near the back of the auditorium and looked up, you would see a series of shafts of light which would mimic the action on screen. Image on screen of sunrise over the ocean and in the smoke between the projector and the screen, you would see a lot of blue streaks with a single red-gold pillar. A series of figures walking through the arctic would appear in the air above as several dark shafts in a wide swath of light.

As a kid, on long car rides I would look out the window at the gravel shoulder and try to discern what the patterns visible there might translate to on a screen: light-coloured gravel with a long tire tread where someone had pulled off and then pulled back on showed up as something dark veering across a pale field and then suddenly being yanked back off the side it came from. Weeds growing on the shoulder would appear as flashes of green as we zoomed past, like green starbursts on a grey field.

So what I am saying is that when I was a kid we had to look at gravel for entertainment.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:29 PM on August 20, 2012 [19 favorites]


They're really close, I'm telling you. Look at this.

No, they haven't got it yet. They're still thinking they're just games.

I know - but some of them are getting really good.

Listen, you've still got time. They're not going to piece it all together, ever.

But now they're talking about it - comparing notes!

Come ON, what are you afraid of? They're just trying to amuse themselves. That's all.

One of them just wrote about how they finally got to the top of their school's door frame.

Wait, what? OH SHIT. OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT.

See! Close it, close it now! Shut it all down NOW!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:36 PM on August 20, 2012 [15 favorites]


So what I am saying is that when I was a kid we had to look at gravel for entertainment.

And you try and tell the young people of today that ..... they won't believe you.
posted by gauche at 2:38 PM on August 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Heh. I'm starting to realize I play games like this all the time. Another obvious one is filling the tank up and letting go of the handle right on the dollar. If I fail, I go to the next dollar.
posted by phaedon at 2:39 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Our favorite car "game" when we were kids - especially if we were sitting three-to-a-seat in the back - was to lean in to turns. You know, to make sure we make it all the way around.

Also, for the first time in years, I've just lost The Game.
posted by muddgirl at 2:42 PM on August 20, 2012


I did most, but my car game (besides the hand-testing of aerodynamics) was to pick a spot on the windshield and have that be my sight as I aligned it with my targets and shot them--sorta like shooting from the turret of the Millennium Falcon.
posted by whatgorilla at 2:45 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did="do" (except the shooting from the window thing--doing that now that I'm the driver would be as bad as texting).
posted by whatgorilla at 2:46 PM on August 20, 2012


At night I will look in my rearview mirror and try to identify a car based on its headlights, and then wait for it to pass to see if I was right.

Although this probably has more to do with cops than it does playing games. Of course I know what a Caprice's headlights look like (that was the mid 90's Chicago cop car), and then you have to check the top to see if it's a cab.


As a pre-school kid I was passionate about cars and sued to sit in the front window of the house identifying aloud makes and models of cars as they drove past. "Volvo 140! Mercury Comet! Ford Mustang! Chevy Impala!" At my first sighting of a Volkswagen Rabbit (née Golf), I stumbled, because this was a totally new thing to me: Volkswagen equaled Beetle and nothing else. My well-meaning dad helped me out and said, "Okay, that one is a little tricky..." And thus for part of my childhood I thought there existed a car called the Volkswagen Little Tricky.

The cop car/taxi dichotomy reminds me that years later I had grown out of my car make and model cataloguing but had a minor obsessive thing going on with looking at license plates, taxi numbers, bus numbers -- any sort of numerical identification on vehicles (the last vestige of this, decades later, is I often look at the tail numbers of airliners I am about to board and look up their service history on my smartphone).

Anyway, I noticed at some point that all of the police cars in my hometown had license plates starting with SAR or SWS (Ontario in those days was letter-letter-letter number-number-number). This did not exclude their unmarked vehicles. Yes, if you spotted a white Ford Fairmont with the license plate SWS 259 containing two guys with matching brush cuts and moustaches, each wearing a white shirt and a tie, you were supposed to understand that they were totally not cops, man.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:48 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then when it says "bear right"...

Left frog!
posted by ceribus peribus at 2:51 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I look at the road ahead and mentally jump over any shadows that cross the car's path. Sometimes I do this in time to music.

Oh my god all the time. If I'm not driving I raise my toes inside my shoes to mark the "jumps".
posted by aspo at 2:52 PM on August 20, 2012


I play a weird tetris-like game with bathroom tiles where they are randomly distributed and I have to make them into various repeating patterns by flipping or swapping them according to rules I can't really articulate.

I used to do something similar with the patterns in the London Underground train moquette.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 2:53 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Travelling by car as a kid, I always imagined that objects that touched the ground beside the road (fenceposts, trees, the corners of buildings, etc.) created imaginary lines that shot perpendicularly across the road. Whenever I thought my foot was exactly halfway between two such lines, I wiggled my toe.

Years later, as an adult, I discovered a card game that provided questions intended to generate interesting conversation. In response to one of the questions that I asked (I forget what it was), a friend of mine described the game above exactly. I simply couldn't believe it.
posted by Brentusfirmus at 2:57 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lifting our feet and/or reaching up and touching the roof of the vehicle while driving over train tracks.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:03 PM on August 20, 2012


Final post in this thread (I swear); something I still do every time I ride as a passenger in either a car or by public transport: counteract centrifugal force at every corner the vehicle encounters as discretely as possible with either legs and/or arms so as to move as little as possible horizontally.

(I'm an adult, I swear! Well.. maybe not that much.)
posted by pyrex at 3:06 PM on August 20, 2012


Instead of a little videogame guy running as fast as he could along with the car, I controlled an imaginary RC car along the landscape that rolled by. Could be surprisingly fake-tricky if the environment was rough.

And you hold your breath while passing cemeteries because it's impolite to breathe in front of those who can't.
posted by item at 3:06 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


When it was raining, I always imagined lasers pointing out from the ends of the windshield wipers - the trees and signs only got cut if the wipers were down when the car passed them.
posted by Arturus at 3:10 PM on August 20, 2012


I used to imagine that I could shoot grappling hooks out of my eyes, which I would fling out the front windshield to catch landmarks; I then winched our car down the road.

Sometimes we would turn before I reaching the landmark, though, and that would rip my eyeballs out. I needed to hold my breath for thirty seconds to regenerate the eyeballs, hooks and winch.
posted by apparently at 3:11 PM on August 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I used to ride the bus to school through miles and miles of cornfields. The rows were perpendicular to the road, and the they looked flashing by made me imagine that there was a long-legged boy running along beside the bus.

I was reminded of this when I read awhile ago that new techniques and corn varieties had increased yields and allowed farmers to plant the field solidly, without rows, and I realized that, indeed, I hadn't seen my long-legged boy in a very long time. I felt sad.
posted by not that girl at 3:11 PM on August 20, 2012


My family used to pretend as we went up a hill in the car that there was no "down" road on the other side, just a sheer cliff, and we would scream in terror as we crested the hill.
posted by not that girl at 3:12 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


A little guy running alongside the car? Pffft. I had a unicorn!
posted by deborah at 3:16 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


What was the holding breath near cemetery thing? Never heard of that.

I used to think this was just some dumb superstition, then I didn't do it once, and my very soul was invaded by the howling hosts of the restless dead.

On the upside, they help me make wittier comments, so there is that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:17 PM on August 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


As a moderately athletic basketball fan, the world is my dunk contest. I still do this.

Same here. And a few years ago I turned it into hit-your-head-on-the-ceiling in the apartment. You have to have a great vertical leap to be able to do it, but you also have to be precise, lest you want a concussion. And if the ceilings at a new apartment are too high, then you can just double pump and tap the ceiling while hanging in the air.
posted by cashman at 3:22 PM on August 20, 2012


Looking out the back of the car, we had road-line lasers to fire at the other cars following us (and when we were lucky, carpool lane torpedoes).
posted by NMcCoy at 3:26 PM on August 20, 2012


From when I was a small kid: while waiting at an intersection in the car, estimating just the right moment, and 'blow out the red light'.


I still do this occasionally....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 3:35 PM on August 20, 2012


Count all the cows' legs and divide by 4. (Or 3, when it's Martian tripod creatures. Great, great barbecue in the Martian tripod critter country.)
posted by jfuller at 3:46 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


When my family was on a trip and passing by a farm field, I would imagine the foreshortened rows of crops going past as the legs of a giant spider that was running alongside the car, with its body at the vanishing point. When there was a break in the rows (like a border between one field and the next) I would imagine that the spider had jumped and would watch for it to "land" when the next field started.
posted by contraption at 4:05 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would always swim the length of the pool underwater or sit on the bottom of the pool as long as I could. We had a game of follow the leader that was closer to parkour than a standard,game of follow the leader. Loved to climb things trees scaffolds ladders. Slug Bug was a pretty standard roadtrip game, plus spot as many different license plates as possible. Name that tune and artist as fast as you could recognize it usually done as a who's this question. The crack game was never my.style but jump and touch was irresistible. Been known to kick a rock down the road a mile or more that requires tremendous concentration as a kid there is always something to distract you. Best if the road has no curbs so you have to control the path of the rock lest it get lost in the sidelines. Riding our bikes behind the DDT fogger truck, who knew it was dangerous?
posted by pdxpogo at 4:21 PM on August 20, 2012


I watched the video first, then came here. Thirty seconds into the video, and I was thinking, "Man, this is going to be a great thread", and I was right.

Powers of two, me too. Only I would be stretched out on the floor with a notebook and would start with the number one and just keep doubling until I would get bored. Having memorized these numbers effortlessly in childhood actually paid off working with early computers since memory is always counted in powers of 2 and just in general, being able to do a fair amount of calculations in my head.

I still do this weird thing with the pages of a book and my right hand, dividing the pages up according to different patterns as I'm reading, and re-adjusting the patterns and pages as I read. This one is not so useful, and actually makes me a little reluctant to get an e-reader.

One of the things I love best about Metafilter is hearing about all of our common quirks. So nice to be able to reassure each other that we're not alone.
posted by marsha56 at 4:23 PM on August 20, 2012


The number of game winning, fourth quarter shots of paper/items I have made in garbage cans would make people go "Michael Jordan...you mean the baseball player?"
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 4:28 PM on August 20, 2012


I had a high powered laser blaster in my head as a kid, which i would use to destroy other cars on the road (all full of evil bad guys, of course). I'd charge the laser by staring at an oncoming headlight (or glancing briefly at the sun during the day), then fire by aiming my eyes and blinking rapidly. Those flashes of light wasted countless enemies.
posted by orme at 4:35 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmmm. I used to do more of this kind of thing. I don't so much anymore. I wonder if it's a youth/development thing? This stage of my adult life is filled with much stress. Is this kind of thing a sign your stress level is high or low?
posted by hot_monster at 5:01 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have three main games.

1. Internally produce a constant pitch. Whenever we pass obstacles, raise that pitch by an interval corresponding to the size of the object. Huge trees get an octave, skinny signposts get a half step, etc. Fire hydrants get a augmented fourth.

2. Either listen to a piece of music for real or internally. As we pass obstacles, emphasize that beat/note/phrase in the music. Produces very strange interpretations.

3. Divide distances between objects in to halves and thirds. Most challenging on long stretches of highway where there are very few objects and you have to count like a metronome in your mind to find halfway (and it only works if the objects are regularly spaced) or on city streets where there are so many objects it is difficult to mentally note each half-way point.

I guess it's probably obvious that I'm from a musical family...
posted by Cygnet at 5:27 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


This Michel Gondry video of The Chemical Brothers' "Star Guitar" is highly appropriate for this thread.
posted by zardoz at 5:28 PM on August 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


My car-scenery-running companion was like a Keith Haring dude. He was white, had no features, and was a little bit transparent.

I miss him. :(

I "jump" over the dashed line lane markers. I can only land between them. I just tap my toes a little inside my shoes but I do it all the time. (On a standard U.S. interstate, if you're going 55, you can do this exactly in time to "Duke of Earl.")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:28 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I'm listening to music and bored, my brain will pick up on a lyric and repeat it over and over. I tap each finger in succession and don't stop thinking the lyric until the last syllable rests on the last finger. I prefer it not to end after one repetition, but if it doesn't end then I lose.

While walking, I try to avoid the cracks and do the "x steps per square" thing mentioned in the video. But if I accidentally step on something, my foot feels weird until my other foot can step on something similar to restore the symmetry.

If I was in a car, I either read or played the "find every letter in the alphabet in order" game. After awhile it would get boring, because you would look for license plates or antique shops and jewelers and pizza places. So I would restrict myself. Only stuff on license plates. Or only stuff on road signs. Or I can't look while we're stopped.
posted by Night_owl at 5:41 PM on August 20, 2012


knew a guy once who told me that as a kid he would lie awake at night fretting over whether god existed. in order to put his mind at ease he would think up all the rules to an imaginary game called frisbee baseball. basically his own version of calvin ball. he would get so into it that he'd stop worrying about it enough to fall asleep.
posted by twist my arm at 5:42 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to imagine a guy on a motorcycle riding in the ditch along the road as we went down the highway. He'd do huge jumps over the road at intersections, or if there was an object in the ditch. Sometimes, he was just a normal guy on a bike. Other times he was Ghost Rider.

Once in a while, I still catch myself doing this as an adult, but my imagination doesn't seem as strong, because I can't envision my motorcyclist as easily anymore.
posted by asnider at 6:37 PM on August 20, 2012


I was passionate about cars and sued to sit in the front window of the house

Man, your parents must have been STRICT!
posted by ShutterBun at 6:39 PM on August 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


I play a version of car-slalom, wherein I change lanes and specifically avoid road reflectors or "Botts' dots. A simple "slalom" between them is worth 1 point, but passing over one so that it goes between the front and rear wheels (without touching them) is worth 3 points.

And yeah, count me among those who might as well put a crosshair on my dashboard, thus transforming the windshield into the heads-up combat display it is primarily used as.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:45 PM on August 20, 2012


I stick bottles out of the window or sunroof of the car...hold one at just the right angle and it will sing....get two, each with just the right amount of liquid and you get a chord.
posted by fzx101 at 7:23 PM on August 20, 2012


I factorize the numbers in licence plates.
posted by Coventry at 7:34 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still, whenever I'm sitting in a place with a tile pattern on the floor (usually, well, the toilet) will play a game in my head of discerning any and all geometric patterns within the tiles.

If I have a soda can in the car, once it's empty I'll try to squeeze it in just the right way in order to feel the vibrations of the radio through it.

Growing up in Houston, where everything is forever away from everything else, it was a big deal to me as a child to predict the minute when we'd arrive anywhere.

At red lights, I'll try to time when it's about to turn green and blink during the change.

And a thousand more I'm not thinking of right now.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:45 PM on August 20, 2012


I factorize the numbers in licence plates.

I make expressions out of the digits on license plates (when possible)! My wife always thought that was the weirdest thing.
posted by Jpfed at 7:48 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your wife is correct.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:53 PM on August 20, 2012


About everything.
posted by LoopyG at 8:07 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I started smiling during the video, and my smile just got wider the further I got into the comments.

Thanks. I needed that.

(Oh, and first one that comes to mind for me is taking giant, bouncy low-gravity leaps from shadow to shadow. Truthfully, though, I think I've played and still play a good third of these.)
posted by Noon Under the Trees at 8:42 PM on August 20, 2012


The human brain: screwed up, or most screwed up thing?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:32 PM on August 20, 2012


My guy running by the car was a ninja, most closely related to Ninja Gaiden for the NES. I think the sign climbing skills in the game translated nicely to highway signs and billboards.

I showed the video to my wife, who declared me weird - except for lava grass, she totally played that.
posted by shinynewnick at 10:20 PM on August 20, 2012


:obligatory michel gondry video:
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:22 PM on August 20, 2012


I used to slalom my finger over and under fenceposts. I can't remember too many more of these, there seem to have been so many and yet so few that lasted long.

I still like walking a grapevine down a curb, right foot down on the left, left foot up on the right, etc.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:26 PM on August 20, 2012


Hey Mefi! I guess it's time to come out of the woodwork. I've been an on and off lurker for years.

Anyway, I'm the creator of this video, under the handle followthefoot. Glad you're all enjoying it! The response has been so much more than I expected. I really had no idea this car window 2D scroller type game was so common.

Sorry to plug myself here, but you might enjoy the rest of the series. It's focused on travel , which I've been fortunate enough to do over the last several years by working abroad, and later on might even feature the creation of an Earth Sandwich!
posted by wilburthefrog at 10:35 PM on August 20, 2012 [19 favorites]


Let me tell you how you win the traffic light timing game: your light won't turn green until the cross traffic gets a red. And the guy in the protected left goes first.
posted by pwnguin at 11:39 PM on August 20, 2012


I have always been irrationally afraid of ghosts. I know they aren't real and even if they were they wouldn't be particularly scary, but for some reason, ghosts just freak me out. So when I was little the "hold your breath when going past a cemetery" thing was really important to me. Except when we moved, to get to school, I had to walk past a really huge cemetery! There was no way I could hold my breath for that long.

So in my little 7 year old brain, I had to think of a solution, and what I came up with was that I had to say hello. "Hello, dead people!" And I'd wave, or at least nod my head. Because if I didn't that was rude, and also they might get upset and possess me.

I am only ever this polite to dead people.
posted by Mizu at 11:51 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


For every imaginable situation, there is a relevant xkcd.

My parents' bathroom wall was decorated with most tiles a plain mottled beige, and a random assortment of them with flower patterns. I was thrilled to finally discover a route through the tiles that allowed me to plot a route that passed through every blank beige tile once and only once, without passing through any of the flower-patterned tiles. Thereafter every time I was in that bathroom, I would mentally trace that route back and forth.

For several years I had a sort of compulsion about perfect numbers. In my head, two was a perfect number because perfection was symmetrical and two was the smallest symmetrical number. So every time I walked somewhere, I always had to stop after an even number of steps, starting with the right foot and ending with the left. Then a while later, I reasoned that if two was a perfect number, then two squared had to be even more perfect. So the walking pattern shifted to becoming a multiple of four steps. It started looking a bit more noticeable to other people, although it was generally easy to hide a quick extra shuffle to make my steps work out right if I'd misjudged a distance.

A year or so later, it occurred to me that if four was even more perfect than two, then sixteen had to be even better than both of them, because it was four squared. After that point, it was upsetting to suddenly notice that the staircase at home had fourteen steps. I eventually stopped playing after my mother asked why I always had to step back down one and up again just before reaching the top of the staircase every time. It was easier to force myself to stop than to explain what was really going on.

Whenever I'm stressed and anxious, I still go back to counting my steps in fours, always ending on the left.
posted by talitha_kumi at 5:35 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


When running up multiple flights of stairs, I make sure to alternate which foot starts. You know, to make sure my legs get an even workout.
posted by notsnot at 6:18 AM on August 21, 2012


On a related note, this art project (Maneater): http://vimeo.com/44866791
posted by chr1sb0y at 6:46 AM on August 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


When listening to music with a strong melody, I often try to tap the melody with the fingers of one hand, as if playing a piano. The only requirement, though, is that ascending intervals need to correspond to left-to-right taps, and vice versa. The challenge is to be able to tap the whole thing using only the fingers of my (e.g.) right hand; if I've just tapped with my pinky and the next note is higher, I lose. With some melodies it's impossible, but that seems to be rare.
posted by valrus at 6:55 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey Mefi! I guess it's time to come out of the woodwork. I've been an on and off lurker for years.

Ha! Hiya, wilburthefrog.
posted by cortex at 8:11 AM on August 21, 2012


Cute. Is that Iowa City?
posted by dontoine at 8:28 AM on August 21, 2012


Dontoine, it totally is Iowa City. I realized that after recognizing Burlington St. and the cemetery I live next to.
posted by cirrostratus at 8:48 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Driving past the orchards and vineyards in the Jan Joaquin Valley: the magical way the rows line up, first in diagonals, then straight lines. A kinetiscopic vision, entrancing--like the way the spokes on wagon wheels in old movies always turn backwards. Row crops line up only one way, and fly past, their near ends in a blur and distal parts converge somewhere, but the mountains at the horizon never seem to move. I didn't know that I was learning geometry.
posted by mule98J at 12:59 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I totally do the floor seam/crack thing, either avoiding them, or stepping on them evenly in the same area of my foot. also I touch my fingers evenly.

Not the same really, but on road trips we do the alphabet game, naming things from a to z. It can be names of cities in that state, famous people, plants, cars, etc.
posted by annsunny at 1:11 PM on August 21, 2012


The giant novelty clocktower I run incorporates a fair number of trick lava floors. If the front door closes before I get to the first step of the stairs—lava. If the bathroom door on the mezzanine closes before I get to the first step of the stairs—lava. If you don't say "Venusian Embassy when passing the suspicious absence of the 13th floor in the elevator, you will probably need to hold onto the rail, as the bottom of the elevator will open and drop you into the basement.

I don't believe in God, mysterious sources of mystical energy, or the soul, but I have a tiny bell concealed within the cowling of my motorcycle that I ring before I go places, and a set of Tibetan tingsha chimes hanging over the toaster that accompany my morning breakfast ritual. I prepare a lovely pair of daisy eggs and a pot of tea for myself, pour two bowls of dog food—1 large, 1 small—light a candle in a little red glass holder on the stove, ring the tingsha bells, and put down one large bowl of dog food for the big down and one small bowl of dog food for the little dog and break the yolk on my eggs before the last delicate inharmonic partials of the chime evaporate.

People say there's this inherent human need for religion, but I'm fine with comfortably and arbitrary rituals. I knock wood when I mention an unhappy prospect, avoid all the sidewalk cracks on the East sidewalk of the stretch of Eutaw Street between Pratt and Lombard, and tap my toes on the floor of my car when I'm crossing a state border. In my self-diagnostic days, when I'd read the DSM-III with the glee of a burgeoning hypochondriac, I used to think I had all sorts of problems rooted in some kind of obsessive compulsion, but honestly, I just like the familiarity of doing the same things the same way.

A toaster waffle is cut first down the sides, leaving a three-hole-wide band, which is then cut, leaving a 3x3 square and two rounded end caps. It makes no difference to the stomach, of course, but you do things in a certain way.

I kept noticing that, when I was counting to 30 while I let my double-edged razor warm up in a sink of hot water and whipped up a perfect foam with a standard pig bristle brush in an Old Spice mug identical to the one my father had, I always had a little tuft of shampoo suds in my right ear. Watching my shower routine, I found that I do the same thing every time, and the way I turn when I rinse myself off, I was missing that ear every time. Changing the pattern was surprisingly difficult, but I no longer end up with a sudsy ear.

When I was a kid, my father explained to me that I needed to be on the lookout for wild boars, though it was probably fruitless, as they can gore you to death before you even hear them coming. Now, like most of my childhood moments of epiphany, I took a bit of advice intended specifically for the wooded stretch of rural Georgia where we were when he explained this to me and extrapolated it into a hair-trigger defensive response that I hoped would keep me safe from pig attack.

"Joseph, what are you doing up that telephone pole?" my mother would ask, turning away just a moment and turning back to find me halfway up the telephone pole in my church clothes as we were walking to Sunday School.

"I heard a wild boar!"

"There are no wild boars in Maryland!"

"How do you know?"

"I have lived in Maryland all my life and have never seen a wild boar, Joe-B. There are no wild boars anywhere near here. Oh my gosh—you've got creosote all over your sport coat now!"

Worse still, the rough texture of a telephone pole plays havoc with doubleknit slacks. I climbed down, and resolved to use more subtle and ritualistic means of defense.

"Joe-B, it's your turn to take out the rot box."

"But it's dark outside!"

"It's not too dark to see. And don't you dare dump it anywhere but the compost heap—I found your last little shenanigan under the sundial."

"But—"

"There are no wild boars out there!"

I'd hold the plastic container full of decomposing stalks and coffee grounds and eggshells and stand on the porch, mapping out my route from the porch to the compost heap. The hydraulic closer on the storm door was just slow enough...well, I don't know why I assumed that wild boars would not attack when the storm door was open, except that I always managed to let go of the door, run like a greyhound on permanently dirty bare feet, launch the sloppy contents of the rot box into the pile, and make it back to the porch just before the door would *click* and all these years later, I have yet to be savaged by a wild boar.

Two years back, I finally came face to face with my opponent on the rambling acreage of my cousin's farm in Georgia.

"Yeah, we got a whole batcha little ones in the pen there, caught 'em out in the backwoods just this month," said my older cousin's almost picture postcard perfect Southern ol' boy farmer, and led me over to the pen, where a cluster of wild boar piglets stood around in the mud in a pen built of ramshackle wood salvaged from buildings built from other buildings that had finally fallen apart in the sixties. One little one stood alone, a piglet with markings just like a chipmunk.

"Oh my gosh, I think I'm going to need insulin," I said, then remembered where I was and toned down the gay by about seventy-four percent. "Damn if I don't wanna reach in an pick that pig up!"

"I think his momma would have something to say about that. She looks mad, just knowin' that you're thinkin' about that little pig."

Still, you need a little foolhardiness, even in adulthood. Later on the trip, I created a distraction, leaned over the fence, and snatched the little chipmunk pig. He didn't squeal, which was odd for a little, and just sat there warm in my hands. For a moment, I wished I had my Members' Only jacket from the eighties so I could brandish the pig in a perfect Coke Is It! commercial moment of arbitrary wackiness, but he seemed aloof, and Mrs. Pig had noticed me.

"Hey, you managed to get that little pig!" my cousin's perfect good ol' boy husband said. "You wanna take 'im home?"

For another moment, I pondered if the combination of my mother, a small pig, and a Miata would be a tolerable assemblage on a six hundred and twenty-four mile drive home, but I opted against.

"Tempting," I said, and maintaining a seventy-four percent reduction in gayness is difficult when there is an adorable wiggly little pig baby disguised as a chipmunk in your hand, but I managed. "Yeah, I suspect the old woman would have an issue with me bringin' a pig on this trip."

Tell your friends not to attack me, I told the pig in the telepathic voiceover that the pulsy-veined mutants from Telos IV used to speak, or I'll come back and eat you. I lowered the little pig into the pen and he ran for Momma, hiding there in her shadow.

I have yet to be attacked by a wild boar. This is proof of nothing, but games and rituals have their place. My mother's back has never broken, I've neither died nor had a needle in my eye, and none of these things are anything but games, but life is so short and so complicated that sometimes it's just better to let the real horrors retreat into the haze and to instead be wary of the the lava that lies everywhere a door is closing.

Still, sometimes I thought that I was alone in my crazy rituals, but long, long ago, when we were still a family in the most archaic and nuclear sense of things, I watched my brother sitting in the front seat of our old silver and purple Suburban. The miles rolled under us, and he sat shotgun with me in the back, wedged between snoozing mom and reading sister, and I watched his head tip quickly, just a bit, like a sort of regular palsy.

"What the hell are you doing?" I asked, irritably.

"Evasive action."

"What?"

"There's poop on the window there," he said, pointing out a little purple blotch of crapped-out mulberry seed. "You close one eye and steer it between the dashes on the line on the road."

"Huh?"

"Close one eye, find some poop, and steer."

If you happened to be passing by on your way to Maine, you'd see two boys in a silver and purple Suburban, each with one closed eye, rocking in a quick, but regular, palsy, steering poop through the pulsating dashes of the lines between lanes.

"What on earth are you two doing?" my father asked, after some time, having been distracted by the bluegrass on the stereo while Will was explaining this to me. Will explained it to him.

If you happened to be passing by on your way to Maine, you'd see two boys and a grown man with a well-tended handlebar mustache waxed into perfect loops in a silver and purple Suburban, each with one closed eye, rocking in a quick, but regular, palsy, steering poop.

"Okay, that's fun, but I better cut it out or we'll all end up bleeding to death upside-down in a ditch."

Well, yeah, there's that.
posted by sonascope at 1:50 PM on August 21, 2012 [15 favorites]


On bus rides I try to judge when the whole bus would just fit between two lampposts/power line poles and blink in the right instant, like I'm taking a finish-line photo from far away where the bus wouldn't overlap either pole. I sort of imagine sports commentators in my head while doing this (Look at that capture! OH, they're missing the front of the bus that try, let's see if they can salvage that..)

For the advanced player: The perspective challenge from sitting in the middle of the bus makes this extra-tricky and the 'photo' (and announcer comments) even more amazing.
posted by BigJen at 7:51 PM on August 21, 2012


Indeed it is Iowa City. Born and raised.
posted by wilburthefrog at 9:47 PM on August 21, 2012


the floor is made of lava
posted by likeatoaster at 6:30 AM on August 22, 2012


My bus game was side-gunner. Looking sideways out the window (without looking ahead), I had to watch for enemies and shoot them with my invisible eye-laser. Targets were individual people outside, not in a car or building. I had to recognize them and think "bang" (my laser went bang) while my eyeballs were actually on them to get them. If I didn't do that before they scrolled out of view, they blew up the bus.

In crowded areas, getting them all was difficult - I had to individually "bang" each one. In less busy areas, I'd choose a "friendly" criteria, like "anyone wearing a hat is a good guy." Shooting a friendly was not allowed. In rural areas with few people, the challenge was remembering I was playing fast enough to get them when one finally showed up.
posted by ctmf at 11:58 AM on August 26, 2012


In the car, repeating everything the radio commercial says in the whiniest, most mocking voice possible, or alternately, with the enthusiasm turned up to 11,000. Surprisingly hilarious.
posted by ctmf at 12:01 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, I forgot one of my most survival-oriented games, with actual special effects:

As a kid, I was at risk of actually dying of boredom in our suburban Presbyterian church, where the preacher would sort of drone between having the congregation listlessly heave ourselves to our feet to drone out a half-hearted hymn from the white bread hymnbook. What I came up with as a way of passing the time was to look up, like a beatific portrait of Jesus, and stare at one of the bright recessed light fixtures overhead until the light burned a blue point of an afterimage into my retinas. Then, I'd make the floating insubstantial blue dot touch the heads of everyone in the church, including the choir, and then I'd have it buzz around the preacher like a magical blue yellowjacket until the sermon was finally over.
posted by sonascope at 7:45 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have very much played 'throw a thing as close as possible to the ceiling without hitting it'. It's very convenient because all you need is a ceiling and a thing, and it's challenging because there's always a little better you can get.
posted by Anything at 11:35 PM on September 6, 2012


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