When I think about universal games, I have in mind newly created video games and consoles: wii, ps3, nitendo DS, Warcraft… Anywhere around the world, if you talk about these games, people who heard about these would know what you are talking about because of globalization. I have never thought however that I would find all the games I used to grow up in rural Madagascar, here in rural Senegal. So when you don’t understand the language of the village that you go to and you don’t have a particular schedule to follow, what do you do? Me, I spent most of my time with children. We did not need to use languages to communicate. Signs and pulling each other everywhere worked out just fine. We played.
Let’s go back to games, when I lived in rural Madagascar from my fifth until my tenth year old… I used to spend a lot of time with my friends playing. I never really had games like wii, ps3, nitendo DS… we just played with what we had: ropes, elastics, rocks, stones, the ground, bricks, fields and so forth. I saw the exact same situation here in Senegal. There is a game I used to play called “Tsobato” in Malagasy that I saw the girls play in Guade Bauffe. It is a game involving five little stones, trying to juggle them with your hands. Girls take turn and follow specific rules… how many stones should they catch and how. Another interesting fact is that I also showed this game to my friend Malahat from Afghanistan in College and she told me that she played that game back in her home country.
Names, levels, rules might change for these different games almost made out of almost nothing but one thing made me reflect… how universal these games were. I was wondering also wondering if globalization might have contributed to the diffusion of universal (may be old) games like Tsobato in Afghanistan, Madagascar and Senegal or if children around the world have similar thoughts about the use of resources. All I am really sure about is finding creativity everywhere, No matter what resources there are they can always find a way to create a game out of them. A good example: I remember my brother, my mother would buy them small cars… but they would lose or break them after a week. However my mother would find them playing very often with little cars made out of carved-bricks.
I also sang a lot to the children, surprisingly to me … to little boys. They would ask me to sing for them, after I finished I would tell them to sing for me as well. They hesitated in the beginning always but came up with very beautiful and well-sang songs. I was surprised because in Madagascar, singing was more attributed to little girls. I thought Senegal had more rigid gender roles than Madagascar but I guess, gender roles are not really relevant to those little boys… maybe it will come later as they get older.
And then there were a lot of dancing… I don’t know how to dance so… I watched a lot and try to learn but always failed.