Calvinball goes “boink” on campus
“No sport is less organized than Calvinball!” says a Calvin and Hobbes strip.
Now the game without rules, beloved by many and understood by few, comes from Bill Watterson’s acclaimed comic strip to Washington University.
University sophomores Lujia Zhang, Jason Boettger and Jeffrey Radlauer have founded WU Calvinball. The game, invented and named by Calvin, is defined by its singular lack of definition. Instead, Calvinball is a self-modifying game that relies on ingenuity and creativity, with the members acting as rule-makers.
“We strive for a certain level of confusion,” Zhang said. “That’s what makes it fun.”
The transition from the page to the playing field was not easy. Though its founders admit that “it really works well on a boy-with-his-imaginary-tiger level,” the transformation required practice games and a certain level of flexibility.
The signature black masks that Calvin and Hobbes wear have been modified to create arm and headbands, when it was found that facial covers were restrictive. Additionally, some limitations have been implemented to ensure the safety and fun factor of the game.
Objects can also have variable uses such as croquet wickets, which can act as safety zones. In past games the club has utilized water balloons, engineering hard hats and a football to spice up ordinary games of tag and capture the flag.
“The key thing to remember is that there’s no competition. We want people to play like they’re playing for the Olympics, but to have fun,” Radlauer said.
This is a nod to Calvinball’s origins, which came as Calvin’s rebellion against baseball. Indeed, the game shies away from anything that is similar to an organized sport. Scores are irrelevant and often nonsensical (i.e. Q-12). There is even a move to make the game more spontaneous, in the true spirit of Calvinball.
As far as they are aware, the club is the only one of its kind in the country, especially on college campuses. Though it bears resemblance to the Muggle Quidditch phenomenon started at Middlebury College, no college student group has officially played Calvinball.
“I think it’s a really great opportunity for the Wash. U. community to take part in a game full of variety,” sophomore Phoebe Anderson-Dana, an avid fan of the “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip, said.
Though it has taken the founders almost one year to get the proverbial Calvinball rolling, interest in the new club has been strong; 40 people played the game last weekend.
The founders of WU Calvinball are not amazed at its popularity.
“You get a workout, make friends, make up rules and hit people with water balloons,” Zhang said. “What more could you want?”