Game Day

3. Create from the eyes of a camper. With the storyline in place and the length of the game decided, brainstorm what the campers are going to do from start to finish. Plan each step from the campers’ perspective. How do you know what to do? Who do I travel with? Where do I go, and how do I know where to go? What is my goal? How will I know it’s over? What will it be like as the youngest camper? The oldest?

Use the story board to see how a cabin group or single camper will navigate the game from first instructions to roll call at the end. The details are important at this point in order to understand what they need to make it successful and fun for them.

Ask yourself, “What’s fun at this point?” While planning a new pirate’s game here at camp we used a wall for storyboarding. Then we took a card representing the cabin group and moved it from start to finish, stopping along the way to discuss what will happen at each point.

There were pirates who were selling items the kids needed, pirates giving clues to solve the map riddles, and of course, black beards ghosts trying to delay their journey and get their gold!

We changed our minds as the creative juices starting flowing. We spent nearly an hour changing up the rotation of the game to meet the progression of the story. Again, allow all ideas to be heard. Keep camper safety and ease of understanding in front of the process at all times.

4. Plan and hide the logistics. Now it’s time to create the magic. Look at each point of the camper progression and ask your planning team, “What is needed to make this experience actually happen?”

This is where staffing, props, decorations, written materials, emergency communication and first aid, roll call for campers, and all the other details happen. You must see what characters will need to make the story come to life.

What do the counselors need to know to be informed and prepared to play their role in the game? For Harry Potter day and Pirates, all counselors receive a character packet. In it is a list of the rules, suggested character profile to help them get into the part, gold doubloons, clues to give kids and a quick reminder of where the children should be going after they see them. The biggest disaster in a big game is when the characters (staff) do not know where to send the kids after they come to them!

Some staff acts as wandering characters. Theses characters have two roles:

1) Give clues to campers

2) Provide wandering supervision as the game proceeds

The greatest part of big games to kids is the perceived freedom to play a game as a cabin group. The youngest children are assigned CITs or older campers in our leader-in-training program to move through the game with them.

Older cabins move as cabin groups. The wandering characters and staff at all stations and on the boundaries provide all the supervision necessary to ensure a safe game, but the feeling of “freedom” the campers get adds to the memory of the event.

Golden Rules

The Golden Rule of Logistics is to ensure the camper’s knowledge of how to play the game! The worst big game theme days and special activities were the ones where the children did not understand the rules, and made worse when they sought out answers from staff and only two or three people truly understood the game!

Make the rules simple to understand and break the game and characters down so that staff knows the game, but only needs specifics for certain parts.

On Pirates day, staff are assigned to stations and or wandering characters. Everyone understands that the kids meet with wandering characters to get clues and beads. They then go to the stations to exchange them for gold. Great! Not everyone memorizes what the station leaders need to know to exchange the beads for gold, sell certain items that are necessary for the kids to have, and point them to their next destination to earn a map piece.

To educate the kids, think of a few ways to get the basics of the game communicated before you actually play the game. Do not try to teach a new game on the athletic field just before you play it!

All of us camp professionals have memories of sitting for an hour or more after dinner trying to explain the game we are supposed to try and play before the sun goes down! Here, we are fans of surprising the kids with letters in their cabins.

Theme letters, if it’s Pirates day for instance, are then written in the way a pirate would speak. Alien Hunt? Written by the MIB Headquarters at Area 51! Harry Potter Day, Kern Branch of Hogwarts School. The Under Siege Game, written by the United Nations Special Operations Headquarters! The point is to make even the introduction and first explanation sheet fun!

The kids will read their letters and then be able to talk to their counselor about it! The counselor should already know how to play the game and be able to talk with their cabin.

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