Games designed to alienate one particular person, the "it," are part of our social heritage. Whether the game is keep away, tag or variances thereof, ultimately the fastest, most coordinated rise to the top, leaving the weakest left to fight it out for the "it" position. Games like this teach and strengthen primal instincts in all of us and establish the pecking order we all must face throughout our lives. It's better to get the pain of humiliation over early, rather than later in life. Isn't it?
While many childhood games have fallen out of favor for more politically correct modern versions where everyone's a winner, kick the can deserves to be placed in the game hall of fame. It deserves a comeback, not only among children, but adults as well.
The secret to classic games lies in the simplicity of rules. Kick the can is no different and the rules are easy, a hybrid combination of tag and hide-and-go-seek.
First, take a can and place it in an open area. This is "home base." Put rocks or marbles in it to make a nice hollow peal when someone kicks it. Second, select a person to be "it." "It" counts to 50, or some other predetermined number, and everyone else goes and hides. When time is up, "it" seeks those in hiding. When "it" finds somebody, he or she calls their name and races back to the can. If "it" reaches the can before the hidden person does then the person goes into "prison."
Here's where it gets tricky. Once somebody is in prison, any uncaptured player can make an attempt to kick the can. If they make it, then anyone in prison gets to escape and hide again. "It" must retrieve the can and put it back in it's original location before they can go hunting again. If "it" reaches the can before the uncaptured player does, they can call out their name and they become captured.
Once everybody is in jail, the first person to be put in jail becomes "it."
Played fairly, this game can go on for hours, especially if a fair number of hiding places are present. However, with variations, this game takes on some ominous aspects.
Try playing at night. The cover of darkness makes for some fun stealth tactics. Give "it" the only flashlight. Or not. Make tackling legal. While kids can recover from a good body slam, gravity and mass have much more impact on adult bodies, so be careful. Even among kids it can be dangerous. Boise Weekly Publisher Sally Barnes claims that as a child she broke her shoulder during one particularly rough game. Other variances include selecting a location with natural obstacles, like a cliff, trench or stream. Try placing the can on top of a pole where you have to hit it off. This game actually becomes "Punch the can" but that's just semantics. If you lose interest in these rules, you can always introduce edged weapons or firecrackers. OK, that might be a little rough, but you get the idea.