Stairball gets mentioned in the NY Times

For everyone who attended our stairball tournament at Ride The Tide, you may be gratified to see that it got us a mention in the NY Times! See At Decision Time, Colleges Lay On Charm by Alan Finder, from the April 26, 2006 issue.

Let others offer simple campus tours or paid transportation. At Swarthmore College here, high school seniors deciding whether to accept the college’s offer of admission can play indoor soccer with the dean. Or a round of stairball, a sport invented on campus. They can go to a French film festival, a feminist dance party (“all genders welcome”) or an “Earthlust Sleepout” all night under the stars. Or else try henna tattooing. And, yes, there are also sessions on financial aid and meetings with faculty members.

I must submit one correction: stairball was not in fact invented at Swarthmore, it was invented by Swarthmore student Adam Lizzi ’08, before he arrived on campus. He has, however, invented more interesting games since he got here, and will no doubt invent many more before he graduates. You may too, if you join ALASSCA!

Stairball to take place during Ride The Tide

For the benefit of prospective students and other members of the Swarthmore College community, we are planning a stairball tournament! It is scheduled to take place at 4-5pm 9-10pm on Thursday, April 20th, in the central stairwell of Parrish (right in front of the mail room). Here is what I remember of the blurb that I put in the proposal to Admissions:

Stairball – an game invented right here at Swarthmore! As a bizarre amalgam of bowling, baseball, and billiards, stairball is certain to entertain, if not to exercise. Adam Lizzi ’08 founded ALASSCA to research and invent unusual games, and stairball is only one of many games that we have created and discovered. Come join us!

I was going to ask for money in the proposal to buy food and stairballs, but Adam nixed both: “I have plenty of stairballs,” he said. He’s going to regret that later when the campus is overflowing with stairball players and there aren’t any stairballs to be found 😉

No doubt you are wondering exactly what stairball is! Basically, the goal is to bounce a ball down a flight of stairs, bouncing on progressively more stairs each time you throw the ball. So the first time you throw the ball, it must bounce on one stair, the second time it must bounce on two stairs, and so forth. Each time the ball bounces on an incorrect number of stairs, that’s an out, and after three outs you switch places with the person who was standing at the bottom of the stairs catching your pitches (we use baseball scoring).

You can read the official stairball rules if you want a more thorough (and anal) account of how the game is played. I’ll leave it to Adam to explain some strategies for how to play, if he so desires. 😉

Why we are here

One day in December, as Adam was telling me about yet another game he had just invented (the Transadditional Cylinder), I realized that these games were too good to be kept to ourselves, to only circulate around our small circle of friends. They deserved to be shared with the universe! They demanded to be published and discussed among avid gamers everywhere! Adam and his friends invent, discover, and play so many awesome games that are not known outside of his social circle — it would be a shame if any of them died out and were forgotten. I suggested to him that he should start a blog, to document his gaming adventures and bring his friends along for the ride, and he was agreeable to the suggestion. I therefore helped him set up this blog, and that’s how we got here.

This blog will serve several purposes:

  • To reach our friends and acquaintances who, whether due to time or space constraints, cannot game with us regularly, but who would like to keep abreast of developments so that they can join in our gaming when they see us. Ideally, they would be able to play the games wherever they are, so they can get in practice before facing the masters, but simply learning the rules ahead of time would suffice. 😉
  • To spread our games to people we have never met, to places that we have never visited. We hope that these games will take on a life of their own, and that they will be played without our personal guidance or encouragement. Personally, I think it would be really cool to walk down a stairway in a city far from my home and discover some random children playing stairball.
  • To save our games for posterity, so that the generations that follow us can continue playing the games that we played, long after we are dead and gone. This may seem a bit ambitious for a piece of emphemeral digital media, but with projects such as the Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine, we can hope that internet resources will survive into the far future.

But most importantly, we hope that this blog will serve to entertain you, dear reader. Game on!