7 Types of All Camp Games You Can Run This Summer
WHY ALL CAMP GAMES?
So much of what we do at summer camp is around making memories. Steve Baskin, Director/Owner at Camp Champions, talks about the role of camp to be to give kids an opportunity to build their narrative. That so much of how we interact with the world is based on the narrative we play in our head. You might call this self-talk or your world view, but this personal narrative is built from our memories.
The thing about memories is that they aren’t all created equal and we don’t remember experiences equally. Chip and Dan Heath describe this effect as the Power of Moments. We remember moments that are different. They call this framework EPIC. Moments of… Elevation, Pride, Insite, and Connection.
At camp our job is to create opportunities for kids to have EPIC moments that might create memories and give them the power to create positive personal narratives for when they leave.
These happen in large and small moments at camp, but a huge opportunity we have to create these is through all camp games. Think about it, where else can you get 50-200 maybe 500 adults and kids pretending and playing together. We have this enormous chance to create moments that kids will remember and awesome coaches, in our staff, to help frame these moments for kids to help them create positive self-talk. We will have to come back to how to coach staff around recognizing and reacting to potential EPIC moments and the power they have in those moments, but right now I want to talk about all camp games.
BACK TO ALL CAMP GAMES
At Stomping Ground, the camp I helped found, we run different night games every night of the summer, but they are mostly variants on a few different archetypes. They are all made up specifically for our camp, but many of the basics or mechanics have been borrowed. Huge shout out to Camp Augusta for many inspirational ideas.
We break games down in categories. Campers vs Campers or Collaborative, Runaround or Party, World Building or Simple, Station Games, and Performance. Lots of games overlap and borrow from each different type, but these are the basics. Once we have an archetype we pick a theme or story, add some different mechanics, and build the hype. Today I want to look at the different archetypes and link to some examples.
Campers vs Campers
Simply who wins? Are the campers competing against each other? For me, the upside of campers competing with each other is that there is more of a mystery about who will win and there are more interactions that happen because we have more people on each team. We tend to only play these types of games with at least 3 teams. You can read more about how we split up teams here.
In these, the campers are all on one side with counselors and other staff playing the “bad guys” or opposing side. Our style is to have staff on the campers’ side as well as playing the villains for supervision purposes and because the game is more fun. If you are a board game person, think campers vs campers is like Catan and collaborative is like Pandemic.
In almost all our games there is a ton of running around, but when we call them run around games we really are talking about if you can run around by yourself or if you have to stay with a group. For what we call run around games, as a camper, you can run around and interact with whatever is available by yourself in a designated area. Back to Capture the Flag. CTF is a run around game because we set boundaries and supervise within those boundaries but kids don’t have to stay as a group.
The other side of the runaround coin are party games. In a party game, campers stay with a specific group and a staff member as they travel around camp. These can be cabin groups or other groups, but for us they allow us to travel over wider areas of camp and still maintain good supervision.
These are the least defined types of games we play and tend to be the most complicated. Below is a write up for a game called Runes that we would call a world building game. For us they tend to have some kind of town, usually some currency and a shop keeper, and monsters. Most of the time campers are free to move around like a run around game. They tend to also be able to level up in some way, maybe earn weapons or special powers. These games often are the favorite for kids that love more complicated video games, board games, or things like Magic the Gathering.
For us, station games are anything where the little stations are the cornerstone of the activity. The most common station games are things like carnivals or casino nights, but rotationals where you move as a group to specific games or activities would also fit here. Here is a list of stations we brainstormed during a workshop last year.
These are things like camp fires, skit nights, dance shows, plays, talent shows, etc. The idea is that the majority of camp is watching a small group of people do a performance. For the first couple years of Stomping Ground we did not run many of these because we didn’t think kids liked sitting still. On the third day of thunderstorms we broke and ran a talent show with the option for kids to go play games or indoor dodgeball. Almost all the kids stayed for the talent show and now we run more performances. You can see some of my thoughts about opening campfires, a performance. here.
Below are some links to the write ups we use at Stomping Ground for these different games. Please feel free to use or adapt them for your camps. I love digging into these types of games and helping people bring their ideas to reality.
We've got games in the Games and Activities section of this site.