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編花繩
Photograph: Time Out Hong Kong

Childhood games every Hong Kong kid grew up playing

Back when ‘Apple’ was just a fruit

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong
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Do you still remember what you did as a kid before we all became tech-obsessed, Mario Kart-drivers and phone-bound Pokémon trainers of today? We do, and to be honest, we feel a pang of sadness watching our favourite childhood games fade out of the picture. In case you’re feeling the old-school vibe today, here’s a list of some classic childhood games every Hongkonger grew up playing. So, grab along your childhood buddies, scroll down, and let’s relive those memories!

RECOMMENDED: In need of a taste of nostalgia? These 10 best local childhood sweets and snacks in Hong Kong may help you. We’ll even tell you where to buy them!

Childhood games every Hong Kong kid grew up playing

Peaceful war (天下太平)
Photograph: Time Out Hong Kong

Peaceful war (天下太平)

Roughly translated as 'Peaceful war', this game only requires a piece of paper and a pen. First, pick a worthy competitor amongst your friends and draw four squares on each end of the paper to represent your fortress. From there, play rock, paper, scissors to decide who gets to make a move. For each move, you can draw shields to protect your grounds or draw tanks and even nucs to ‘take down’ each other’s fortress. Let your imagination go wild – this game can literally go on forever.

Paper fortune teller (東南西北)
Photograph: Time Out Hong Kong

Paper fortune teller (東南西北)

A paper fortune teller – aka cootie catcher, chatterbox, whirlybird, or whatever you want to call it – may not work as well as a crystal ball or tarot cards, but it’s the closest thing we had as kids. Fold up a piece of paper and mark the four compass points on each square flap. Then, make up some ‘fates’ and write them down on the inner folds. You can even put down some dares if you want to make the game a little more exciting. Now all that’s left to do is for you to pick a number that decides how many times you’ll open and close the fortune teller, as well as the direction that indicates the flap you’ll open. And there you have it; your fate has been decided – you’re going to marry that kid in your class who always smells like farts and have seven kids together. Good luck! 

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Finger war (劈手指)
Photograph: Time Out Hong Kong

Finger war (劈手指)

Forget thumb war. This game is the real deal because we’re literally battling it out with every finger we’ve got. To begin, interlock your fingers and firmly hold out your pinkies. Then take turns and try cleaving your opponent’s two fingers without messing up yours. Whoever’s pinkies unclasp is defeated, and must engage another finger for the next round. Start from your pinkies to your ring fingers, so on and so forth. For those who’ve played the game before, you’d know when you’re down to your powerless thumbs that you're as good as dead.

Rock, paper, scissors – savage edition (握手包剪揼)
Photograph: Time Out Hong Kong

Rock, paper, scissors – savage edition (握手包剪揼)

Every kid has played rock, paper, scissors, but not everyone has the guts to take on this painfully savage version of the universal classic. Apart from doing the good-old rock, paper, scissors routine, this game comes with a consequence for the losers, as the winner of each round gets to slap the back of the other person’s hands. Usually, it only involves a gentle, light slap. But if you’re playing with a few close friends, we can’t guarantee the same. In fact, we’re pretty sure everyone will be walking away with throbbing, red hands.

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Hamburger (夾麵包/漢堡包)
Photograph: Time Out Hong Kong

Hamburger (夾麵包/漢堡包)

Sorry to disappoint, but this game doesn't involve any hamburgers. Instead, it's another upgraded version of rock, paper, and scissors played with a small group of people. Sitting in a circle, players must play rock, paper, scissors, where those who lose have to place their hands in the middle of the circle, one on top of the other. Continue this until only one player is left as the winner. Then, the winner will have to countdown before quickly smacking down on the 'handburger' tower (get it?), while the others would immediately move away their hands to avoid being hit. The game can only end two ways: someone's hand will get slapped, or the winner will end up slapping their own hand down onto the surface. Hard. Either way, someone will be in pain. Exciting, isn't it?

Cat’s cradle (編花繩)
Photograph: Time Out Hong Kong

Cat’s cradle (編花繩)

Whether you’re alone or with a buddy, this incredible game can be played anywhere as long as you’ve got a string. From something as simple as a star to complicated patterns like the Eiffel Tower, you can create various interesting shapes and patterns with nothing but a string – and the variations are limitless. With two people, you can even transfer the patterns back and forth each other’s hands to create new fascinating shapes. This game was for sure, one of our favourite pastime activities back then. 

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Shoot (射龍門)
Photograph: Courtesy Time Out Hong Kong

Shoot (射龍門)

Not to be confused with the card game of the same Chinese name, Shoot has nothing to do with poker cards. It’s a football match held on a piece of paper. To start, draw two goals on two ends of the paper. Then, hold the top of your pen with your index finger, mark a spot in front of your goal, and flick the pen towards the direction you want to ‘shoot’. The endpoint of the line would then indicate the position of the ‘football’. From there, just take turns ‘shooting’ until someone scores a goal. Trust us, it's a lot more exciting than it sounds.

Eraser flicking (彈擦膠)
Photograph: Time Out Hong Kong

Eraser flicking (彈擦膠)

This game is a simple but surprisingly intense battle with – yup, you've guessed it – rubber erasers. There's no limit to the number of players involved, but usually, it's played with only two or three people. Each player would take turns trying to flick each other's erasers off the table until their own was the last one standing. Some hardcore players would even take things up a notch and ‘weaponize’ their erasers with staples and rulers! Were you one of them?

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Black and White (黑白)
Photograph: Time Out Hong Kong

Black and White (黑白)

Unlike other hand-clapping games from around the world, the Black and White game doesn’t have a song or a rhyme to go with it. Wondering why it is called Black and White? We have no idea, but we do know that the clapping sequence is as simple as this: a right-handed high five, a left-handed high five, a double high five, and another double high five with the back of your hands. Increase the number of claps and high fives one by one for each round and go as fast as you can. Whoever gets it wrong first is the loser!

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