Games we play

  • Books
  • Tuesday, 20 Jul 2010

Keeping alive the charm of traditional games.

FROM batu seremban to bottle caps, congkak to “police and thieves”, these simple Malaysian games have brought delight to us and our forefathers.

When times were simpler, conjuring ideas for makeshift games came very naturally to young children. A mere appetite for good fun with the neighbourhood kids and classmates in school was enough to fuel the the imagination for games.

In primary school, my friends and I played a game known as “rubber” in between lessons. With a flat piece of pencil eraser, we would take turns to flip ours over the opponent’s. Two to four could play.

These inexpensive and unsophisticated games did more than provide entertainment and promote social interactivity; they also kept us out of trouble that might have arisen from idle minds.

Now, these culture-rich games can be passed on to the generations that come after us, thanks to a gaming handbook titled Games We Used To Make And Play, jointly produced by the Malaysian Institute of Management and Ricoh Malaysia.

“Our rich, multi-cultural diversity is enhanced through traditional game-playing because it does a brilliant job of promoting racial acceptance and common understanding of individual cultures,” says MIM chairman Jen Tan Sri Zain Hashim.

A conversation between Zain and Ricoh Malaysia managing director Lim Eng Weng on games they played during their youth led to the production of the handbook. Both organisations concur that game-playing hones strategic and innovative thinking to sharpen decision-making skills of future managers.

The book was launched in July 2009 and a second edition is now underway. Through this collaboration, the book captures values that MIM is keen to promote – teamwork, open acceptance of diverse culture, the genuine warmth of human friendship – as well as meeting Ricoh Group’s corporate social responsibility, which aims to foster attitudes and actions that value people and the Earth.

“Playing games, especially traditional ones, can help break down the barriers of communication, foster team spirit, spark community sharing, and develop friendships that can stand the test of time,” Lim says. The truth in that can be seen in how different life is today compared to the decades before the 90s. Youngsters these days are more immersed in cyberspace gaming than spending time outdoors.

“The coming generations may not have the luxury of playing or even knowing the games we played during the pre-colonial, Merdeka and post-Merdeka era unless we document the facts while they are still fresh in our memories,” Lim adds.

Games We Used To Make And Play aims to bring those traditional pastimes back into today’s culture – games that require school children to be creative and resourceful to keep themselves entertained with little or no pocket money; to fill the time when their parents are away at work; and to draw everyone together regardless of racial or social standing. Remember A-E-I-O-U, guli guli or “bottle cap slicer” (a simplified version of carrom using discarded metal bottle caps)?

While the book is straightforward in description and illustration, and rather remiscient of a primary school workbook, don’t be deceived by its simplicity. What you are looking for is easy-to-follow content, and this compilation can give you just that. Language is simple, and the rules of the games are clear.

In fact, it makes a great gift. You’ll be enlightening the young ones on the wonderful culture of simple games of the past, and for the older ones, the book will serve as a nostalgic reminder of their roots.

MIM and Ricoh Malaysia invite Malaysians to send in a description of traditional games they used to play, with game rules and penalties. Accepted entries will be featured (with credit mention) in the second edition, and the conributors will receive copies of the first and second books. Include your full name, IC number and contact details. E-mail or send to Games We Used To Make And Play (2nd Edition), c/o Marketing Solutions Sdn Bhd, 7-19-1, Jalan Jalil Perkasa 14, Esplanad Arcade, Bukit Jalil, 57000 Kuala Lumpur. Submission period is Aug 2-15. For more details, go to

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