At Playful Escape, a wonderful all-day festival, organised by Antidote and the Museum of Happiness, amongst others, there was enormous quantities of play to be had. Since I’m obliged only to officially include one play activity in my 100 Days of Play (sorry, them’s the rules!) I’m going to go with the one I’m unlikely to get another chance to participate in anytime soon: Giant Hungry Hippos.

The principle is simple: four people lie chest-down on skateboards and hold a bucket / washing-up bowl in their hands. Another two people take the legs of each of the skateboarders. I think there was a general misnaming of the people on the skateboards as ‘the hippos’, when surely the hippos are the combination of the person lying on the skateboard and the two holding their legs.

The standing pair rush forwards, pushing the person on the skateboard into the centre of a circle, where their role is to capture coloured balls, and drag them back out of the circle as the standing pair reverse and pull them out. In the basic game the hippo who collects the most balls wins. Variants include one of the colours of balls being ‘infected’ and therefore taking away from the total number of balls.

I got a chance both to be the legs of the hippo and the torso. Being the torso was certainly the most fun, but the game relies on a division of labour – and shared joy and glory.

I particularly loved this play activity because it worked really well with a large crowd of people, making great use of the festival-goers!

There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud. – Carl Sandburg

Ease of play: 5/10 

Resemblance to play: 9/10 

Aggression: High

Speed: Fast

Enjoyability: High

Potential frequency of play: Low

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