One of the things that I am most proud of as I get the opportunity to serve as one of the stewards of this wonderful 90 year old institution is the sense of tradition that exists here. I love that we sit on the same chairs and eat at the same tables that have been sat in and eaten at for generations. I love the fact that we sing the same songs that have been sung for generations…that fathers and sons can sing together. I love that we play many of the same games that have been played here for generations…that fathers and sons can play together. I love that we have the same special big event days that have been going on for years here about which fathers and sons can share exaggerations (and even prevarications) of their own athletic prowess and legendary heroism. I love that we all sit at the Council Fire Ring every Sunday night, just like many of these boys’ fathers and even grandfathers have before them. Our sense of history and tradition is really special.
Still, I am quick to remind anyone that says that this place is ALL about tradition, that this is not the case either. If Nebagamon didn’t attract new kids, new staff, and try new programs, it would have withered and vanished long ago. Newness and freshness are what keeps us relevant and moving forward. It is with this in mind that we leave two nights every session completely blank and charge staff members with the opportunity to create something brand new. Thursday night was one of those nights.
Now before I get into what our event was last night, I need to make a couple of things clear.
First, while I have never played the game and find it completely off-putting, I am well aware of the immense popularity of the online game Fortnite. If you are unfamiliar with this game (you are the envy of every other parent reading this update!), an explanation: it is a Battle Royale style game in which everyone competes against everyone in an elimination game until there is only one person left standing. Hidden throughout the playing world are chests that give you special abilities and weapons. Additionally, the boarders of the game shrink at regular intervals forcing the competitors into smaller and smaller playing fields. Unfortunately, the “elimination” in this game refers players being killed with all sorts of different weaponry and traps. Think Hunger Games…..Yeah….yuck. I made it clear to the staff that under no circumstances would there be a Fortnite day at camp this summer. I was not going to support that madness…..
Second, I am sometimes easy to fool.
The evening that was pitched to me was a massive bombardment game in which every single camper was a competitor. Campers could obtain bombardment balls by finding them in boxes that would be hidden throughout camp. Also, the boundaries of the game would shrink periodically so that by the last phase of the game, the remaining competitors would be forced into a confined area (and those that had been eliminated easily watch).
I was taken aback by the creativity of this counselor and quickly approved his clever game. I patted myself on the back and praised all those involved in the staff hiring process for hiring the most innovative folks in the business. Castle Day was going to be amazing!
(No, I was actually not fooled by this event, but I did think that this was a reasonable way to deal with the Fortnite craze in a fun way at camp…..so I approved it.)
The event was awesome. The game had been planned brilliantly and the kids were totally psyched to engage in such a wide ranging, and oddly familiar game. The first round was super fun as kids quickly learned the ins and outs of the game and became adept at it in no time. They played hard, ran hard, and had an absolute blast. The genius of the game was proven in that the winner of the game was a Swamper 4th grader!
In the second round of the game, that magic that happens only when you are a part of something truly special happened …..aka: Nebagamon happened.
At the beginning of the round, everyone was full on committed to their singular victory. As the round wore on and more and more folks had been eliminated, those that had been eliminated started something completely unexpected. From the back of the crew, a chant started. “NO MORE VIOLENCE!” Then the chant changed…. “What do we want? PEACE!! When do we want it? NOW!!” Within minutes that chant had taken hold of the entire crowd of spectators and was booming at a volume that allowed it to be heard throughout the camp. Turns out, that the kids weren’t fooled either by the clever counselor’s tweaks of the Fortnite craze either….they had figured it out….and rebelled! As the players continued to try to eliminate one another, the chant only grew in volume and intensity…..Until, it happened. One of the still active players raised his arms, dropped his ball, and joined the chant. Amazingly, he was not immediately pelted with dodgeballs! Quite the opposite, another player almost immediately dropped his ball and joined the chant. Then another…..and another… (Over thirty boys decided to lay down their weapons) As the adults running the event last night, we were at first frustrated with the obstinacy and disobedience of these rebels. We attempted to force them to get back into the game and the eliminating…..for a short while.
And then we got it. This organic response to the game was even more fun than the game. And the adults joined in on the protest….It was Fortnite no more…..just a camp full of kids and adults jumping up and down and cheering for a cessation of hostilities….
Now I will leave it to all of you to make your geopolitical and sociological commentary about Thursday night amongst yourselves. Some of you will tout the opportunity that the youth in our world have to bring about change to save the planet. Some of you will laud the potential renaissance of the 1960’s protest mentality. Some of you will decry the “everyone gets a trophy” culture that this seems to support. Some of you will lament the obstreperousness of today’s youth.
For my part, I am just going to add this to the long list of occurrences that makes me sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I get to live and work in an environment where fun like this happens every single day.
All is well in the North Woods…..