To catch a monster: evening games bring out the best in campers

Ben Guthrie
Ben Guthrie

For the last few nights, I’ve been doing one of my favorite games to run at SCATS. Gathering a bunch of boys on my hall into my room, I turn on a lamp, turn out the lights, set the suspenseful background music, and build the Jenga tower. I set up a storytelling game in the spirit of Dungeons and Dragons, with me as the narrator and the campers as the players. In the story, the campers wake up in the middle of the night to find evidence that a mysterious cloaked figure (spoiler: it’s a vampire) has infiltrated the building, and they sneak out of the building (in their imaginations) to investigate campus, hide from the monster, and, ultimately, trap it.

Every time they want their characters to do a difficult action, like hide from the monster, search for clues, or climb out of a window without breaking any bones, they must pull a block out of the Jenga tower. If they pull it out, they succeed. If they knock the tower over, their character is captured by the monster and they are out of the game (until their fellow campers rescue them). The start of the game is easy, but as time progresses, it becomes more and more suspenseful as the Jenga tower becomes unstable and they have to ration their feats of bravery.

We counselors usually don’t get to see our campers’ full mental prowess since we get them after a long day of class, but creative and cooperative games like this one bring out the mental best in campers. They get to excitedly plan, collaborate on how they could escape and hide from (and, later tonight, trap) a monster just using their normal surroundings at camp, and have their own imaginary adventure in their otherwise-normal surroundings. I love getting to run games like this for these kids because I couldn’t get a better group of players anywhere else.