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Russian Folk Games
It would seem that we have thought up all the possible “venues” for communicating with our fellow countrymen abroad – Russian theatres, museums, churches, libraries and foundations. But there are places and events that unite the youth abroad even more tightly than these. One example is Encounter, an international network of urban games.
The idea for the game originated in 2001 in Minsk, when Ivan Maslyukov (known as im in the project) envisioned it as an international game, hence its name in English. In the end, however, the game found a rather curious niche, enjoying real popularity in very different countries, but only among Russian-speaking youth. The game currently unites cities in Belarus, Georgia, Israel, Kazakhstan, China, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Austria, France, the United States, and, of course, Russia.
Encounter is a team-oriented game with rather complex rules that unite different game formats into one. The most popular format is Combat, where the team is divided into a coordination center and field players, consisting of one or several squads. The coordination center receives tasks from the website and relays it to the field players. The squads must accomplish these tasks in the real world, although many of these tasks are quite experimental.
Apart from the extreme type, there is also the PhotoHunt format. As the name suggests, the object of the game is to hunt for good pictures to take. This is a competition based on creativity, where fantasy and imagination score highly, and time is not taken into consideration. Participants receive several tasks, usually around 7-10. For each task, the objective is comprised of a phrase or word, which they must use as a guideline for taking a picture. Even though the main objective of the game is creative ideas, the quality of the pictures is also important.
For those who enjoy thinking, there is also the Brainstorming format. This is the only game in which tasks are accomplished in front of a computer without needing to leave home. The game resembles another game – What? Where? When? – in its multi-user variant. With teams from different cities and countries playing, it is difficult to imagine where it hasn’t been played.
More information about the game’s rules can be found at the portal (http://en.cx/).
At first glance, the game doesn’t contain anything specifically Russian or Slavic. It is oriented toward a completely cosmopolitan world of extreme sports, as well as computer and urban games. This area of youth entertainment is decidedly Anglicized. The appearance of terms or lessons coming from another linguistic and cultural medium – like the French parkour – have unconditional exceptions. When discussing the niche occupied by Encounter, many talk about both the Russian world in general and the needs of its young people.
In many countries, where there is a large number of Russian-speaking youth, participation in the game has satisfied an additional demand – conversation among contemporaries who share a common culture and mentality.
I can confirm this a great through personal experience. Last summer, while I was in New York, I decided to play the local Encounter. And thanks to this game, I found friends among young Russian-speaking immigrants who helped me get accustomed to the United States.
In foreign domains one has the possibility of choosing the language. As a rule, participants speak in Russian, but they also speak in the language of the country they are in. On the Paris domain, for example they speak in French. On the Prague domain, they speak Russian. On the New York domain, they speak a mix of Russian and English. But all, or nearly all the participants come from Russian families or are themselves Russians.
The game has not only joined ideas, it has also turned people into friends. Their conversations have long gone beyond the boundaries of Encounter, with participants sharing their problems with one another, helping others to find needed medicines, change jobs or find an apartment. Many meet their destiny through the game!
Encounter is currently included in the Confederation of National and Non-Olympic Russian Sports, as well as the Orienteering Federation of Russia.
This is a young person’s game. Whereas traditional forms of uniting people run up against official barriers or simply stop fulfilling their role, nonstandard solutions come to the rescue here. In this sense, the example of Encounter is also a good means of reflection.