The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Nostalgialistic: Playing make-believe

Back when all we had was whatever bounced around in our little skulls
What I imagine I look like playing make-believe. (Photo by Myles Pinkeny)

The grand wizard with a very cool beard finally reaches the top of the mountain. His greatest foe waits here. They have both trained their entire lives in anticipation of this very moment. The beast looks at him and grins.

Is the beast a dragon? A dinosaur? Something else? And what exactly are the wizard’s limitations? Does he only know a few spells? Can he just make anything happen with the snap of his fingers?

Who cares?

The rules are made up. The characters will only exist for 5 minutes, their existence is barely foreshadowed or thought of again. The actors playing them are about six. 

I’m not going to go on a big rant about “before iPhones” and so on. I think it would be reductive, but I’m excluding it more because kids still play make-believe.

Make-believe reminds me of a simpler time. Yes, it reminds me of childlike wonder and whimsy, but it also reminds me of the weightlessness and all the things I took for granted. I had a big living room and backyard where I could do all the cool moves I wanted.

Now, I suppose I could go play in the front of my apartment complex, but I’m not sure how that would end. I’d at least get a few odd stares.

Speaking of, when did playing make-believe become “cringe?” It used to be cute to see kids pretending to dig to the bottom of the earth on a beach. Then we got told we were too old to pretend to be the Avengers, and that was that.

Regardless of whether the played-in worlds were based on existing properties (such as the aforementioned Avengers) or not, it felt good to have no filter.

Say what you want. Do what you want. You have literally any skill, ability or piece of knowledge that you could desire.

Of course, if you’re anything like my siblings, this meant you were actually a mini-god who was completely overpowered. Of course, fire, ice, electricity and poison don’t work on you. Why would it? That would be fair, and we can’t have that.

My personal bickering aside, I can’t describe how many formative memories I have of playing make-believe.

I had one friend who called it “witch book,” and another who called it “the Tetherball Game” because we would always meet up by a tetherball to play. 

Sometimes these were just excuses to wail on each other. But regardless of why, I still had tons of fun.

Child me remembers sending out all of my favorite pokémon and then acting as them in battle. I remember my trusty giant greatsword (a stick I found and never saw again). 

I remember one time my parents had a bunch of people from church over, so I was stuck with all the kids. We ended up playing army. I wasn’t selected as a leader, but I quickly took over and had all of the kids from church in my employ.

You know what? This paper is published on a pretty sizable college campus. I always see people enjoying themselves on campus with things like football, frisbee, music and so forth. But you know what I don’t see on campus?

Wizard duels.

What’s the real reason we don’t see them, though? I don’t think it’s because it’s “cringey” or we’re “too old” to play pretend. I think there are no wizard duels on campus because I am the greatest wizard to ever live, and nobody could hope to match my skill in magic.

Even if it’s on your own, make sure to throw your inner child a bone. Pretend to open an automatic door with the force, or breathe some dragon breath after eating something hot. 

Just do something to remind yourselves of a time when all that mattered was what game you could cook up next.

Tolbert can be reached at [email protected]. Challenge him to a wizard duel.

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