Lemon Jousting

by Bernie DeKoven on July 16, 2012

“Lemon Jousting,” explains Sayraphim Lothian of Popup Playground, is a game that came to them courtesy of Tassos Stevens from the UK company Coney. “The rules,” she continues,

“are pretty simple, you have two wooden spoons and a lemon, the object of the game is to bat other people’s lemons off their spoons while keeping yours on. You can steady your lemon with your other spoon, but you can’t clamp down with both spoons and run about, if you are clamping you have to stand still. The players can have three lives, or it can be a round robin, but usually it’s just played til everyone is wrecked.

Lemon Jousting is a good warm up game, it’s physical without being too challenging and it requires several levels of split focus so it’s a more intellectually challenging game that it seems, and fundamentally it’s about the experience of flow, you get into it very quickly. we find it’s a great ‘gateway’ game into play for people. ”

Robert Reid, also of Popup Playground, elaborates:

“We’ve been playing lemon jousting since Tassos introduced us to it as part of the Coney training.  During the underground play days at the Meat Market we played it with a group of Australian coney agents (amongst other games – the aim as i recall was to play some games and then deconstruct them, talk about what made them tick, what was interesting about them).

“My feeling about Lemon Jousting was that it was a good introduction game, as you say a gateway game.  I think what makes it interesting is that it’s a tricky balance of physical dexterity (keeping the spoon steady while moving and striking) and spatial awareness (keeping an eye on who’s coming up near you, who can knock your lemon off, who you’re near enough to attack.)  I’ve noticed that Tassos has a very steady and smooth gate when he moves through the group, almost like the lemon floats in front of him and he follows it while looking for opportunities to knock off lemons in passing.  It might be worth noting that the grounded stance people take when playing is reminiscent of martial arts and also the physical actor training of Tadashi Suzuki.

“We quickly started modding the original lemon jousting (as we got better at it to make it more of a challenge) and I particularly recall the blind fold lemon jousting which everyone thought was crazy but I thought was more interesting cause it meant it was also about team work and interpreting instructions…. It was quite hard but I’m bad at lemon jousting anyway.

“I’m not sure who invented it, it seems like the sort of thing that’s a traditional folk game – but Tassos would know that better than me… or Bernie himself… it seems like the sort of thing that would be a New Games game….

“I can’t think of too many instances I’ve seen in which people sit out or refuse to play lemon jousting… I’ve seen some injuries (smacked knuckles mostly) and I’ve seen people get tired, but pretty much every one we’ve asked to play gives it a go.  The youtube footage is of the students or tourists (we never did find out) who came to play.  They seemed pretty shy initially but once you get the wooden spoon and the lemon in their hands and demonstrate how to play, that reticence seems to disappear.  Even more traditionally stand offish types (like patriarch of the football fan family who came and the security guard at the NGV) all at least gave it a go.  It was like the barrier to participation was very low, so even though it was a bit weird and not really like any other game they were likely to associate with the idea of games, it wasn’t at the ‘I’ll give it a miss’ threshold.

“The interactions over lengthy play are interesting too, I don’t know if we’ve got it on film, but players start to circle each other pretty quickly and it becomes a game of anticipation, it seems to generate a sense of readiness in the player, watching each other, keeping a reasonable distance while staying close enough to potentially reach out and attack.  Players locate themselves very much in the now once they’ve gotten the hang of balancing the lemon and moving….”

See also this intriguing end game variation from Lemon Jousting at London Gamecamp 4 and the significantly, and potentially impossibly challenging variation described by Reid as Blind Lemon Jousting.

Interview link: http://www.deepfun.com/fun/2012/07/lemon-jousting/