nomic game

Calvinball is a game played by Calvin and Hobbes as a rebellion against organized team sports; according to Hobbes, ‘No sport is less organized than Calvinball!’ The game was first introduced to the readers at the end of a 1990 storyline involving Calvin reluctantly joining recess baseball. It quickly became a staple of the comic afterwards.

The only hint at the true creation of the sport ironically comes from the last Calvinball strip, in which a game of football quickly devolves into a game of Calvinball. Calvin remarks that ‘sooner or later, all our games turn into Calvinball,’ Calvin and Hobbes usually play by themselves, although in one storyline Rosalyn (Calvin’s babysitter) plays in return for Calvin doing his homework, and plays very well once she realizes that the rules are made up on the spot.

The only consistent rule states that Calvinball may never be played with the same rules twice. Scoring is also arbitrary, with Hobbes at times reporting scores of ‘Q to 12’ and ‘oogy to boogy.’ Equipment includes a volleyball (the eponymous ‘Calvinball’), a croquet set, a badminton set, assorted flags, bags, signs, a hobby horse, and enigmatic and never-pictured ‘time-fracture wickets.’ Other things appear as needed, such as a bucket of ice-cold water, a water balloon, and various songs and poetry.

Players also wear masks resembling blindfolds with holes for the eyes. When Rosalyn asks Calvin the reason for the requirement, Calvin responds, ‘Sorry, no one’s allowed to question the masks.’ When asked how to play, Watterson states, ‘It’s pretty simple: you make up the rules as you go.’ Calvinball is a ‘nomic’ or self-modifying game, a contest of wits and creativity rather than stamina or athletic skill, in which Hobbes (and on one occasion, Rosalyn) usually outwits Calvin, who takes it in stride, in contrast to his otherwise poor sportsmanship.


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