Ever since young whipper-snappers have been grazing their knees tripping over in  playgrounds there has been a traditional game played there with the seeds of the horse-chestnut tree.

It may come as a shock to kids today but long before the iPhone and Nintendo DS, children actually had sources of entertainment and some of those sources were quite old.

Conkers is a game where two people battle it out with their prize conkers (horse chestnut seeds threaded onto a piece of string or bootlace) smashing each others conkers as hard has they can to demolish their opponent's conkers.

One person holds his conker still whilst the other swings his conker on apiece of string and tries to obliterate it.

The game is usually played on a taking turn basis allowing varying amounts off swings before the turn is changed and can be quite painful if the conker misses its target and hits the opponent instead of the desired target  e.g. on the hand or face through an over zealous swing of the conker.

Saying that if you don't like the person your playing its a good excuse to inflict a little pain on him. Needless to say some conker games have turned into fights.

Also an own goal can also be scored though over swinging your conker as many a poor lad has found out as the conker lands squarely in the genitals causing the young lad to hop around in quite some pain much to the amusement of the onlooking spectators.

I remember as a young lad exchanging methods to harden the conker.

Some of these methods are now part of the mythology of conkers i.e. keeping them in them in vinegar overnight, the baking for varying periods of time all of which usually made the conkers even more brittle.

Some conkers would last for numerous matches and would even get their own names and a great sense of loss was experienced on the school yard when that seasoned gladiatorial  conker finally got smashed of the piece of string that had been its home for so many matches.

Now for the history bit.

The first recorded game of conkers was in 1848 in the Isle of Wight. I think that will do for the  history bit because it does get a bit boring and personally I can't imagine any kid playing conkers being that interested in when it started, who started it and why it was started, all they want to do is smash the daylights of their opponent's conker and win the game.

How can this game ever be perceived as boring? It's multi-player and has genuine emotional response in which you are the hero or loser in the game. Something that games consoles do not offer.

Oh yes  and you can have a jolly good scrap over it and beat the boss at the end of the level but this time it's for real.

I used to stand shaking as my opponent took his first swing out of anticipation of getting hit and no one wanted to play the kid with thick glasses because he would always miss and with a whack you could lose an eye. With him behind the swing of a conker the game turned from a friendly competitive game to that of Russian roulette .

This game needs to make a comeback and I can think of no better place than in the playground where teachers should encourage it and even turn a blind eye to the resulting fights that may break out. It's all good character building stuff for the namby-pamby generation of button-pressers.

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