If dodgeball and handball have proved anything, it’s that a kid doesn’t need much more than a rubber ball and a patch of pavement to have fun. This year’s playground sensation, Pegacide, is a cross between the two. Like all games kids love, its rules are byzantine and seem to resist adult understanding. Here’s how it’s played. Take a breath.
(1) Players gather in a circle about ten feet from a wall and toss the handball into the air. The person who catches the ball is “It.”
(2) The other players scatter, running to touch the wall before “It” can peg them—gently, of course—with the ball.
(3) If a player is pegged, he receives one out. However, if “It” misses his mark, he then must run to the wall to avoid being pegged by the other players. If he is hit, he gets an out.
(4) If a player runs to get a faraway ball, the other players can yell “challenge” and have him attempt to hit the wall from a distance. If that seems too tough, he can yell “safety” and have someone else take the throw, at the risk of getting pegged himself.
(5) Once a player has three outs, he can become a “ghost” and continue playing—without pegging anyone—by catching the ball and tossing it against the wall to keep it in play.
(6) When the game is down to two players, they take turns throwing the ball against the wall and trying to catch it. When Player 1 misses it, Player 2 will try to grab the ball and peg Player 1 before he can reach the wall. If he does, Player 2 wins.
(7) If you throw the ball too hard at someone, you get an out. If you throw the ball out of bounds on purpose, you receive two outs.
The game’s secrets? “You have to run fast and be able to dodge,” says Isabelle Romero-North, a 9-year-old Pegacider from Forest Hills. “You don’t want to nail the person,” adds fellow player Henry Schwartz, 9. Still, accidents happen. “I once threw the ball against the wall and it hit me in the eye,” says Henry’s friend, Diego Martinez, also 9. “Teachers don’t like Pegacide at all.”