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8:32pm on Friday, 31st January, 2020:

The Football Game


LCI, the paracosm I mentioned yesterday, overlaid the real world with an imaginary world. The paracosm I'll describe maybe tomorrow, Paper Aeroplanes, also did this, but the Football Game, which I'm posting about today, was independent.

It started out with some footballer cards that my brother was given. They'd come out of bubblegum packets or something two or three years earlier, so he was never going to get the full set. One day, I walked into the living room and saw he'd made a game from them.

He'd set out 22 players as two teams, organised in lines. There was team 1's goalkeeper, then two team 1 defenders, then three team 2 attackers, then five team 1 midfielders, then five team 2 midfielders, then three team 1 attackers, then two team 2 defenders then the team 2 goalkeeper. One of the players had the ball. The teams were associated with either heads or tails, and a coin was tossed. If the player won, he passed the ball to a team mate in the line in front. If the player lost, a player in the opposing row got it. To score a goal, one of the three attackers would have to win three times in a row: the first to beat the defender, the second to beat the goalkeeper and the third to beat the goal. Depending where a roll failed, either the nearest defender, the goalkeeper or a different attacker would get the ball. My brother even had a rhyme for this: "heads once ... heads twice ... what a goal, by chicken rice". Chicken rice had nothing to do with the game, he just chose it because it rhymed. The game ended when one team managed to score.

I didn't have any footballer cards, so I did it on paper instead. I used a felt-tip pen to draw the teams out as stick men, then tracked the movement of the ball in either pencil or a different pen. My brother switched to the same format, so he could have more than two teams, and so the Football Game was born. We played it separately, so my brother's teams never played mine but they knew about them. There were leagues, cups and transfers. The games were entirely random, of course, but that didn't mean we weren't rooting for particular players and teams. I think I had accumulated 14 pads of 100-sheet writing paper covering all the matches I played by the time our parents made us throw them out.

The paracosm of the Football Game eventually absorbed some minor paracosms we'd made. My brother started it by making a battle game that we occasionally played become part of his Football Game world. He drew maps and so on to flesh it all out. I was reluctant to follow suit, because it seemed to me that it adulterated both of the imaginary worlds concerned, but eventually did. My reservations were eventually borne out: it isn't a good idea to merge fictions, because they make no sense together (an opinion that exposure to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Asimov's Foundation/Robot books have only confirmed).

Merging paracosms was the beginning of the end of my brother's interest in them, but for me I just thought about them more.

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