The flow of time is relative. From a scientific standpoint, this is factually true. Time is influenced by the several unique forces that act upon matter in the universe such as gravity. Certainly, here on Earth, the dilation of time may seem insignificant, but if you can imagine how time ceases to exist completely and comes to a total standstill at the center of a black hole, then you would have a less ambiguous conception of the relativistic nature of time. You could basically live forever if you could somehow survive the spaghettification of your physical form that would occur long before you can even get near a black hole.
Far detached from the realm of quantum physics, which I am in no position to speak of, time can flow as equally subjective for an individual person. Time, for a human being, can flow very quickly or sometimes come to a complete stop, based on how the brain processes what is happening around that particular individual.
For example, back when I was in Grade 6, my former bully, who was now a very good friend of mine, would often tell me these amazing stories about the games he played with our other classmate (who was much bigger than him by the way, but not a bully) on this state-of-the-art game console called a “Playstation.” Apparently, it was so realistic that you could have a battle between two cars that shoot machine guns at each other until one of them is reduced to a pile of broken metal – or just falls of a platform and crashes and burns. This video game was appropriately named “Twisted Metal.” In another game, you could zoom around in a 3D environment, throw fireballs, and send your opponent flying through several mountains with teleporting strikes resulting in a 20 hit connect combo just like in the anime ovas. This game was “DBZ: The Legend.”
Now for someone like me who’d only played a few Super Famicom games by the hour on rental units and basic 2D games on the Famicom at home (limited to around 5 hours per week on a weekend), this was something magical – and even though I never saw any of these Playstation games first-hand at that time, I could clearly imagine what they must have looked like.
It would be 1998 in my 2nd year of High School before I would get my own Playstation – my father had asked my mother what she wanted for a birthday gift and she said she wanted my father to buy me a Sega Genesis – but we saw the Playstation and opted for that instead. The console came pre-modified and with 20 free games (all bootlegs, of course). Furthermore, while I got to play Twisted Metal 2 as one of the 20 free games that came with the console, it wouldn’t be until two years later when I would find a copy of DBZ Legend to play for myself. While my experience at playing these two games was very much delayed when compared to my classmates from Grade 6, it was no less magical when I finally sat down to enjoy them.
These are things that I could experience, only because the flow of time was so much slower back then – back when the internet was young and access to information was still dodgy at best. Definitely, this is a scenario that can no longer occur in modern times wherein life takes place at the pace of a frantic PUBG livestream and your phone becomes obsolete faster than that leftover take-out pizza in your freezer.
Therefore, won’t you take a journey with me to a simpler time? A time back in the 90’s when rubber bands were a currency and the spirit of competition was fierce and unforgiving? This is the story of Dampa^, the Olympic-level sports game that never was.
I don’t remember when it started exactly, or who was the first to introduce us to the game, but this game of skill called “Dampa^” was the latest craze in good old IAMS (Iloilo American Memorial School). To set things in the proper perspective, this was back in 1993-94 when the first battle between Doomsday and Superman was raging on in DC comics and the local comic book stores were displaying handwritten posters declaring that the death of Superman was near.
Dampa^ is a pretty straightforward game to play. The only tools you need are rubber bands and a pair of hands. It’s a game that you can practice by yourself on any flat, relative large surface that the rubber band can travel on. It can also be played competitively against 2 or more players.
To begin, a designated finish line and starting point are set. The rubber band is then placed flat on the starting point. The player than cups both his hands together in a parallel fashion (refer to Nagi in the pictures because my hands have grown extremely disproportionate due to over a decade of Lawn Tennis) and creates a funnel with a small windhole by the fingertips in order to push out air. Naturally, the hands need to be as airtight as possible except for the windhole. There are different techniques for doing this such as the standard version in the pictures as well as a flatter version called papel (paper) and a more robust looking version called a “bulldog.”
The player then needs to slam the ground right behind the rubber band while holding his hands in position in order to push as much air out as possible and propel the rubber band forward. As you can imagine, this actually created a lot of noise – the kind that often shocked some teachers and got us scolded. To continue, the person who is able to get his rubber band across the finish line with the least amount of slams first wins the game. The reward is that you get to keep your opponent’s rubber bands. Naturally, there were variations to this rule, such as five rubber bands a game or winner takes all. As a result of this game, rubber bands became a sort of currency and kids were begging their parents to buy them a big box of rubber bands – of course, you commanded more respect if all the rubber bands you had were earned via legitimate victories.
To be honest, we were all pretty terrible at the game at first except for the one kid who taught us how to play it. It became THE GAME to play for the boys all the way through Grade 3. We had an entire school year to practice the game and eventually, we all improved from being barely able to move the rubber band half a meter to being able to consistently get the rubber band to roll like a wheel and go on and on indefinitely – sometimes hitting the finish line in one go.
After summer break, all of the boys who played this game (myself included) considered ourselves as old veterans of Dampa^ who were able to impressively get the rubber band to travel at least 2-3 meters with one slam. Whenever we saw the younger kids attempting to play this game, we’d laugh haughtily and challenge them to a game and win using just a single hand (see the picture for the one-handed variation).
At some point, word of the prowess of the Grade 4 boys reached the Grade 6 boys and they came to challenge us in our territory. Therefore, we had our two best guys, Apol and Lynnrd go up against them. I would have gone up against them myself, but I lost in the elimination tourney for the privilege to represent the class. The prize was one new box of rubber bands (about 500 in a box) for the entire class.
So there they were, our two best guys against the two best guys of the Grade 6 boys – and… it was a complete massacre. The strip we used was the 2nd floor of the Grade 4-5 building and the competing area was approximately six meters. The grade 6 gave our guys the privilege of going first. Apol hit the finish line in two shots with his advanced bulldog form and Lynnrd managed to make a rare one hit finish as the rubber band just kept on rolling and rolling beyond the finish line.
Meanwhile, the grade 6 boys must each have taken at least 4-6 tries just to finish. Our hearts were surging with pride at that point and of course, we won the box of rubber bands fair and square – this too was important!
The disgruntled Grade 6 made up a new rule after this battle: rolling is unfair and is therefore illegal. Whenever the rubber band rolls, it should be reset to the last point before it started rolling. It felt pretty unfair because they had basically taken away our greatest weapon – one that we’d perfected over an entire school year of constant practice – but we respected them for being our seniors and agreed to adopt their new universal ruleset.
Unfortunately, over the next few months, the game would somehow fade into obscurity – never to be played again, except in our fragile, somewhat idealized memories. This was due to two reasons:
1. One of our teachers had lectured us against playing this game because the repetitive slamming might cause the veins in our wrists to rupture. I’m not sure how scientific this claim is, but yes, I did actually feel some damage starting to accumulate on the underside of my wrist where you usually take a pulse.
2. There were other more interesting games that gradually took Dampa^’s place such as tex, pogs, and classic board games like Chess, Mastermind and Millionaire’s Game.
Still, Dampa^ holds a special place in my heart as one of the few unique games from my childhood that I was somewhat good at. Furthermore, the experience of being able to compete on an equal stage with the Grade 6 who were naturally larger and stronger than us felt somewhat heroic and noble – like a fairytale hero standing up against adversity. I think this world could use a little bit of that haughtiness -- that arrogance that infuses you with an appetite for life rather than falling into depression at the slightest hint of negativity.
(Apologies for anyone I forgot to tag. Please feel free to share/tag others)