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The Incomplete Guide to Origami Games

Edited by Linda Yau

Typically the sun has already set, and people are tired after hours of folding. I had just attended my 14th convention – the 2nd OASIS convention – which I helped organized. From these conventions I learned many paper games meant for late night folding activities. This is the perfect time to fertilize and reinforce the foundation seeds of our own folding skills. What kind of late night origami games and activities are out there?

Here is a list that I gathered and developed from my own experiences on 14 occasions. Unless indicated, these games are meant to be played with lots of participants. A little competition also never hurts anyone and raises folding to another level. Expect lots of screaming, laughing or other emotions.

For lone folders:

Captain Hook

Be the first to fold a model by using only one hand.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Models to use: All known traditional models, such as a Crane, Flapping Bird, Water Bomb and others.
  3. Variations – Don't use your dominant hand; fold in the air only.
  4. The winner is chosen according to timing only or quality of folding and speed!


Captain Hook, Oasis 2nd convention. Image by Yael Meron

Behind your back

Be the first to fold a model behind your back.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Models to use: All known traditional models, such as a Crane, Flapping Bird, Water Bomb and others.
  3. Note: While your hands are behind, you need to switch direction in your head!
  4. Variations – Use a new, unknown model, so the participants will fold it for the first time ever - behind their backs!
  5. The winner is chosen according to timing only or quality of folding and speed!


Behind your back, Oasis 2nd convention. Image by Yael Meron

In the Dark!

Be the first to fold a model blindfolded.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Models to use: All known traditional models, such as a Crane, Flapping Bird, Water Bomb and others.
  3. Note that this game is not the same as Behind the Back!
  4. The winner is chosen according to timing only or quality of folding and speed!

Two are better!

Be the first to fold two models at the same time; one in each hand.

  1. Folding level of players: Complex.
  2. Models to use: All known traditional models, such as a Crane, Flapping Bird, Water Bomb and others.
  3. Note: The ability to fold two models at the same time is a skill only a few in our community have mastered!
  4. A simple variation asks for the same model in both hands: models such as Fortune Teller or a water bomb. For more advanced players, ask for two different models!
  5. The winner is chosen according to timing only or quality of folding and speed!

Table manners

Meant to be played as a challenge around a dinner table – Fold the crane with a knife and fork.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Models to use: All known traditional models, such as a Crane, Flapping Bird, Water Bomb and others. No sink folds!
  3. Models with reverse folds are a real challenge!
  4. There is no winner; all are entitled to dine!


Fork and knife, Oasis 2nd convention. Image by Yael Meron

Chinese style

Meant to be played as a challenge around a dinner table – Fold the crane by using two sets of chopsticks

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Models to use: all known traditional models, such as the Crane, Flapping Bird, Water Bomb and the like.
  3. Note: Surprisingly, this is not hard if you can eat with chopsticks. If you don’t, try this or try another game.
  4. There is no winner; all are entitled to dine!

Captain Hook–san

Meant to be played as a challenge around a dinner table – Fold the crane by using one set of chopsticks

  1. Folding level of players: Complex.
  2. Models to use: simple models.
  3. Note: Pajarita was the one I managed to do. Even in my own experience, it was difficult for me. It takes about ten minutes to fold a crane!
  4. Anyone who succeeds gets a specific medal or bragging rights!

Feet folding

Be the first to fold a model with your feet.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Models to use: all known traditional models, such as the Crane, Flapping Bird, Fortune Teller or the Pajarita. Action models are better, as the task includes operating the model!
  3. Note: Use 25 – 30 cm paper on a floor without carpet.
  4. The winner is chosen according to timing only – it’s way too hard to get a quality model with your feet.


Feet only, Oasis 2nd convention. Image by Yael Meron

Speedy Gonzales

Be the first to fold an unknown model; seeing the diagrams for the first time with slides – every slide has one step and stays on for three seconds only.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Models to use: any 20 – 25 steps are best. Playing this game, folders usually can keep up until the tenth step, when there is a mental overload, and folders tend to lag. From there, some folders stop folding and just look at the slides, and must fold the last steps from memory only.
  3. Aid – projector.
  4. The winner is chosen according to timing only or quality of folding and speed!

I am an elephant!

Be the first to fold from memory only.

  1. Present a 10 step model in slides; every step is shown for three seconds, and after the last slide one can start to fold.
  2. Folding level of players: All.
  3. Models to use: 10 – 12 step models are the best: not too short, not too long! Choose a simple, unknown model, preferably an elephant.
  4. Aid – projector.
  5. The winner is chosen according to timing only or quality of folding and speed!

Say, What?!

Folding with unusual materials, such as fabrics or plastic sheets.

  1. One must fold traditional models from hardly fold-able materials, such as plastic sheets, fabrics, Foil or very thick cartons.
  2. Folding level of players: All.
  3. Models to use: all known traditional models, such as the Crane, Flapping Bird, Jumping Frog or the Pajarita. Action models are better, as the task includes operating the model!
  4. The winner is chosen according to timing only or quality of folding and speed!

The far side!

Folding with unusual papers such as grocery bags, toilet seat covers etc.

  1. The participants must design a model using unusual papers in their original state - like toilet seat covers, paper bags and other everyday things. The medium is not revealed until the competition begins, the time is limited and you are folding in front of an audience.
  2. Folding level of players: above average.
  3. The winner is chosen according to originality.
(Thanks to Meenakshi Mukerji for adding this game.)


Folding with toilet seat covers, PCOC 2009, San Francisco. Photo credit: Hank Morris

For two or three folders:

Helping hands

Be the first team to fold a model by using each other's right hand only.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Models to use: 15 – 20 step models are ideal. Choose a well known model, one from the classics.
  3. Cooperation is the name of the game here.
  4. Variations – You can use most of the options presented for single players here, too. I am not sure if using only a fork while your partner uses the knife will work…
  5. The winner is chosen according to timing only or quality of folding and speed!

Read my lips!

Be the first team to fold a model by verbal instructions only.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Aids – printed diagrams.
  3. Only one player can see the instruction and guides the other by oral instruction. No miming is allowed! The instructor must sit behind the folder.
  4. Models to use: 15 – 20 step models are Ideal. Choose an unknown model, printed on paper.
  5. The winner is chosen according to timing only or quality of folding and speed!

Look at me!!

Be the first team to fold a model by mime instructions only.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Aids – printed diagrams.
  3. Only one player can see the instruction and guides the other by mime. No oral instructions are allowed!
  4. Models to use: 15 – 20 step models are ideal. Choose an unknown model, printed on paper.
  5. The winner is chosen according to timing only or quality of folding and speed!

The three monkeys.

Be the first team to fold a model by oral, then mime instructions only.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Aids – printed diagrams.
  3. This game is for three players – one reads the instruction and guides the second by oral, whispered instruction. The second guides the third (the folder) by pantomime only.
  4. Models to use: 15 – 20 step models are ideal. Choose an unknown model, printed on paper.
  5. The winner is chosen according to timing only or quality of folding and speed!

The tallest cat

Fold the tallest cat from a set strip of paper.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Aid – a strip of 50 cm by 200 cm paper Cat diagrams, by Roberto Gretter and Ioana Stoian
  3. In groups of three, try to fold the tallest cat. This design allows you to change the length of the body and the tail, so each group can decide on its parameters and see if it works.
  4. Models to use: 15 – 20 steps models are ideal. Choose an unknown model, printed on paper.
  5. The winners are those who create the tallest cat that can stay up for more than a minute.
  6. Note: I first played this game at the by Outdoor Polish convention


Tallest cat, Plener 13th convention. Image by Krystyna Burczyk.

For big groups

Pictogami

Having a good time together, while trying to speed-design objects.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Aids – hat, sticky notes, pen, and a 15 cm Kami package.
  3. Each player writes one word on two pieces of paper and puts them into a hat. It is best to limit the game to objects only. The first player takes one note and must fold it from paper. The right guesser takes the next note.
  4. There is no need to be accurate or precise – just try to provide the most important characteristics of the object with simple folds.
  5. Folders are not allowed to choose their paper color!
  6. There is no winner in this game. This activity is meant for all to enjoy being creative and interacting with friends.

Pictogami - reversed

Having a good time together, while trying to speed-design objects.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Aids – hat, sticky notes, pen, and a 15 cm Kami package.
  3. Each player writes a single word on two pieces of paper, and puts them into a hat. It is best to limit the game to objects only. The first player takes one note and sticks it to his/her forehead. All players try to fold it from paper, and the picker must try and guess this word. The person to fold the identified model takes the next note.
  4. There is no need to be accurate or precise – just try to provide the most important characteristics of the object with simple folds.
  5. Folders are not allowed to choose their paper color!
  6. There is no winner in this game. This activity is meant for all to enjoy being creative and interacting with friends.
  7. This version was created by Guy Loel (Israel)


Express yourself in folding, Oasis 2nd convention. Image by Yael Meron

Mass design

Design by a group.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. The subject of the design is announced at the beginning. The first person makes one crease and gives it to the next one. Each participant adds a new crease until the model is finished.
  3. There is no winner in this game. This activity is meant for all to enjoy being creative and collaborating with friends.

The knights of the round table

Competition during dinner time.

  1. Folding level of players: All.
  2. Group/round table folding – fold the crane; each person makes one crease and moves it forward. Compete against a nearby table.
  3. Each folder makes one crease. Reverse folds are considered as one fold.
  4. You can spice up this game, and integrate other challenges from the lone folders portion in this article, such as every one uses only fork and knife, or folding with the left hand only, etc.

What is your game?

I am sure there are many more games. Please submit a comment at the end of this article or write to me if you have some games to add to this guide! >garibiilan [at] gmail.com -Ilan Garibi