• Bob Schirmer

What's in a game?

I developed a #backyard & #tailgate #game in 2016 called #ontopballtoss. I think it’s a great game, but may not be the best judge, having been the creator. How, or why did I come up with OnTop Ball Toss, you ask (or even if you didn't)?

I thought of the major #sports that we in the USA/Canada love (#Baseball, #Basketball, #Football, #Golf, #Hockey & #Soccer), and why we love them. There are sports that are fun to watch, some that are fun to play, and fun to both #play & watch. And the answer will be different, depending on the individual. For example, I loved playing baseball while growing up, but couldn't stand to watch it because it moved so slowly. I loved watching football on TV as a #youth, so I signed up to play in #school and soon realized I would rather watch it from my couch, than to get my bell rung on the field.


So, back to the origins of OnTop Ball Toss. I wanted to create a game that is:

1. All-inclusive

2. Mirrors the major sports regarding the object of the game

3. Provides entertainment value as a player and/or spectator


At first blush, that may sound easy, but it really isn't. Let's break those objectives down:


All Inclusive

The definition of all inclusive from Webster is "Including everything". In the context of an #outdoor, or #indoor game, that would mean to include everyone. #Spikeball or #KanJam come to mind as outdoor games that may technically be "all-inclusive", in that everyone can participate, but to be honest, not everyone can be competitive. Even games like #LadderGolf, #cornhole, #Bocce ball, and #Horseshoes, are "all-inclusive", but not everyone can be competitive. For example, my wife can't even make contact with a cornhole board, or throw a Horseshoe far enough. How long do you think those games hold her interest? As long as her reality shows hold mine. So, "all-inclusive" is somewhat of a relative term and, in reality, vary in degree depending on the backyard game you are playing. I think many other games attempt to make their game all-inclusive by allowing tiered scoring …points associated with degree of difficulty. However, by doing this, it excludes many from actually competing in the game. Sure, they’ll score a point or two, but very likely never compete to win a game or match. This can get as boring to the dominant player as it gets to the less capable “competitor”. OnTop Ball Toss requires minimal physical skill & basic hand/eye coordination, while incorporating the mental aspects of game #play, such as scoring strategy & the pressure of that last shot. It's a nice mix that allows for broad participation, while offering engaging game play.

Mirrors the Major Sports, regarding the Objective of the Game

This is a tough one. If you look at the major sports, each has a very defined objective in order to score. For example, in football it's crossing the #goal line or putting it through the #uprights. In baseball, it's crossing home plate. In golf, putting it in the cup. Through the hoop in basketball. In hockey & soccer, it's putting it in the net. These are very defined, objective ways to score. However, in many backyard games, there is "consolation scoring". What I mean by this is points scoring associated with being closer than your opponent, or if its leaning on the target, but not around or in the target, you get something. I don't understand this concept. Rewarding a player for almost achieving the goal? Or getting closer than your #opponent? That seems like bonus points on your test paper if you spell your name correctly. Or, since everyone bombed the test, scoring on a bell curve. It's like baseball awarding points for base hits, or hockey & soccer awarding a half point for hitting the bar. Can you imagine football assigning points for reaching the #redzone? Games that assign points based on leaning, coming closer, what hole you put it in, etc…, to me, do so in order to make the game more “all-inclusive”. What it does though is it reduces the game to that of an #arcade or #midway style game where you get a big stuffed animal for knocking down all the pins, and some irrelevant consolation prize for knocking down one. And, at the end of the day, they may have made it “all-inclusive”, but they’ve failed to make it all-competitive, because the guys tallying consolation points will never beat the guy winning the stuffed animal.


Maintains Entertainment Value as player and/or spectator

A backyard party or tailgating is an event. And as such, entertainment value is paramount. The game has to engage the players and entertain both player and spectator. As such, many events are divided in three camps. The players, the spectators, and the “don’t care to do either” group. The players become those that can compete, rather than that elusive “all-inclusive” group. The last thing anyone wants to do is play, game after game, getting their butt whipped. And the last thing a player wants to do (at least most) is to continually beat down their opponent. Players like competition, so the “all-inclusive” group is reduced to a handful. Now, if the game is entertaining, it can be very fun to watch as a spectator. I’ve watched a few Spikeball videos and even a cornhole tournament video. They’re fun to watch when elite players are playing. But I’ve watch spikeball and kanjam with less than elite players, and it gets pretty boring, pretty quick. OnTop Ball Toss maintains its entertainment value because of its scoring. You’re either on top, or you’re not. Like the major sports, On Top doesn’t reward for being closer, or better. It rewards for finishing. It also holds peoples interest due to the pressure, and uncertainty of the final shot. And because of the physical requirements, allows for a casual player to have a chance to compete against those that may play frequently. With very few barriers to entry, a scoring system that rewards for finishing like the major sports, and the uncertainty of the outcome, OnTop Ball Toss is worth a look. Please like & follow OnTop Recreation LLC on Facebook (@8getontop), on Instagram (@ontopballtoss), and visit the website @ www.ontopballtoss.com.


I thought it would be interesting to start a #blog, dedicate to backyard & tailgate games, to learn more about the games people enjoy playing, and some of the reasons why they play or don't play, certain games. Who knows, maybe a great game will be born from the discussion.

It’s How You Finish!

Buffalo, New York | ontopballtoss@gmail.com | 716.983.9370