Wink is a game generally played by high-school and college-aged people. Play is generally loud and vigorous, and often results in rug burns and other minor injuries. Games can attract a group of spectators, often cheering for the weakest players. In Britain, the game is known as Ratchet Screwdriver and among Young Friends (Quakers) in the United States, it is sometimes known as Bloody Winkum or, more rarely, as Kissing Rugby, which is also sometimes used as a name of the game Kissy Face.
Wink was originally played by groups of Young Quakers in the 1800's. In the original version, a group of women would sit in chairs, arranged in a circle, with a young man standing behind each one. In this version of the game, which was something like musical chairs, a man without a partner (the "wink") would get one of the women's attention by winking at her, whereupon she would stand up and walk over to his chair. If the man behind her succeeded in putting his hands upon her shoulders before she stood up, she had to remain where she was.
Today, the game has been modified substantially from its early origins. There are several variations on the style of play and the rules, though the overall structure of modern Wink remains fairly consistent.
In one of the most widely played versions of the game an odd numbered group of players of any gender (preferably all acquainted with one another) arranges itself in almost the same fashion as in the original game. Each pair of players sits one behind the other on the floor in a semicircle, with the Wink seated on the floor in the center. The Wink makes some sort of "call", announcing a characteristic that some number of players might have (e.g. "anyone wearing red", "anyone who prefers chocolate to vanilla ice cream"). The Wink may instead call the names of players in the front (inside) row, or point to players and call shirt colors. The Wink may also wink at one or more individuals, similar to the original version of the game (though this is not common). Then, anyone in the front row who has been "called" attempts to be the first to make their way to the middle of the circle and kiss the Wink on the cheek. While they are doing this, each player's partner attempts to restrain him or her. In the interest of safety, players set aside all shoes, watches, glasses, jewelry, and other hard objects before game play.
There are a few rules.
- Everyone must begin each round with their buttocks on the floor. Players may not grab or hold their partners until the Wink begins calling players. Some communities require that players in the back row begin each round with both hands touching the floor.
- No one may pull hair or clothing, tickle, or strike another partner with the intention of causing pain. For obvious reasons, players also should not hold each other around the neck.
- If someone says "ouch", keep playing. If someone says "stop", everyone stops!
- When the Wink shouts "over!" it means someone has won.
- No one may crouch or stand. Players may place weight on the soles of their feet only if they are crab-walking (though this has not proven to be a good strategy).
- The Wink may not move from his or her seat, once play has begun. Players are often allowed to pull the Wink closer, however.
When someone finally manages to kiss the Wink, his or her partner becomes the new Wink, and the Wink becomes the winner's partner for the next round. If a player is called but does not succeed in kissing the Wink, he or she switches roles with his or her partner.
Wink is played primarily by Young Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, Talent Identification Program campers, and some students of Swarthmore College.
There is no "official" set of rules, although most groups defend theirs as the one true way to play the game. A slightly older version than the one described above (retaining the original winking signal but the modern physical mode of play) may be found in More New Games (pp. 108–111). Some other variations include:
- The wink is often known as the winker, as well as being known as the loner in many Quaker versions and God or Jark in most Unitarian Universalist versions.
- Instead of yelling "Over!" the winker yells "Smooch!"
- A player may win by kissing the winker anywhere on the head or neck. Other groups will not require the kiss to be on the face, but rather on any part of the winker the players can reach (both of these variations are common in groups where the boys are not comfortable kissing other boys).
- The winker points or winks at the front partner instead of calling out characteristics. The back partner is not allowed to look at the winker until after their partner moves.
- Instead of sitting in the middle of the circle, the winker sits in the circle with everyone else; this is common in Unitarian Universalist versions. In this variation, the partners to either side of the winker have a significant advantage. There are several ways to address this problem:
- The "Two Away Rule" can be invoked. A buffer zone is instituted and consists of the partners directly next to the Winker who are disqualified from that round (it's too easy for them to win). Depending on the amount of people you have, this can even be expanded to not letting people two or three partners away from the Winker go.
- Have the back partners on either side of the winker sit out. The front partners become "Guardians", "Guardian Angels", or "Demigods". Their job is to try to stop ANYONE from kissing the winker. In particularly large or rough groups, the back partners can also join in the fray. Be warned that four demigods, particularly in groups of less than fifty, can lead to VERY long rounds.
- Put a marker of some sort in the middle of the circle, often a shoe or a piece of tape. A player must touch the marker before they are allowed to kiss the winker.
- Players sit in two concentric circles—one of guys and one of girls. Guys sit on the outside and are paired up with a girl, with an extra guy in the middle.
- If the Wink calls "bread basket" anyone may try and kiss the Wink (excluding the two directly next to him/her).
- Instead of sitting in any sort of circle, the pairs may sit on one side of mats in a straight line or semi-circle while the Winker sits on the opposite side about 10–20 feet away (depending on the amount/size of mats you have.)
- Wink can be played outside on grass or some other soft, solid, surface instead of on a floor inside. For example it may be played on a large tarp, or several large tarps covered in soapy suds. If this is the case, bathing suits with solid draw-strings are recommended.
- In most Unitarian Universalist versions Wink is played inside in a big carpeted room, usually with a large pile of bedding and cushions (i.e., sleeping bags, couch cushions, pillows and sometimes sleeping pads) placed in the middle of the circle to protect those who are trying to kiss God.
- Some Quaker youth groups require use of a wrestling room due to roughness of play.
- If a counter or other immovable impediment is too close to a game, spotters are sometimes dispatched to protect players.
- British Young Quakers will play Ratchett Screwdriver wherever and whenever the whim takes them. This has been known to include hard wooden floors, rough, burn-inducing carpets and fields.
- The game is actively discouraged at many Young Quaker events in Britain, but not JYF.
A few specific variations of Wink have taken new names. Smut, for instance, is essentially wink for smaller groups of players. In this variation, the Wink only calls two pairs. The front row player from the first pair attempts to kiss the Wink, while the front row player from the second pair attempts to kiss the front row player from the first pair. The Wink must call specific players in this version to establish the order.
- Philadelphia Young Friends website with game rules
- A description of the rules for an alternative version of Wink
- Ratchet Screwdriver - a very Quaker game
- Wink!!! at Young Friends of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting via the Internet Archive
- "Wink" in More New Games (registration required) at the Internet Archive
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