What I learned while presenting at the Greenlife Eco fest: Diverse groups are getting interested in cooperative games : ) I spoke with a software engineer who is using cooperative games to help engineers collaborate more effectively; a yoga teacher who uses them to help people do yoga together in a fun and enriched way; a first grade teacher who uses cooperative games to help kids get along; and a counselor who works with incarcerated youth (the idea being that cooperative games help kids who are in trouble form trusting relationships). Cooperative play–powerful, peaceful, and productive! How can you add a little cooperative play to your life?
Cooperative games aren’t spiritual activities. On the other hand, playing together in a mutually respectful and supporting way helps us feel connected and appreciate one another. This way of interacting opens the heart and nurtures love. So in a broad sense, cooperative games actually do link to spirituality if we construe spirituality in a super broad sense as the recognition of Love as a powerful Universal force that makes good things happen.
Here at CooperativeGames.com, the mission is to provide resources for cooperative play for everyone and especially for schools. So it’s appropriate to keep the discussion in secular terms. The spiritually inclined can see Spirit in cooperative play, but there’s no need to focus on that here. Cooperative play works magic whatever you believe about the ultimate nature of the Universe.
But today I am going to make an exception. I wanted to open a new subject for all those who might be interested in this idea. I wonder if there is a genre of cooperative games which we could call “Spiritual Cooperative Games”. I know lots of people who do Spirituality who like to play with prayer, blessings, their relationship with a Higher Power, etc. As I look at all this, I think some of these play forms are cooperative games played on the spiritual level.
For example, consider this spiritual practice, offered by Jerry, a Unity minister. Jerry shared this practice which works like a cooperative game you play within yourself. He discussed this in the context of a talk he gave on the subject of giving and receiving. Let’s start with the premise that you feel a lack of something in your life. Given this you might pray that the Higher Power gives it to you. Or in a totally secular vein you might try to fill your need by pulling on the levers you can identify in the world. You seek no help from a Higher Power at all. But there is a third way to address your need. This method uses the spiritual power of giving to get what you need. This method makes you feel great right away, and it’s great for others around you, and–if you believe in a spiritual order to things–you’ll probably agree that this method would provide to you what you need in the end since it’s based on well recognized spiritual principles. This method for addressing your own needs is the playful “From Bless to Bliss” method.
So to put this method in a true game format, Start Here… Step One: Begin with the understanding that giving and taking is a single reciprocal process (when it’s conducted on a spiritual level.) When you give, you receive. There’s a yin/yang to it, a natural flow. To receive we need to give, if we are going to be in balance with the Spiritual Universe. (Sure you can try to grab stuff for yourself from people and other resources in the external world, and this might even appear to work for a while, but this is not the Spiritual Path. The rewards will be narrow and have a shallowness to them and can even turn out to be destructive to yourself and others. This path is nothing like true heartful giving and taking which the Universe supports and which your soul really craves.) So in From Bless to Bliss, your goal is to get what you need using spiritual methods. The first rule is to accept that giving-and-receiving go together.
Here’s the second rule of From Bless to Bliss: Give First. Granted, giving and receiving do go together. But to start the cycle, you have to consciously give first to get the ball rolling.
Now, here’s the third rule of the game. There’s a trick here. The trick is that giving in order to experience receiving is not true giving. That is, when you give because you want something in return, you haven’t gotten to the spiritual level of really caring for another. Hmmm…how can you ever give to others as a spiritual practice to bring more into your own life, when giving with the hope you will be helped in turn means you are not really giving in the first place? It’s a Catch-22. How can you transcend your own self focus? So here’s the third step of the game, according to Jerry. This is the way out of the Catch 22. Send a sincere wish to the Universe to help someone else you know who is in need. And to really lift and shift your energy, bless that person with the wish they will receive MORE than what they want. For example, suppose your brother Jim is depressed and longs for more joy in life. Take a moment to spiritually focus, shift the focus to your heart. Feel your breath moving through your heart. Now bless Jim with your hope he will experience something even better than joy. Say to yourself something like “I bless Jim with ecstasy”. So in this moment, you get out of your own agenda and you really bless Jim in a living, sincere, non-self-interested way. Thus, you’ve started the cycle of giving. You’re playing the giving-receiving game with the Universe and all humankind. You’re playing From Bless to Bliss. Ahhh…
I have tried this game and I really like the way it feels. And it makes sense to me that playing this little game starts a flow of good energy. The Universe being what it is, the good karma will come back to you and satisfy all your true needs in the end when you practice caring for others as well as for yourself.
Spiritual cooperative games…let’s play! Thanks for the inspiration Jerry!
- The most important thing about cooperative games is that they are fun!
- The second most important thing is that they are inclusive: No one is ever eliminated from a cooperative game.
- The third most important thing about cooperative games is that they are based on cooperation rather than competition. So cooperative games let players experience the joy and productivity of cooperation. This builds cooperation and communication skills, self confidence, and joyful, peaceful relationships.
Cooperative games exist for ages 3-103. And there are cooperative games of many kinds, from circle games to PE games to board games to online games. CooperativeGames.com supplies educators, families, organizations and everyone else as many great cooperative games as we can find. We post lots of free ones. We also have a shop where you can purchase cooperative board games and playthings. We are developing programs for schools based on cooperative play as well. We’re a small business and we are 100% dedicated to cooperative play. Here are three active cooperative games for kids ages 4 to 7. Give them a try and let us know how you liked them! You can leave comments to this blog, check us out on facebook or contact us through CooperativeGames.com. http://cooperativegames.com/
Cooperative Game for Kids Ages 4-7 #1: Beanbag Freeze
Materials: One beanbag for each student
Time Estimate: 10 minutes
Number of Players: Any
Object of the Game: To move around with a beanbag on one’s head and help those who have dropped their beanbags
Skills: Cooperation; Large motor skills; Balance
Game Category: Active physical game; Party game
To Play: This game can be played inside or outdoors. It encourages children to help one another as well as to cooperate. To begin, give each child a beanbag and ask her to balance it on the top of her head. With beanbags in place, the kids move slowly about the play area. They can walk or move in any silly or fun way they please.
Now ask the children to pick up the pace and move more actively—hopping, skipping, moving backwards, turning, stopping and starting, all while balancing their beanbags on their heads.
If a child loses his beanbag, he is frozen until another child picks it up and places it back on his head. If the helper also loses his beanbag, he, too, is frozen until another friend comes to thaw them both by replacing their beanbags. (Very young children can hold the beanbags in place on their heads while they help their friends.) Be sure to tell the children that the point of the game is to help their friends by replacing fallen beanbags so that everybody can stay in the game. The game is over when everyone has thawed or everyone is frozen or everyone is tired. Follow-up questions may include:
Did you get to help a friend?
How did helping someone make you feel?
How did you feel when someone else helped you?
Did we manage to keep everyone in the game most of the time?
Cooperative Game for Kids Ages 4-7 #2: Here and There and Everywhere
Materials: None needed
Time Estimate: 5 minutes
Number of Players: 4 or more
Object of the Game: To practice counting while moving
Skills: Cooperation; Large motor skills; Critical thinking
Game Category: Active physical game; Academic Game (math)
To Play: Players run or skip around play area, singing, “Here and There and Everywhere.” When you are ready, say, “Freeze” and call out a number; for example, say, “Freeze Four”. Kids freeze and touch four body parts to the floor; for example, two feet and two hands. When everyone has had a chance to do this, call “Melt.” Students resume running or skipping around, singing, “Here and There and Everywhere” until you call out another “Freeze” command with a number. Count as high as you want, remembering that kids have twenty fingers and toes that can all be counted!
Try having the kids pair up when you call “Freeze” to allow for larger numbers. Another variation is to say that each foot and hand counts as one body part. This works best for very young children who cannot count to numbers past ten.
Cooperative Game for Kids Ages 4-7 #3: Balloon Bop
Materials: One balloon for each group of 3 to 5 students.
Time Estimate: 20 minutes
Number of Players: 8 or more
Object of the Game: To keep a balloon in the air
Skills: Cooperation; Large motor skills
Game Category: Active physical game; Party game
To Play: Divide a large group into small groups of 3 to 5. Give each group one inflated balloon. Children hold hands and form a circle. The goal is to keep the balloon aloft by batting it while still holding hands. If the balloon touches the ground, the group can no longer use their hands to bat the balloon. Every time the balloon touches the ground, the group loses a body part they can use to bat the ball: elbows, heads, shoulders, feet, and so on. The game is over when the group has no more body parts left that can be used to keep the ball in the air!
Variation: For extra challenge, ask each group to move the balloon across the classroom while they keep it in the air.
Enjoy the Win-Win Way–Cooperative Play–Throughout Your Day!
My most recent blog was a memorial to John Nash, founding father of mathematical game theory and cooperative gaming in particular. Nash, whom the move A Beautiful Mind was about, died last week in a car accident in New York. Some people have asked me for more on how game theory demonstrates the logic of cooperation that Nash’s work relates to.
To answer that, check out this video from ASAP Science: Nice Guys Finish First. SEE THE END OF THIS POST. The video shows why cooperation affords the most reliable gain in a Prisoner’s Dilemma game scenario. Prisoner’s Dilemma is a card game in which both players try to win as much money as possible and also avoid losing the money they already have. Basically, cooperation is the safest solution for both players in Prisoner’s Dilemma and it assures they will both win a pretty good chunk of change, if not the absolute maximum that the selfish solution provides. For both players to get a good return and avoid maximum loss, both players need to decide within themselves to give up trying to win at the other player’s expense. Though the game of Prisoner’s Dilemma is constructed so that grabbing the goods from a cooperator does maximize immediate financial reward, it is also true that this ultimate victory is unlikely. The risk that someone will be selfish is a bummer coz it introduces maximum risk of loss to each player…and further it guarantees that if both players are selfish they are certain to both lose, and thereby forfeit the opportunity they would have had to win a nice sum if they had only cooperated. Prisoner’s dilemma is a cautionary tale about greed.
Also check out the Tit for Tat computer simulation game that shows the best game strategy of any is cooperative. I won’t explain it all here. Basically though, Tit for Tat looks at statistics of many rounds of play and it shows cooperation wins. Tit for Tat translates to real life this way: cooperation breeds trust and trust creates helping communities. In a helping community, everyone gives and takes so that each individual gets material support from others. Note that in game theory they don’t even talk about the emotional and neuro-physiological benefits of sharing and helping that the evolutionary biologists and positive psychologists talk about. And the spiritual benefits of cooperation? That’s WAY off of the game theory map. What game theory does is to show that cooperation is indeed rational over time in many game scenarios…so much for the competitive mantra about greed being in one’s “rational self interest”. That is SOOOO old paradigm!
The last part of the video “Nice Guys Finish First” demonstrates that Nature is onto the logic of cooperation as well, since individuals who are “nice” are trusted and helped by their peers. The thing about competing to win is that it looks like success in the short term and from the perspective that we can all just walk away from negative impacts we have on others. Taking the longer view however, cooperation is the best, and even the most rational, option for one and all.
John Nash, the mathematician who advanced game theory by showing that cooperation can be mathematically advantageous compared to the “every man for himself”, zero-sum approach to winning, died in an auto accident May 29 in New Jersey. Dr. Nash and his wife, Alicia, 82, were in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike in Monroe Township around 4:30 p.m. when the driver lost control while veering from the left lane to the right and hit a guardrail and another car. I live in California, but I was attending an educational conference in New York on the day John Nash died. The title of my talk at the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) conference was “Cooperative Games for a Warm and Loving School Climate”. I, and others interested in cooperative games, owe a thankful acknowledgment and fond farewell to Nash since he was the first to recognize that, mathematically speaking, maximum benefit for all players can be obtained through cooperation in many situations as opposed to competition. Nash’s work was the first to question the me-versus-you paradigm of zero sum games.
As we stand here now in 2015, many of us long for a new cultural paradigm such that cooperation is deeply valued, as opposed to an ethos based on so-called “rational self-interest”. Global problems abound. To avoid authoritarianism on the one hand and anarchy on the other, in the face of current problems cooperation is imperative. Putting it simply, we now understand that we are all in this together. John Nash played a major role in establishing the validity of cooperation as a means of maximizing everyone’s self interest in games, including the game of life.
As we bid a fond farewell to John Nash, Nobel prize winner whose story is the subject of the movie “A Beautiful Mind”, we thank him for helping us transition from the relentless, self-aggrandizing “me” to the abundant “we.” Nash’s work in mathematics proved that “rational self interest” is not always rational nor is it automatically in the best interest of oneself after all. In many situations the win-win way is the optimal way for all concerned. John Nash, thank you and May you rest in peace!