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Games vs Play

Many studies have shown that play helps people to be more creative and even more productive.  It can lower blood pressure, release endorphins, and help build community. 

​HPG uses games in many of our workshops.  For instance, in one recent team building module we had the participants divide up and build towers using shish kabob skewers and marshmallows. Afterward we talked about power structures in teams. In another the participants played the telephone game, to learn about communication.  Rather than just talking and imparting ideas, we give people a chance to loosen up, have some fun, and to bring up issues in a less hierarchical environment.

We also play a lot in our corporate retreats.  Full days of making business plans, timelines, and marketing strategies can get heavy. We keep our energy up by being silly, and we sometimes laugh really loud, but it actually helps us get things done.  A good hard laugh can be as good as a trip to the gym.

Because of all these benefits, gamification has become a popular corporate tool of late.  In settings where creativity is necessary, leaders are trying to find ways to encourage employees to think outside the box. But it turns out that there is a difference between games and play.

The type of play that gets the best results is non-directed - no rules or goals, just imagination.  The kind that little kids do before they go to school and start learning about games with rules.  Games have rules, goals, and structure; play is spontaneous and free. 

I was kind of shocked to realize that according to those definitions, I rarely do much actual play.  I do physical activity, but there’s almost always a goal in mind, like kayaking up to that bridge, or hiking to that waterfall. I’m currently training for a triathlon so my exercise is very goal oriented – five more laps, one more mile…

My husband often plays with our dogs.  They roll around and tug on things and all three of them are grinning with pure joy.  But I’m too much of a wimp to join them; I get hurt too easily.  It makes me a little sad when I watch them because I feel like I’m too grown up.

So, now I am on the lookout for an activity that makes me feel like that.  That I can do for the pure joy of letting go of expectations and limitations.  For the creativity and imagination.  For time with no pressure to do or achieve anything.  For just enjoying my friends' company. For no reason at all.

Anyone want to come over and build a fort in the woods with me and maybe pretend we are drinking tea out of acorn caps?

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