TREVOR "The Games Man"

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What Are New Games & Cooperative Play?

Although New Games and Cooperative Play are actually two different things, these two play styles are often connected because they share a lot of the same traits. Both are very much involved with games that anyone can play regardless of abilities or skill level. Both aim to include everyone throughout the entire game (as opposed to elimination games). Both can easily include players of vastly different ages together. And both are designed primarily to be FUN for everyone. They are also a lot of  FUN just to watch!

New Games is a play movement based on finding healthier alternatives to physically violent games. It is often characterized as being "non-competitive", but this simply is not true. Many, many New Games are highly competitive. In fact, the whole thing was started in the late 60's by Stewart Brand (the man behind The Whole Earth Catalog, CoEvolution Quarterly, and a host of other "counter-culture" stuff) with a very popular game he invented called Slaughter! With a name like that, it's hard to imagine it actually being non-competitive. What Brand was aiming at was the concept of "Soft War": highly physical but fun play activities that involved adults playing hard, but not "killing" each other in the process! 

When the New Games Foundation got started in San Francisco a few years later, the concept had enlarged considerably to involve not only soft war, but more "playful" activities, creative games, and a bunch of silly stuff, too!

The New Games motto is "Play Hard. Play Fair. Nobody Hurt." The hallmarks of the New Games movement involve group participation, anyone can play, no special abilities required, no violence, self-refereeing, changing the rules to fit the situation, and most importantly: they have to be a whole lot of FUN!

Is it's heyday, The New Games Foundation was training literally thousands of people a year all around the globe in the concepts and repertoire of New Games. There are three source books: The New Games Book, More New Games, and New Games for the Whole Family

Cooperative Play, on the other hand, has been around for millennia. Many ancient cultures had lots of cooperative play in their day-to-day activities. Many of these games were just for the FUN of it, but many were actually educational: teaching survival skills necessary to staying alive in a hostile environment. The Inuit's game Blanket Toss falls into the first category; and Indian Stick (a silent, sneaky game) comes under the latter. 

Basically, Cooperative Play is games where everyone works together towards the same goal: in Blanket Toss, for instance, the object is to toss the person in the air and catch them when they come down. Everybody works together and everybody has FUN. If anyone doesn't do their share, the person being tossed could get hurt. So it's very important that everyone work together (co-operate) fully. This game was also invented with an ulterior motive as well: to keep everyone warm! It's a very active game and succeeds quite well at that!

On the other hand, Cooperative Play that is educational exists in nearly every culture, too. In primitive cultures, these games were used to teach boys cooperative hunting skills like how to move silently, how to work together to make the kill, and bringing the day's catch home together. There were also plenty of games for girls that taught efficiency in reaping crops, group cooking skills, and how to care for children. There were also a wide variety of singing, dancing, and chanting games for adults. Many of these games are evidenced in our modern culture in games such as Farmer in the Dell, Bringing Home the Bacon, and the above mentioned Indian Stick.

More modern examples of Cooperative Play include: Sardines, that reverse Hide & Seek game in which only one person hides and everyone else tries to find them; most pre-school singing games and finger plays, like The Itsy Bitsy Spider: and lots of word games, like One Word Stories in which each player in turn says one word to form a complete story together.

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