July 31st, 2002

“How do you get people to be more cooperative? I take them on a retreat to an expensive, full-service natural setting, we talk for a day and a half about how important it is for us to work together, and fifteen minutes into the volleyball game people are ready to kill each other.”

–Paradigm Shifting CEO

Learning to Co-Operate by Playing Games

Bernie DeKoven

So, don’t play volleyball! If you really want to get people more cooperative, why raise the spirit of competition? If volleyball’s the only game in town, maybe you shouldn’t be keeping score. Then there’s Infinity Volleyball, which is a purely cooperative version of the game, the goal being to make the longest possible volley. If you have to play with competition, play with it. How about this: every time a side would ordinarily have to rotate, rotate between sides. This way, the people who were on one team eventually find themselves on the other team, and ultimately, everybody’s on the same side. But I wouldn’t count on one retreat being that effective in “getting” people to cooperate. Bottom line is that it has to pay to play together. Business is business. If I can take it to my bank, you can bank on my cooperation.


The fun that New Games can bring to a New Years Eve party is inversely proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed. New Games (so named by Stewart Brand, author of the Whole Earth Catalog) are basically open-ended games. They are like sports except that the goals can be changed, and so can the rules, and nobody really cares about the score. For example: Stewart’s classic game of Earthball, in which a six-foot diameter ball, painted like the globe, is pushed around a field by teams of potentially hundreds. Now, if you’re not sober enough, you’re likely to find such a game deeply confusing: The Earthball is out of control. People are switching sides. Suddenly everyone is on the same side trying to push the Earthball to the top of the hill. For the chemically-enhanced-disoriented, this added disorientation quickly reaches beyond confusion into sheer frustration and sometimes even rage.


On the other hand, if this is a non-alcoholic party, well, then, let me tell you about one of my favorite contributions to the New Games repertoire, the game of prui (pronounced “proo-eee”). I actually found this game in a book called “Games and Sports from Many Nations” by Sara Etheridge Hunt. An actual game, actually played in Holland, I think (I don’t have the book any more). It’s a lot of fun. Dramatic. Gentle. Safely touchee-feelee.

Clear the dance floor (living room, kitchen, back yard). Get more or less everyone together. (For any game to be fun, participation has to be optional). When the mass is about as critical as it will get, everyone closes their eyes and starts milling around. When people bump into each other, they shake hands, while saying prui. If the person they encounter is not prui, they each go off to find someone else. On the other hand (as it were) when someone bumps into the actual, pre-appointed prui, shakes hands and says prui, the prui shakes hands, doesn’t say anything, and doesn’t let go. Now both people are prui, remaining prui until the end of the game. If either of them is encountered by anyone else, more people are added to the prui. The game continues until more or less everyone has become prui. Then they can open their eyes. There are some exceptionally fun moments as more and more people feel their way towards pruiness. It gets quieter and quieter. The plaintive sounds of the unpruied few mingling with the invisibly giggling many.

This is a light-hearted, and loving game that you can play several times during the evening, and it will get better each time. This is true of most of the New Games in the New Games Book, each of which can make your New Years party feel newer, more whole, more promising. Happy New year. May we each find the prui!

More about Bernie at: DeepFun.com