Is the 21st century “an epoch in which games and play are the model for how we interact with culture and each other”? Designer and professor Eric Zimmerman thinks so. At the very least, games can provide an extraordinarily useful way to learn by doing. In The Rules We Break: Lessons in Play, Thinking, and Design, Zimmerman gathers an array of games—ones that can be played on tabletops, playgrounds or even online—designed to encourage flexible and creative thinking, facilitate collaboration and improve communication.
Games are “a kind of miniature laboratory,” Zimmerman writes. Constraints always provide a fertile environment for creativity, of course, but sometimes the learning comes from devising the game itself. For example, one exercise asks groups to prototype games with a few found objects in 15 minutes. Fellow groups then play one another’s games. Zimmerman provides reflection and discussion points for all games, so it’s clear what we stand to gain from playing—whether in the classroom, boardroom, family room or workplace.