4 characteristics of creativity - and 5 games that will help grown-ups unleash them


The novelist Ursula K. Le Guin believed that

“The creative adult is the child who has survived.”

I will not differ. Ursula sounds like quite a badass and a much more reputable human being than myself. But may I suggest some paraphrasing? How about:

"The creative adult is the child that grew up but didn't stop playing".

(because only Avril Lavigne wants to be a tween in her thirties).

That creatives like to play is a thing. It's one of those privileges we happily own (like wearing bright/all black clothes, or doodling when someone talks - it does help me concentrate, at least). Today I was thinking that I would lay out the relationship between creativity and play and suggest 5 games that will help you be more like Kanye.

So, creativity and play are like strawberries and cream: they are made for each other, but not quite the same.

Play is an activity initiated as a form of amusement - that is often crediten with helping process or prepare for the world we live in (loads of espices play, it's not only for humans!). Creativity is the ability to generate new meanings for said world. It's almost like they are steps in one same thing: first you understand, then you create. Does this remind you of anything?

In fact, Mark Runco (a creativity scholar from the Ellis Paul Torrence school of thought; btw, keep that name in the back of your mind, we'll be shortly back with my boy Ellis) believes that "the creative process is often in itself a form of play".

So there you go.

Now, remember Ellis Paul Torrence? We just mentioned him. He was the researcher/party pooper that developed a test to evaluate creativity. Whilst some of you might be up in arms right now, shouting "We all are creative!" and "Measuring creativity defeats the purpose!"; I've got to say Ellis broke down the quantifiable aspects of creativity into 4 pretty neat categories. So what I'm going to do is give you 4 games, one for each; and a bonus that I'd recommend independently of this methodology.

And, just to be clear, we are talking games and not toys in general. These are games popular enough for you to be able to buy easily, but niche enough for you to might not know them all.

1- Fluency: Cheating Moth

The ability to produce numerous ideas relating to the activity. In other words: how many iterations of one same thing can you come up with? (hence the classic brainstorming rule, quantity over quality).

Cheating Moth - this game is not deep, but it is hilarious. You have to cheat and get rid of cards, and if you get caught, your best bet is to try a new way to dispose of the cards so that you don't get found out.

2- Originality: Rummikub

An ability to produce ideas which are not generally produced. Aka, how unexpected or new or different are your ideas?

Just to be controversial I'll suggest Rummikub - by far the most popular of the lot. And yes, it's got plenty of numbers in it! The numbers in Rummikub act as symbols, you don't really need any mathematical ability to play the game (believe me, I know). You face the same tiles as the rest of the players, but you need to see relationships and links the others' don't in order to win.

3- Elaboration: The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow

This one is the ability to embellish ideas relating to the activity. In plain English, it looks at how much detail and specificity you can give to an idea.

The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow turns players into villagers trying to find out who amongst them is a werewolf. They have to build a narrative argument, and justify and embellish their stories in order to create a compelling reason to point a finger at another player.

4- Flexibility: Dixit

Or the ability to interpret similar stimulus in different ways. And that's how many different areas/contexts you can relate your idea to.

Dixit is one of my favorite games. You get this deck of surrealist cards and you need to describe one without being too literal or too crazy, and the other players need to identify a card of their own that could reflect what you are describing. I love how it reveals how other people think, and how many different interpretations of one description you get to see..

The bonus

This was hard. There are many games that I enjoy, but one that really got me mesmerized at how beautiful and subtle yet compelling was, was Year Walk.

Year Walk is an ipad game, rather than a board game, but the craft that went into it is incredible (the studiobehind it, Simogo, are absolutely genius). It's very visual and will have you thinking and planning and putting up maps and postits everywhere (I hear there's a version that includes maps, but mine didn't). All whilst keeping your imagination running and dragging you mercilessly into their storytelling.

Give it a try, but warning: it's a bit scary.


Got a comment? Your brain is tickled? Have an incredible game recommendation?

Drop me a line anytime (I find the conversation more genuine than the blog comments).

creative nerdMaria Gil