Seven ways to make team building game rules fun

No matter what type of game you play, be it for team building purposes or just to show the neighbor kids that you can still out-maneuver them at two-hand touch, it’s best to start the game with a clear understanding of the rules. The last thing anyone wants is for the game to break down with arguments or to end acrimoniously because people understood the rules differently.

But “laying down the law” can put a real damper on a game right at the moment that energy for the game is at peak - at the beginning. That can put a real damper on the fun. This is particularly important in team building, when any number of the participants may be there against their will and are only half-believing the event could possibly be enjoyable in the first place.

A good game director can keep the rule-giving portion of the game fun - and therefore keep the energy of the group high - by following a few simple guidelines (dare I say rules?):

1. Engage her personality.

The person leading a team building game became game director for a reason:  she knows how to have fun, and help others have fun. Why then do so many game directors check their personalities at the door when it comes to laying down the rules?

The answer is simple:  they don’t want to mess up. Clarity is valued above hilarity at this crucial moment. She doesn’t want game participants to later cry foul, that it was the game director’s fault that people messed up.

My perspective on this is, simply put, the opposite. A dime will get you a dollar if someone in the group misunderstands the rules, no matter how clearly you state them. In fact people are more likely to remember the rules if you make them laugh than if you don’t.

So, a good game director will let her own personal funny shine through. She’ll crack her favorite jokes, let her guard down and allow herself to be seen as an interesting human being. It’ll be far more memorable - and isn’t that the point?

2. Share the rules in writing.

This is cover for rule #1. No matter how goofy a game director gets when stating the rules, he can always recover from misunderstandings by reminding participants to read what’s on the page in front of them.

3. Demonstrate rules in a silly way.

Recently we held a search party event at the Kennedy School in Portland, a former grade school converted into a brewery, pub, theater and B&B. One of the rules was, “No sharing.” I covered the rule thusly:  “This was a grade school, not a kindergarten. Since we skipped kindergarten, we’ll pretend none of you learned to share. Perfect!”

They laughed, then read the rule written on the page. The whole thing took five seconds.

Later, when a participant had the opportunity to “steal” an answer from another team, she took great pains not to do so.

4. Go through the rules quickly

Nobody showed up to your company’s event to sit through a long exposition of rules. The game director should get ‘em over and done with, already.

5.Keep the rules to a minimum.

All people need is the basics on how the game is played and how to win. The rest of it is fluff. Game directors should skip the fluff - it'll same time for the funny stuff.


6. Don’t take the rules too seriously.

The point of the game is to have fun, right? And since the game starts with the rules, that’s a fine place to start having fun.

I like to mess with the rules by inserting some clearly arbitrary, never-to-be-enforced frivolity in them... that keeps the participants doubting. For example, we tell participants that they’ll be penalized ten points from their score if we catch them ÆöΓÚÑ the €ÝãΔ èÇœΠÞ more than once.*

Nobody’s ever wanted to challenge us on that.

7. Don’t take the game director too seriously.

Game directors have a job to do. That job is to make participants smile. I know of no better way than to smile myself. When I do, I find my own fun quotient going up - and that of the game participants as well. Game directors must lead by example, i.e. by having fun!

* Redacted “for security reasons.”



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