The other day, we looked at competitive play. Today, we’re going to look at its “fluffy bunny” counterpart – cooperative play. And what we’re going to learn is that cooperative play is no more a fluffy bunny than competitive play was a chance to inflate one’s sense of superiority. In fact, cooperative play brings its own set of challenges and learning opportunities.
Let’s start with a “definition”. In cooperative play, a team works together toward a common goal. It may be a group of roleplayers playing out a campaign where they have to locate treasure. It may be a group acting out escorting a very important person. When my friends and I sat down to play Shadows Over Camelot a few years ago, we were excited to find that we would be working together to drive the shadows out of Camelot. There aren’t enough board games where you work together to win. It’s important to remember that the ultimate goal in cooperative play is qualitative – effectively, to reach the end goal of the play period.
But cooperative play has its own teaching moments. On a personal level, cooperative play helps a learner find her own strengths, interests, and passions, and through play allows her to develop confidence in her skills as she develops them. As she works with her team, it helps her develop a sense of community with her team and helps her find her place within that team. She learns how to contribute, how to collaborate with others, and how to discuss and negotiate with her team members, building her communication skills.
On the team level, the team learns how to find its voice as a unit, how to showcase each person’s skill set in that unified voice. The team learns how to communicate, to prioritize and collaborate, to solve problems in a way that each individual couldn’t do alone. One of the benefits of cooperative play for an individual acting in the team level is that it allows the individual to look at where the skill gaps are in the team, look at others’ skill sets, and then build a strong team by recognizing how to fill in those gaps with the right people, rather than just with friends or people they know. (Quest to Learn actually has a profile system in place that helps middle school students find and build the right teams for different projects.)
Like competitive play, cooperative play offers learners many opportunities to learn, to recognize and develop their own strengths while respecting others’ developing skills. It offers a chance to really utilize some of those more elusive transdisciplinary skills in a practical situation.