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Group games and bonding activities PDF Print E-mail

Games and similar activities provide a valuable and fun way to help groups work together. This article gathers together some ideas from different places. I'd welcome comments and suggestions sent to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , if you are looking at a printout you might want to get the latest version at

Some other games sites I like:

These games seem to pass around the circuit of conferences and gatherings, mutating as they go, there origins are obscured, but I want to express a thank you, to Robin Clayfield, Gary Norfolk, Navanita and Prakash from whom I learned many of these activities. (I'll add contact info for these people later

Why Games

There are many good reasons for games, and its important to pick games that help to achieve the goals you are trying to achieve. Here are some of the possible reasons.

  • Getting to know each other - finding out about each other, everything from names, to personal historys.
  • Bonding and building trust - helping a group to work better together, by becoming friends as well as colleagues. Learning to trust each other.
  • Conflict Resolution - helping to resolve conflict in a group, for example by allowing it to be played out, or for the protagonists to see the humanity of their opponents.
  • Revision / Checkin - finding out how someone is at the moment, or going over things we did previously. (For example at the beginning of a meeting).
  • Left Brain - Right Brain balancing, this can be useful when the group is about to embark on some activity needing creativity.
  • Pushing Limits - growth through testing what our own, and each other's limits are in a safe environment.
  • Relaxation or Energizing - changing the energy level of the group, relaxing after hard work or waking up a sleepy group.
  • Problem Solving - Getting at problems from a different angle.
  • Teaching Skills - for example debating / interviewing skills, or leadership skills.
  • Grouping People - simple games to pick groups of people randomly.
  • Healing / Therapy - working through personal problems and traumas.
  • Catharsis / Release / Laugh / Discharge - Games that let off emotions such as anger and frustration in a relatively safe manner.
  • Level Playing Field / Deflating Egos - helping serious people take themselves less seriously, helping dominant people see the value of others.
  • Breaking Boredom - Creating a break away from, for example a monotous session of information sharing and decision making.
  • And last and most important of all, just plain having FUN !

Taking Care

All of us have boundaries, and limitations, in areas such as physical abilities, psychological strengths and weaknesses, emotional and sexual limits. The most interesting games and activities happen when we are playing close to, and just beyond those boundaries. If things are too easy, the game is probably going to be uninteresting and boring, but push the boundaries too far, and people are going to freak out, or even leave. Unfortunately people's boundaries (especially emotional and sexual ones) are usually not written on signs over their heads, and anyway the rewarding experiences for most people are when we test and push just beyond those boundaries. In addition different people in the group are likely to have their limits in different places.

Which games are appropriate will depend a lot on the audience, develop a good intuition for what is appropriate, and work up from the easier games to the more challenging ones - keeping your fingers on the vibes of the group. I find it really helpful to have an assistant part of whose roll is to keep their eyes on the pulse of the group, check out who is perhaps uncomfortable. Make it clear to people at the beginning of the session that it is totally OK to step out and not participate in anything they feel uncomfortable with, and in particular to feel OK about verbalising any problems they have with touch they consider innappropriate. Help people to understand that you respect their limitations, and that they should respect that other people may not have the same limitations. Its also helpful to design some games so that people can hold back and then jump in when they realise it is not as hard as they thought.

More problematic are moral and religious limitations where an individual objects to behaviour in others. For example while many people will have boundaries about how much of their own bodies they expose, boundaries which can easily be respected, strict muslims, christians and some indigenous cultures may have problems with other people's nudity.

It can be quite hard to get a serious action oriented group to play together, and so it is especially important to go easy on boundary issues on the first session, rather than creating potential resistance to trying things again.


The games are in an old website, please excuse any errors accessing it until its ported over to Joomla.