San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

When peace is your game, everyone wins

Members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Costa Rica were looking for a non-competitive game – that is, a game in which players work together to meet a goal – to present at a peace fair. Someone suggested a jigsaw puzzle; others then suggested puzzle themes and ways to make them. Six designs were chosen for a start, and a new project for the League was born.

The designs were printed on photographic paper and plasticized, making them easy to cut into twenty pieces. The pieces can be divided up among two or more players who work together to complete it. There is no picture to show what the completed design looks like, so players have to figure it out together. All designs have peace motifs.

“This started as an experiment,” said Olivia Ramos of the League, established in Costa Rica in 1981. It is the local section of the international organization of the same name founded in the Hague in 1915 to promote peace and human rights. “The idea is to teach working together and having fun doing it.”

Children at home or in a classroom get in an argument? Have them work the puzzle, together and read the peace-inspring message. However, the game is not designed just for children: adults can enjoy putting together a puzzle, tool, and it can be a tool for teaching teamwork or getting to know each other in workshops.

The puzzles were introduced to the public at an environmental fair in Heredia in June.  One teacher said it would be a help in her classroom. Parents asked for more. Adults and young people alike went to work solving the puzzles.

One high-school student offered the ultimate Costa Rican compliment when he and five friends finished a puzzle. “Tuanis,” he said.

“We don’t want this to be a commercial venture but we can make some up for sale [for interested parties], or we can show you how to make them. They are easy to make and you can take any design, a drawing or even a photo of the family or the pets.They make nice presents, too,” said Ramos. “It’s a game that everyone enjoys and nobody loses.”

For more information on WILPF or the peace puzzles, write

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Ken Morris

You might be reinventing the wheel here. Back in the 1970s there was a “new games” movement that featured cooperative as opposed to competitive games, and more recently cooperative video games have surfaced.

What I don’t know is whether kids (or adults) like playing these cooperative games. I was briefly involved with “new games” in the late 1970s, and neither I nor the kids thought they were much fun. The movement also seemed to fizzle out. I have no idea whether or not the new cooperative video games are popular.

This looks like an area where facts are sorely needed, and I would think that for as long as cooperative gaming has been around, somebody would have conducted some research. I did find one study suggesting that kids were more cooperative after playing cooperative games, but this doesn’t tell us how long the cooperative disposition lasts or whether kids would choose to play cooperative games if they hadn’t been forced to.

There is also the gender angle to consider. Girls already voluntarily play more cooperatively than boys.

Anyway, cooperative gaming is an idea that keeps surfacing, but not one that seems to have been examined rigorously. If the history of “new games” is any guide, cooperative gaming seems destined to fail, although it’s possible that there are some benefits. I’d be interested in seeing any evidence one way or the other.

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