Activity created by:
Lindsay Dombrowski
Yipian Yang

Materials:
*Note: One specific game was selected for this activity, but therapists may use other cooperative games that are similar in nature.

  • Tabletop board game: Mysterium
(Mysterium requires at least two people to play. It sets the scene in an old castle where a murder took place, and the ghost of the victim is trying to help the mediums [other players] find out the murderer among several suspects by giving them vision cards that entail clues directed to the murderer, the place of the murder, and the weapon used. The type of clues (e.g. color, specific symbols, objects, etc.) are decided by the ghost and are not known by the mediums, so each player will be guessing what the ghost is trying to communicate to them while helping other mediums. All the players are playing against the game itself instead of one another. Depending on the number of players and the difficulty level, each game may last from 10 to 45 minutes)

Instructions:
  • Therapist will first introduce the game to client(s); based on therapist’s clinical judgment, he/she may also explain the purpose of using the game in therapy (e.g. to practice perspective-taking skills).
  • For the first one or two rounds, it is recommended that the therapist plays the role of the ghost, as this role is more complicated to play and has more responsibilities; client(s) is/are encouraged to take their time to become familiar with the game, and may play the ghost once they have a clearer understanding of the game.
  • If the game is used in a group setting, the therapist may explain at the beginning that all the players (including the ghost) are working toward the same goal, so everyone should cooperate with one another; in other words, no competition is necessary nor helpful. If the game is used in individual therapy, the therapist can also emphasize that the two players have a common goal.
  • After a brief introduction and explanation of rules, the therapist may start the game.
  • If the game is played with the same (group of) client(s), the therapist can debrief and discuss the game before the end of the session; if the players are different in each round, the therapist can choose to debrief after each game or after all the games are finished.
  • Depending on the treatment goal, the therapist may engage client(s) in a discussion of their thoughts and feelings while playing the game, any problems or difficulties working with other players (i.e. more so in group setting but also applicable in individual therapy), their understanding of the skills being used, and potential ways to apply these skills outside of therapy.

Target Population:
  • Clients age 10 and up
  • Can be used in individual or group therapy settings
  • For clients working on interpersonal communication skills, perspective taking, cooperative skills, frustration tolerance, and/or expressive language skills.

Expectation and problem-shooting:
  • The purpose of this activity is to invite the client(s) to engage in individual and/or collaborative play, in hopes that the unique game design will create an opportunity for the client(s) to experience social learning and facilitate the learning process (within an individual psychotherapy or group therapy setting).
  • Communication/expressive language skills, perspective taking, problem solving and creativity are all part of the therapeutic properties of this game. The design of the game orients the client(s) to work towards both individual and group goals in playful ways as they utilize and explore the game’s rules, boundaries, dynamics, and aesthetics.
  • The unique design of this game invites the client(s) to interpret meaning and intentions given by the individual playing the role of the “ghost.” The activity hopes to offer the opportunity for the client(s) to process their understanding of achieving a goal, problem solving, and relating based on perspective taking and abstract thinking.
  • The therapist is recommended to offer discussion of the experiences felt both during and after the play, as this may promote exploration of one’s role, strengths, and weakness within the game play. The play is suggested to highlight and validate these individual differences, in hopes it may facilitate a safe space for a client to process various experiences found within game play, such as a spectrum of frustration and/or sense of confidence within a collaborative setting.
  • If a client appears to experience difficulty managing frustration in moving forward within the game, the therapist may engage more fully with the way in which the client is experiencing the game. The therapist may offer validation to support their current understanding as well as offer examples and/or explanations to assist the client towards utilizing personal strengths and collaboration with other clients to achieve their goals.


Reference:
Peppler, Kylie, Joshua A. Danish, and David Phelps. "Collaborative gaming: Teaching children about complex systems and collective behavior." Simulation & Gaming (2013): 1046878113501462.

Swank, J. M. (2008). The use of games: A therapeutic tool with children and families. International Journal of Play Therapy, 17(2), 154.