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Games as Bonding


Disciplines > Game Design > Games as Bonding

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



A key purpose of many games is to connect people together, acting as 'glue' to help form social bonds.

Team games do this particularly well as, to be optimally successful, people must play together and not just try to play as a collective of individuals heading in the same direction.

Even competitive two-player games help create bonds around a common interest in the game and the way the game forces the players to address the same problem (albeit from different viewpoints). 


A football team not only plays together -- they also party and have fun together. They feel like a single unit, like a family on a common mission.

Two chess players get involved in the game to the point where they lose all track of time. It is just them and the game, each thinking through the other's game as well as their own. They play together regularly and like talking about the game. While winning is enjoyed, the relationship actually gives greater pleasure.

A  business facilitator designs a game to be played at an offsite meeting to help people understand one another more and to work together to achieve a common goal.


There is a need to connect and be as one with others that starts in the infant neonatal phase, before we gain a sense of individual identity. Forever after we struggle between the two, seeking first individual separation then conjoined one-ness. Games help facilitate this process, creating contexts where we can be at one with the team, the other player and even the game.

When bonded with another person, we both lose our sense of individual identity and also feel larger, with our identity expanded to include the other. With more people, we increasingly feel our identity as a part of 'the group' rather than tied to distinct individuals, although key interpersonal links may also remain.

Strong bonding can be detected when players talk about 'we' more than 'I'. Even people in two-player competitive games will say things like 'we were playing chess' rather than 'I was playing chess'.

See also

Bonding principle, Psychoanalysis


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