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Play as an Engagement Tool:

The Invention of V-Ball!

We recently invented an amazing new game called 'V-Ball' as a means of engagement. 'V-Ball' was our response to a problem, posed to us by Aberdeen's Creative Learning Team, which challenged a primary school in the Mastrict area to engage parents in the education of their children and to strengthen the efficacy of their Parent Council.

An extract from the brief read as follows:

"The Mastrick area is a designated area for development. There are plans to offer a series of creative activities in the area in the new term. It is suggested providing a taster event at the fair involving children and parents working together in small groups, in a problem solving capacity. This would give parents an opportunity to involve their children in a different form of play and to gain confidence when working with other adults"

Our challenge as problem solvers and designers was to ensure that we could engage as many people, parents and children, in a fun activity within a short time period, that broke barriers, encouraged them to develop temporary interactions yet permanent connections with one another, promoted team work and problem solving and hopefully stimulate further interactions with the school.

Unsurprisingly, our solution is 'let's play!' Play allows individuals and groups to engage more deeply with their environment and with each other. Play leads to a better awareness of another’s situation, helps you to become more creative in solving problems and become more resilient. Participants of play are keener on sustaining relationships between themselves.

In the past we had developed problem solving skills and creativity, with Aberdeen Creative Learning, through engaging participants in building, making and inventing. However, these are time consuming and sometimes, to an extent, laborious - not ideal when there are bouncy castles, burgers, raffles and candy floss on the go.

No, we needed a fast, intense and embarrassing game to get blood pumping, brains ticking and ensure laughs a plenty. We needed something that kids would drag their parents to, yet never allow them to regret getting involved in. Something that parents could end up talking to, and laughing with, other parents about at the school gates. We needed a team game that made you feel silly!

Mobile Phone Tag @ Yamaguchi Centre for Arts and Media

One of our favourite common examples of this is Laser Tag, and with this in mind we remembered a very similar game which we witnessed in Japan which used cardboard screens and mobile phone cameras in a very similar way. But, we wanted something sillier, simpler, safer and much less prone to 'hardware malfunction'... The cry: "WHAT ABOUT VELCRO?!!...Do you remember that game? what was it?... Buttheads! "

V-ball in practice @ Muirfield Primary School

V-Ball (short for Velcro Ball) used 8 modified velcro hook vests and hats and 24 soft balls, to allow for two teams of four to battle it out for an intense five minute game within our cross laminated cardboard battlefield. We invented three 'games' called 'Free for All', 'Sudden Death' and 'Grenade' - we wanted to emulate the experience of selecting your game through a first person shooter video game - however, Free for All was the unanimous favourite!

Things got very competitive!

V-Ball was extremely popular, engaging parents, children and teachers of all ages. Our teams showed remarkable team spirit and competitive enthusiasm. As we went along rules were bent and broken, as our players began to problem solve and find loopholes in our very loosely defined rules. Those who were most creative and supportive of their teams began to dominate. However, due to it's popularity, our audiences and next players began to follow suit.

Although difficult to acheive, we always aim for our experiences to be inclusive. We were very encouraged to see mums and dads introducing themselves to their team mates and competing against other parents and children from nursery age right through primary school levels. We were especially happy to have been thanked by a mother whose son has autism. Those with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) can sometimes struggle to engage with activities but her son loved playing 'V-Ball' with his brothers and friends.

This is the power of play; The ability to unwittingly allow people to learn and develop. Develop confidence, new friends, skills, strengths, and memories... Plus, you get to laugh at people in silly hats!

Well played everyone.

Tactics in play...

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