About the game

The brain architecture game helps people appreciate the impact of early childhood experiences on outcomes across the lifespan.

“It wasn’t a fair game,” said one legislator after watching his brain collapse. “I got a lot of unlucky cards.”

“Isn’t that the way it happens in real life?” replied the game facilitator.


The Brain Architecture Game is a tabletop game experience that builds understanding of the powerful role of experiences on early brain development– what promotes it, what derails it, with what consequences for society.

The goal is to build a brain that is as tall as possible, which represents functionality, and as sturdy as possible, which represents the ability to withstand stresses. Groups of four to six players work together, drawing Life Experience cards to gain materials for brain building.

Positive experiences earn a pipe cleaner and a straw for support. Negative experiences? Pipe cleaner, but no straw. After the initial period of early childhood brain development, weights must be hung from the structure of the brain when life hands out stressors. Will the foundation withstand these weights, or will it collapse? Afterward, groups use the notes in their Life Journals to discuss the experiences that strengthened, or weakened, the architecture of their developing brains.


Since 2009, more than 12,000 people in groups around the world have played the Brain Architecture Game, gaining a memorable, compelling perspective on the lifelong impact of early childhood experiences.

It is appropriate for use with community leaders, policymakers or government officials, health providers and educators.

If your organization or community is embarking on a conversation about adverse childhood experiences, toxic stress, or other early childhood issues, the game can be a valuable resource for creating a common understanding and a common language on these topics.