Expert Moderator Advice – Marientina Gotsis

Do’s and Don’ts:

Do introduce basic game concepts, such as Brain Architecture, Serve and Return, and Toxic Stress. It really helps reinforce what is in the game. We don’t use difficult science words, but our concepts and metaphors may be new to some people.

Don’t overwhelm people with game directions. Teach the game as it happens, step-by-step. Start with the goal and intro paragraph in the directions and then get interactive right away.

Do engage players to discuss the experiences in the cards. Players may initially just focus on the consequences to the game (e.g., getting weak materials) instead of what the life experience actually is.

Do have a set of simple questions after playing. You can stimulate discussion even with simple questions: ‘What did you like about the game?’, ‘What did you not like about the game?’, ‘How does this relate to your everyday work?’.

Do ask people to take pictures and post them. It helps build an emotional connection to the experience and to the team.

Don’t worry if people break some rules. The game is resilient to some amount of cheating.

Don’t modify the game without asking. We have spent many years testing it and have some good reasons behind its current form. Also, its concepts are based on more than a decade’s worth of research by science communicators.


Frequently observed behaviors

Players will try to twist two pipe cleaners together and connect across all directions. They are always motivated to build a strong structure. They will cheat a little bit. Some will cheat a lot and, but usually it says more about their emotional investment into the success of their brain. Usually, by year 3 of building, teams feel connected to the emergent narrative of the game.

Players often name their brain. They may even come up with names for the social supports that helped them, e.g., grandmother, neighbor. That is very encouraging.

Some players may get a bit emotional if the emergent narrative hits close to home. They may be parents who have disadvantaged children themselves, or be dealing with some of the problems encountered in the cards. The game should teach that social support can make a difference even the most hopeless situations so try to reinforce that discussion.

You may get emotional when people describe their own projections and reading into their experience of playing. It is ok. Empathy is a wonderful thing.

Sometimes players emerge as ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’ ones within teams based on the kinds of cards they draw. Try to break up their impression that they are on a roll by changing up the order of people drawing cards.

If you play the game with fewer than 4 people, parenting dynamics and personality conflicts are likely to be sharper while playing. Dyads tend to revert to parenting roles and may need help focusing on greater community and environment impact.

If you play with individuals, they will project their own childhood into the game so use it at your own risk. If you are not a trained mental health professional, you may want to avoid situations where too much reflection on people’s own childhood may occur.