I’m always on the lookout for games or books that help inspire some creativity in my children, and I’ve recently stumbled upon an interesting game that, although more likely to be pegged as a game for adults, has a lot of potential with a younger audience. The game is called Disruptus, and my oldest (age 6) has been enjoying playing a round or two each day. Let me show you how it works.
First, the game’s box and components are all high quality stuff — the box is small and cube shaped and contains a notepad, an oversized die, a timer, a rulebook, and a thick stack of heavy stock cards. There are some blank cards that you can use to create your own along with a few cards that have text on them that explain to a larger group what type of action the current player is attempting (for example, a Create action or possibly an Improve action — will explain these shortly), but the majority of the cards can be broken into two types — small sketches of simple items like a skateboard or a water bottle. The other stack of cards contain photographs of familiar items such as a parking meter or an airport chair.
Play is fairly simple… a player rolls the dice that can come up with one of four categories of action — Create 2, Improve, Transform or DISRUPT. The other two options that might come up are Judge’s Choice and Player’s Choice. For those two instances, either the Judge picks one of the four categories or the player chooses from two action cards picked by the Judge. While the game is ideally suited for 3 or more players (with players taking turns as the Judge), the game provides rules for solo and 2 player action.
The purpose of Disruptus is defined by the company on its website:
Disruptus asks players to look at objects and ideas and use different approaches — as determined by the roll of a die — to innovate.
Disruptus draws inspiration from the very important practice of ‘disruptive thinking’. Disruptive thinking is one of the most powerful ways to innovate.
So, after shuffling the cards with images on them the player rolls the dice. Assuming one of the four categories is rolled (versus Judge or Player choice), the player will turn over one or more cards and attempt to draw, sketch, and explain a disruption of the item(s). My son, for example, rolled Create 2, requiring him to turn over two cards — a toilet and a shopping cart. (I could already see the smile on his face.) He proceeded to draw his idea of how these two items might be combined or altered somehow to create a new item.
His drawing might have been crude, but his explanation (to me) for his new idea was well developed. To him, there was nothing unusual in putting a toilet on wheels and adding in steering controls. To a 6 year old, a drivable toilet just makes sense, I guess. But it was my questions to him to try and prod him for more explanations that I really enjoyed. A later Create 2 roll had him pick railroad tracks and a water bottle. I worried he might get stuck trying to find a way to combine these two, but I should have really known better. His solution involved replacing the railroad ties (the wooden beams) with water bottles that would crush and squirt out water as a train went by… drenching kids who were playing by the tracks. The parent in me was a bit worried about my son thinking it’s fun to play besides the tracks as a train screams by, but again… it’s about brainstorming and having my son think of fun ways to combine, modify, and twist the world around him.
For the Improve dice roll, he turned over a small image of a bicycle. I explained that he needed to keep the basic concept of a bicycle, but find a way to improve it… and he didn’t let me down. He learned to ride his bike last year and was quite proud of himself… so his improvement to the bike was obvious — add wings. I asked him to explain how that might be safe to ride/fly and he just kept explaining as only a kid can — I would tether the bike to the ground with a really long rope so he couldn’t fly too far away. The wings would fold back so he could pedal normally when on the ground. I absolutely loved it.
The Transform action is perfect for kids — that die roll asks the player to take an image and use it in a completely different way than the object is intended to be used. The Disrupt action asks players to pick an image and then come up with a completely different way to accomplish the task. Trust me… kids will have zero problems with these kinds of crazy creative assignments, and my son was smiling constantly. When I decided to end the game, my son asked for one more roll. And then one more.
The game designers have put out Disruptus as a way to get adults and professionals in lots of different areas of industry thinking and exercising their creative muscles, and I can totally see how this game could be used by a variety of professionals (advertisers, inventors, artists, etc.) to let loose and go crazy with ideas. But I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much fun a 6 year old could have playing the game, too. With over 100 cards containing images such as a helicopter, motorcycle, coil of rope, name badge, whisk, camera and many more… my son isn’t likely to run out of potential objects from which to draw inspiration. (The simple nature of the sketches of images and the basic photos of extremely ordinary objects are both easily identifiable by kids.)
I have no idea what sorts of interests my son will pick up as he grows, but I feel strongly that creativity is beneficial to any career, hobby, or task. I’m a big fan of anything that helps my son express his creativity, and Disruptus is one of those rare products that I plan on pulling out every few days for just a few minutes of fun brainstorming. (I also plan on collecting the sketches — many are priceless!)