Is life a game?

Inspired by discussions in last week’s online lessons, here’s an activity plan that moves from talking about games to profound philosophical questions about life. 

Stimulus game: Sitting ducks

Ask the group to stand in a circle. The aim is for everyone to sit down without communicating. However, if two sit at the same time, the game resets. Before long, they should realise that going around the circle in order completes the challenge. Celebrate when they do! 

What makes a game, a game?

What are the necessary conditions (the “must-haves”) of a game? You might get ideas like aims, participants, competition or fun. Come up with a list as a class and write them on the board. This helps them practise deconstructing a concept and teasing out its core ingredients. Have them test out their list by finding games that are counter-examples to each proposal. You could also ask the slightly harder question of what is “enough” to make something a game? 

“Life is a game.” Do you agree?

Write the statement above on the board/place it in the middle of the circle. Invite them to assess life against the list they have already made. Does it meet the criteria for a game? Contestable statements will naturally emerge as children debate whether the ingredients in the list occur in life, and in what ways. Let the discussion flow and follow the thread(s) they find most interesting. 

At the end of this discussion, you could anchor things back to the question by asking them to stand nearer to the statement the more they agree with it. 

To take things further, you could also use any of the below. The presence of the word “if” means children don’t need to have agreed to life being a game to proceed.

If life is a game…

…then what’s the aim?

…how do you know if you’ve won?

…is it possible to lose?

…who decides who wins and loses?

…who should make the rules?

…should everyone play by the same rules?

…do we play it, or does it play us?

Some people say life is like a game of chess. Is it? What existing game is life most like? Snakes and ladders comes to mind for me!

Best wishes,


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