Importance for Promoting Conflict.
Author: David Mackey.
Original, Last Updated: May 20th, 2007; June 8th, 2011.
When we think of games we oftentimes think of an activity that is useless in the realm of “real life.” It is a method of recreation
solely and sometimes we even look down on the use of games as an activity for the immature. In this paper we will discuss one way in which games transcend recreation
and enter the realm of a teaching and training tool. While there are several ways in which games can be used as teaching tools in this specific article we will discuss
their importance for creating conflict.
WHY CREATE CONFLICT?
As humans we are taught to avoid conflict. We protest wars, jump through hoops to keep everyone happy – so why would we want to use games
to promote conflict? The simple answer is that conflict within games provides a testing ground for the moral development of the individual in a relatively safe environment.
While individuals can give the correct answers to all the questions, this does
not necessrily indicate that they will respond correctly placed in a difficult
situation. Using group games as a means of promoting conflict allows one to
observe the reactions of the individuals when challenged. It exposes to the
individual their own decision making processes and allows secondary observers to
redirect inappropriate actions.
BAD RESPONSES TO CONFLICT:
There are numerous standard responses individuals give when entering into conflict. These can be observed when a group game promotes
conflict. Some common negative responses are outlined below:
Some individuals show an inability to properly handle their enthusiasm in the midst
of competition/conflict. Examples of this include running over teammates or opponents
to ensure a “point” is scored; losing the ability to focus on anything besides the
Perhaps you know that individual
who while playing a game of football would trample his own pre-teen child in order
to make a touchdown. Or perhaps it is the coach that finds that there is nothing
off-limits if it will bring about a win.
These situations can oftentimes
come up with single males are competing against each other in the presence of females.
The men feel it necessary to distinguish themselves as having superior athletic
prowess and this can oftentimes occur at the cost of their fellow teammates.
– There is a fine line between jest and disparagment.
Many individuals repeatedly disparage their teammates or the opposing team during
For example, some individuals
make comments as, “You should have run harder.” “If only you had been thinking.”
“Why don't you keep your eye on the ball?” “Have you ever caught anything in your
life?” Such comments, when spoken in a disparaging way can cause emotional damage
to the recipient, and enmity towards the speaker.
This sort of behavior can also
be presented not so much by the exact words used but by the tone of voice. Girls
can utilize a high-pitched shrieky voice, while guys can use a deep macho masculine
voice that insults other's humanity.
– The conflict gives rise to unbridled amounts
of anger. What should be an entertaining competition can become violent.
This sort of anger can arise
for any a number of reasons. Some of it is justified, but needs to be handled correctly.
There are times when an opposing team member attacks a team member using sly moves
that can injure an individual while still being “technically” legal.
Others have their anger aroused
by repeated fouling. This can be observed many times in basketball during a close
game where the losing team uses repeated fouls to prevent the winning team from
Sometimes individuals can't handle
defeat. When they begin to lose their attitude becomes sour and they look for any
reason to physically release the embarassment they are feeling.
Fear – Some individuals respond fearfully because of low
self-esteem. They are unwilling to participate in the group games or constantly
predict their own failure in order to avoid having others be disappointed in them.
An individual might say something
like, “I know I'm going to miss” before attempting to make a shot in basketball
every time they shoot. This should be distinguished from occasional doubts about
one's abilities. Everyone is prone to these doubts and it is not indicative or an
issue, but rather appropriate self-esteem. It is when these confessions of probable
failure are continual one should began to evaluating if the individual is using
the confessions as a method of relieving fear and avoiding embarassment.
REDIRECTING BAD RESPONSES:
The observation of responses to conflict can be a
positive experience in and of itself. Especially for the individual who is the perpetrator
of the bad response. Oftentimes they see the ugliness in themselves and desire to
correct it. However, simply observing the bad response is not enough, active steps
must be taken to resolve these behaviors and redirect to more positive responses.>
Much redirection can occur verbally, by confronting
the offending individual at the moment of offense. If the individual continues in
the offense having time-outs to help him recognize the seriousness of his injuring
of others can be useful.
Many lesser-offenders will quickly redirect their
negative responses simply because of peer pressure. Individuals as a community push
for a certain level (not always a healthy level) of understanding. This push will
exert pressure on offenders who do not yet have their bad responses deeply ingrained
in their character.
Individuals who struggle more strongly with negative
responses will require a concerted effort by the community of players as well as
any authority figures to repeatedly confront the behavior over time. This includes
not allowing the individual to apologize in such a way as suggests that this is
simply a matter of personal preference or of acknowledging that other's are weak.
WHEN TO REDIRECT:
It should be noted that every time a bad
response to conflict is expressed in a competition it should not result in a confrontation
of this negative behavior. Rather, the behavior is confronted when the individual
shows a pattern of negative behavior when confronted by a certain type of situation.
As human beings we all lose our cool and act irresponsibly. This is not the issue
that needs to be corrected, rather it is the repeated actions of an individual to
a certain situation that should be confronted.
Group Games are useful not only as a method
of recreation but also as a method of learning to handle conflict. What we have
taught or claimed to believe is proved in the midst of the “game”. We learn what
role anger, fear, and other oftentimes negative behaviors play in our involvement
in competition. It takes what is taught from being theoretical to practical and
allows for a real gauge of our success in teaching, as well as the opportunity to
correct dangerous behaviors.
David Mackey is the Senior Youth Leader at Calvary
Community Church of Penndel, PA. He also runs the website GameSecretary.Com which
offers hundreds of group games organized by category.