Friday, February 20, 2009

Play Hard to Work Smart

"Ample evidence points to the enormous health and professional benefits of laughter, lightheartedness, games, and humor. There is a time to be serious, of course. But too much sobriety cn be bad for your career and worse for your general well-being. In the Conceptual Age, in work and in life, we all need to play." - Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

The day is crazy. You barely got out of bed on time, ran to catch your bus, got caught in horrible traffic, got things off on the wrong foot with everyone you've seen this morning, you were tossing and turning all night about a crazy project, you feel so behind like everything's about to crash in on you. More and more work keeps piling up and you feel that if you were going to work 20 hours straight, you'd barely catch up. Been there? Even if these exact circumstances have not occurred, something similar probably has.
The remedy? Play.

That's right, have some fun. The answer is not to organize everything, hunker down and get through it. The answer is to play. Why do you think some companies have foosball tables , billiards tables, ping pong tables, video games, dart boards, and so on?

"The opposite of play isn't work. It's depression, To play is to act out and be willful, exultant and commited as if one is assured of one's prospects." -Brian Sutton-Smith, professor of education (emeritus), University of Pennsylvania

Benefits of Play
Play will do a few things for you:
  1. It will get the big picture part of your brain working. The big picture part of your brain will give you perspective, help you prioritize, and realize how to break your work down into bite-size chunks.
  2. Playing will relax you, and once the stress has melted away, your brain will be much more limber and agile, ready to approach the task at hand.
  3. Puzzling will stretch your problem solving muscles. This might help you bring your creative side to bear on the problems that you're facing.
  4. Playing with people at work is a great way to build community and get things flowing together.
  5. "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." - Albert Einstein
Of course the work will not take care of itself, but once you have yourself in a good place, get back to it and finish things up happily. You'll be glad for a little recharger, though avoid sloughing off your duties - Balance and Moderation.

Puzzle Games
Get the left and right sides of your brain working well together. If you're on the web, here are some awesome games to get your mind in gear.
  • Auditorium - - a beautiful game that combined problem solving with beautiful graphics and sound. This is a lot of fun.
  • Planarity - - One of my favorites from college. Simply untangle the graphs as fast as you can.
  • RoboZZle - - Made by a coworker of mine, you can solve puzzles created by others and create your own puzzles to share with the world. This is going to have a great community around it. It has very simply programming building blocks, and potential for so much.
  • Linerider - - You control a person on a little bike, navigating across line and curves on the screen, doing all kinds of crazy feats. Check out some of the recorded videos and try your best.
  • Yahoo Games - - Lots and lots of classic and new games. Many of them are good head-to-head games, involving a sense of community and a chance for a little friendly competition. Reacting to humans keeps you on your toes, often more so than the entire experience being with automatons.
  • NY Times Crosswords - - The classics!

Make Art - Get Creative
I like to keep crayons, paper, markers, and color pencils with me all the time to get into the artistic spirit. It's amazing how freeing a little artwork can be.
No matter what you choose to do, get that brain reinvigorated and you will both be more productive and enjoy your time at work more. Enjoy yourself!

This post is dedicated to Igor Ostrovsky , creator of RoboZZle, amazing coder, and good friend.

Request for Comments
  • Do you have any more games to share?
  • Do you have any stories about how a little play has helped you?
  • Any other benefits to play that I'm missing?


  1. Two additional games I love to boost my mood:

    Free Rice ( - learn vocab while helping to end world hunger

    iSketch ( - incredibly addictive online pictionary