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Game III

In the proposed game number I we saw how agents that are exactly the same follow the same instructions and generate a complex collective behavior. In this present game, the agents follow identical instructions but are initially characterized by three different states. In nature, for example, in the case of developing a body like hands, there is also this distinction or separation of tasks (skin, muscle, bone).

How do cells decide what role they are going to perform in the body if they can only communicate with neighboring cells? In this game players experience how their functions can change according to the messages they receive from their neighbors, and the impact that this process will have on the whole group. Let's play this swarming game!

  • Material: beep (optional)
  • Time required: explanation 3 minutes, play 5-10 minutes, conclusions 2 minutes.
  • Special conditions: Number of players 20 minimum, better 40 or more in a room or outdoor space allowing free movement.
  • Preparation of the game:
  1. Divide the group into three subgroups.
  2. Give each group a name: water, sponges and fire.
  • Instructions to play:
  1. The play is about moving freely in space, find other players and exchange information with them.
  2. To exchange information, the two players facing each other have to stop, look at each other and hold the right hand on the shoulder of the other.
  3. Each player says which state he or she is at that time (water, sponge or fire). Depending on their states, a change can happen:
  • The water extinguishes fire: fire becomes water.
  • The fire burns the sponge: sponge becomes fire.
  • The sponge absorbs water: water becomes sponge.
  • If both children are already the same, there is no change.


  • Additional notes for instructors:
  1. Every one or two minutes the monitor whistles to stop the game (the players stop and sit on the floor) and counts how many children there are in each group. It may take notes of the results in a table and then will analyze how each state evolves.
  2. The game ends when one state is extinguished, but may stop at any time.


Click here for after-playing discussion and conclusions!



Adapted from Ready, Set, Self-Assemble, developed by the Children’s Museum of Houston ( Published under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike License.