Play Personalities: What your childhood games say about you as an adult!

Naila Al Hares
5 min readFeb 16, 2018


One of my most recalled childhood play memories goes like this:

I was 7 years old. At 2:00 am, while sleeping over at my grandma’s house, I would wake up my cousin Sara; and we would very quietly get out of bed and tiptoe to the rhythm of the clock hanging on the wall to reach the balcony. I remember our hearts would freeze at the slightest sound thinking we’d be caught! Although we were fully aware grandma was a deep sleeper and she wouldn’t do anything even if she had caught us. To our left, there was a big pantry with a light pink cloth hiding what’s inside. I would carefully lift the cloth and go behind it while Sara kept watch. Only 2 raw long spaghetti sticks… that was all we needed! After collecting the treasure, we would tiptoe to the rhythm of the clock again and by 2:21 am (yes it takes time to move slowly) we would reach the kitchen and nibble on the raw spaghetti rods in complete and utter darkness. Once we had swallowed the hard, tasteless raw spaghetti, we would turn the lights on and very casually make some tea and dip Kaa’ek (Lebanese biscuits) in them.

This is just one example of the many childhood games I used to play; I was also the class clown and enjoyed creating things, from homemade lotions to mini performances with my cousins. But I can say I still play similarly to this day. From different scenarios playing out in my head to puns and designing almost anything I can. Playing as an adult might seem to some like a waste of time or brainpower; I completely disagree! All my creative breakthroughs and innovative ideas have come from a playful intention.

Being playful at work has taught me so many skills without intending to learn any. Joe Killian, a founding member of The New Games Foundation, and play instructor at The Omega Institute, believes that “There is no method or guru or teacher but in play, you can elevate your mind, body and find your true soul for moments in there.”

6 UNDP departments at play with the L3b team

I have been lucky, and quite courageous as some people tell me, to maintain a playful adulthood by transforming how I used to play as a child into an adult version of playfulness. Dr. Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, noticed from his observations and research that there are roughly 8 play personality types which he describes in his book PLAY: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul. Take a look at them and see how one or more could apply to you!

The Joker

“The most basic and extreme player throughout history is the joker,” says Dr. Brown. Jokers love practical jokes, pranks, stunts and puns. In fact, jokers might seem hardly ever serious; it is pretty hard to tell sometimes. They love making other people laugh and they are nonsensically creative!

The Kinesthete

As Sir Ken Robinson says, these people “need to move in order to think”. If you enjoy yoga, dancing, jumping, hiking, or any other physical activity, then you are in this club. Mind you, Dr. Brown specifies that “while kinesthetes may play games, competition is not their main focus — it is only a forum for engaging in their favorite activity.”

The Explorer

These people can go places while sitting in their chair. …” They love exploring new places, feelings, ideas, music… you name it. In other words, specifically Dr. Brown’s, “Each of us started our lives by exploring the world around us. Some people never lose their enthusiasm for it.” And yes, “I wonder…” would definitely be their catch phrase.

The Competitor

Competitors are fully dedicated to mastering any game with specific rules. They enjoy winning whether the game is team based or solitary. “If games and keeping score are your thing, this may be your primary play personality.” Dr. Brown is onto you… especially if you were always on the stands cheering for your favorite soccer team!

The Director

The Directors in any group are the planners of a great outing, the party organizers and the orchestrators of scenes and events around them. They are often charismatic instigators of fun and subconsciously love power and control. This might sound evil, but “All the world’s a stage, and the rest of us are only players in the director’s game,” says Dr. Brown.

The Collector

If you like thrift shops and/or collect stamps, toys, fridge magnets, pictures, or letters and enjoy arranging your collection, then you are a collector by nature. Some collectors even collect memories or experiences; Dr. Brown shares a peculiar example: “One person I know travels the world to see solar eclipses — which might seem like the action of an explorer, except that he has to see every single one and methodically collects evidence of each eclipse.”

The Artist/ Creator

Calling for painters, gardeners, pottery makers, sculptors, printmakers and all other makers…You are officially declared artists! Artists find joy in creating something new and even taking apart and fixing something broken; or as Dr. Brown says, “The point is to make something — to make something beautiful, something functional, something goofy. Or just to make something work.”

The Storyteller

You are definitely a storyteller if you write novels, poems, scripts or even love to read books and watch movies; you may also be a performer of all sorts using music, dance and theatre to narrate. Storytellers enjoy playing out certain scenarios in their imagination and transforming mundane tasks into something incredibly exciting. “Even cooking macaroni and cheese can be transformed through imagination into a worldwide telecast celebrity cook-off,” says Brown.

Even Stuart Brown admits almost everyone has a combination of play personalities; it doesn’t matter as long as you can integrate your favorite way to play into your daily life; whether at work, in your relationships, as a parent or even by yourself.

As one of the co-founders of L3b, dedicated to leveraging the power of play at work, I have first-hand experience with how being a storyteller, joker and artist is actually the fountain of my productivity, resilience, and well-being at work.