Archetypes of Adventure Activities

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to tweak, tune and even invent activities so they work better for my clients. At some point early on, this looked like a constant search for “the magic bullet” and an ever expanding bag of tricks. Then, it became about a few activities that I KNEW worked well, then it became all about inventing and making crazy new activities. Now, I think I bounce around from one strategy to the next, but I still identify as an inventor!

 The Hero With A Thousand Faces

In his book entitled The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes a “monomyth” called the hero’s journey. It is a single storyline that all stories follow. The variety we experience as readers, listeners, or watchers comes from the interaction of different archetypes of characters and places along the way. For example, a threshold could manifest as a cantina in Star Wars, a window in Peter Pan, or the train station in Harry Potter.  Here’s an example illustration of the hero’s journey.

The Activity with a Thousand Faces

It dawned on me that adventure activities are very similar to stories. At some point, if you’ve seen one, you can begin to recognize the same elements integrated into all of them. Once I realized that all games had a similar pattern, I began putting those patterns down on paper. As new games came along, I would check them to see how they fit into my categories, and my categories evolved until I had created a “mono-activity”.  It’s not perfect, and I’m sure you all will be able to find holes in my theory, exceptions to the rules, etc.  Never the less, I am sharing it because I think it is a helpful framework to use to talk about how to adjust, tweak and invent activities.  I also think that breaking down activities helps me to imagine a more intentional strategy for selecting and adapting activities based on how its archetypal elements connect with the therapeutic goals of my clients.

Archetypes of Adventure

The gist of this idea is that all adventure activities are composed of (at least) four parts: an activity goal, an overall action that the activity will follow, an approach to using props, and limitations of the participants or group. Not all activities employ just one goal, action, use of props, or limitation; combinations of these strategies are possible (and even likely).  It is also important to note that there are a variety of facilitator intentions or approaches that will shape and flavor which elements they choose.

When I am modifying an activity, I generally change one element of this model.  For example, Group Juggle is a “Cooperation, Synchronize, Transport, Participation” activity.  If I change it from a cooperation game to a optimization game, it becomes “Warp Speed” where the group’s focus is on doing the same activity as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

I should also take a moment to explain that while this blog has been heavily focused on adventure activities, I really believe that these same elements apply to the work some of us do in the wilderness.  Sometimes, it may be a bit more difficult to change the way these elements appear in wilderness work; however, they are there!

This will be a way bigger topic, than one post can fit, but I will follow up with a series of posts about each part of the model. This will be an important framework for me to introduce as I continue to share how my mind addresses facilitation, adaptation and invention of new activities. I’ll post more on this idea, dig deeper into what each section is, define the elements, and dig into how it helps me adapt activities, invent activities, etc.  Until then, I’d love to know what you think!





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