Be Creative - A Game for Imaginative Adults

Based on Al Beck's "The Game of I S-A" printed in his book, "Rapping Paper, Mythic Thundermugs," 1963. Printed with permission.

"The creative process should be joyful, playful, and just plain fun," says Al Beck, the professor emeritus who taught visual arts for 40 years. Beck disdains games that focus on winning, saying:

"The development of creative skills seems inexorably tied to an attempt to measure the outcome. As our goal-oriented, success-swept society directs its best resources to the end-product, even pleasures are focused on this attitude."

Beck developed a game where creativity is the only motivation. The object of his game, "Imaginative Symbol-Association," or I S-A (pronounced eye-say), is in the process. There are no winners or losers, although Beck provides an optional point system for those "who hesitate to play without some type of minimal goal or reward at the conclusion. The scoring is considered a "vestigial pacifier" by its inventor and not an essential element of I S-A's play."

For ease of use, we've renamed Beck's game, "Be Creative."

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Play the Game

Al Beck Symbol Cards
Al Beck

Be Creative involves the use of 30 symbol cards, illustrated above and on the following pages, which were carefully researched by Beck. The game is played in rounds, during which each player picks an increasing number of cards and creates an association from the symbols. The players agree to an arbitrary time limit (10 seconds, for example), in which they must come up with an association. Puns are not only acceptable, they make the game more fun.

"The greater the flexibility," Beck says, "the more convoluted and bizarre the responses can become."

What You Need

  • Symbol cards (print the symbols and cut into cards, or recreate them).
  • Timer
  • 2 to 6 people, of any ages, per set of cards. To include more people, simply print additional sets of cards. Beck says, "A unique feature of this game is the potential for older and younger people to play together without handicap to either."
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Round 1

Al Beck symbol cards
Al Beck

Place the cards face down in the middle of the table.

Player One draws one card. The cards may be viewed from any position--horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Player One has 10 seconds (or the time you've allotted) to declare an association based on the symbol he or she drew.

"Each symbol may be extended to the very limits of imaginative associated possibilities. For example, the card with parallel lines could be interpreted as the number 2, to, too, couple, pair, or, in the broader stretch of the imagination: pear, tu (French for "you"), cockatoo, or today, and so forth."
--Al Beck

Player Two draws a card, and so on.

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Rounds 2-5

Al beck symbol cards
Al Beck

In Round 2, each player draws two cards and has twice the amount of time to declare an association (20 seconds, for example) based on the symbols drawn.

In Round 3, each player draws three cards and has 30 seconds, and so forth through Round 5.

Other Rules

Only one answer may be given per turn. All symbol cards drawn during any round must refer to the one responsible in some way.

Players may challenge associations. The player declaring the association must be prepared to invent an explanation of his or her imaginative symbol associations. "For really riotous playing," Beck says, "make your answers as obscure as possible. Then try to rationalize your way out of it!"

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Variation for Competitive Participation

Al Beck symbol cards
Al Beck

If you must keep score, refer to the chart below for point values assigned to categories. For example, if a given association is an animal, the player wins 2 points. Multiply the point value by the number of cards used. If two cards are used for an animal association, the player wins 4 points, and so on.

Players act collectively as judges in choosing the appropriate category and deciding challenges.

"Occasionally, the category to which the answer applies may be challenged in a group that perceives responses in a rigid rather than an open-ended, relaxed interpretation of the symbols," Beck says. "The character of the group's response to applicable but "far out" symbol-associations will have a great effect on the quality of the game."


2 points - Animal, Vegetable, Mineral
3 points - Sports
3 points - Current Events
3 points - Geography
3 points - History
4 points - Art, Literature, Music, Humor
4 points - Science, Technology
4 points - Theatre, Dance, Entertainment
5 points - Religion, Philosophy
5 points - Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology
5 points - Politics
6 points - Linguistics
6 points - Poetic figures of speech
6 points - Mythology
6 points - Direct quotes (not music lyrics)

I S-A copyright 1963; 2002. All rights reserved.

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Your Citation
Peterson, Deb. "Be Creative - A Game for Imaginative Adults." ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2021, Peterson, Deb. (2021, September 3). Be Creative - A Game for Imaginative Adults. Retrieved from Peterson, Deb. "Be Creative - A Game for Imaginative Adults." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 8, 2023).