The metaphor game

The metaphor game

What is it?

In the metaphor game, you hone your ability to make imaginative connections between two seemingly unrelated entities. To begin, select a theme such as 'emotions' or 'nature' and compile a list of related words. Afterward, shuffle this list and form teams of two. One team member draws a word, keeping it a secret, and establishes a simple metaphor structure by writing "[the word they drew] is a ____________________." Then, set a 2-minute timer and allow the second team member to generate 15 random nouns. Swap roles, collaborate to refine your metaphors, and finally, share and discuss the most intriguing ones with the group.

This process sharpens creative thinking skills and enhances your ability to forge abstract connections, making it a valuable tool for writers, designers, and problem solvers seeking to infuse fresh perspectives and creativity into their work. Over time, you'll notice that your mental associations become more diverse and expansive, and you'll become more adept at drawing connections between seemingly unrelated things in various aspects of life.

      When to use it

      1. To practice making creative and meaningful connections between ideas.
      2. As a warm-up exercise before tackling more significant creative tasks, helping you overcome initial creative blocks.
      3. As a team building activity to kick-off a new project and encourage creative thinking.


      Remember to

      1. Don't limit yourself to obvious or literal connections between your chosen concepts. Instead, let your imagination run wild.
      2. After creating metaphors using the game, take the time to reflect on your choices. Consider how well they convey the intended message or concept. Are they vivid and engaging? Do they enhance understanding?



      Gather materials

      Collect index cards or scraps of paper, writing utensils, and a notebook or paper for each team.


      Choose a focus

      Select a theme or focus for your metaphors. For example, "emotions" or "nature."


      Generate a list of related words

      Brainstorm 30 nouns based on your chosen theme. Chose your favorite 20, and write each one on a separate index card or scrap of paper. For example, if “emotions” was the theme, this list could include words like Joy, Happiness, Laughter, Melancholy, Fury, Serenity, Confusion, Elation, Anxiety, Anger, Contentment, Bitterness, etc.


      Mix up the list

      Shuffle the list on a table or in a box.


      Get into groups of two

      Divide participants into teams of two. Each team chooses one member to start. The selected team member draws a word from the pile of related words without showing it to their partner.


      Set up a simple metaphor structure

      On their own paper or index card, the first team member writes "[the word they drew] is a  ____________________" 15 times, leaving a blank space for the metaphorical comparison.


      Set up a timer and fill in the blank

      Set a timer for 2 minutes and have the other team member provides 20 random nouns (objects, animals, places, etc.) to their partner. The first team member fills in the blank with each of the provided nouns to create 20 different metaphors. The emphasis here is on quick, spontaneous creativity.


      Reverse roles

      Switch roles within the team. Now, the second team member draws a related word and the first team member generates random nouns.


      Collaborate and refine

      As a team, review both sets of metaphors created. Look for opportunities to combine, expand, or refine them into more elaborate and compelling metaphors.


      Share and discuss

      Have teams share their most intriguing metaphors with the group. Encourage discussion and exploration of the metaphors' meanings and imagery.


      Download the worksheet