Explorer Games: Tools to Discover Your Adventure

by Mark Gordon
with Colin Barton illustrated by David Gordon featuring Derek Webb

Chapter 1: What Explorer Games Is Based On

Explorer Rex here again. Exploring has always been Numero Uno in my life. My first memories as a little tyke were investigating new worlds, until I heard my Mom calling me back to base. But, all I wanted to do was to keep exploring. It felt like there was a never ending supply of treasures and surprises.

Sure, every now and then there was some danger that I didn’t know about. But I was fortunate to have people keeping an eye out. And a wasp sting or a scrape, though painful, turned out to be my teacher as well. 

I’m fortunate. I’m still exploring today. It’s more complex, yet seeing things from different perspectives, or going down a rabbit hole, makes the game more challenging and intriguing too. You’ve got to want to be a player in this game. It’s not always a walk in the park.

These days the alternative is too easy: just sitting in the stands criticizing or complaining. I’ve found that to be a boring place where there are few victories or defeats.

But in all these adventures to uncover mysteries and wonders, I’ve never been so challenged, or learned as much, as when I taught a most creative and gnarly group of at-risk teens. They didn’t recognize how talented and insightful they were. Too many times they were told that they weren’t good enough–or too weird. Yet, many of my students had the courage to explore despite these conditions. They’re the inspiration for Explorer Games.

Explorer Games uses the tools of curiosity, choice, and games to discover new worlds.

Why curiosity?

Even if it’s standard human equipment, curiosity is a powerful, even magical, tool. You start where you are and by using curiosity who knows where you’ll end up. As soon as curiosity is engaged, you become an explorer. And curiosity is an antidote to a bored or complaining mind. Following your curiosity leads to… you never know.

Einstein thought it so important that shortly before his death, he urged us to, “Never lose a holy curiosity.”

How to Play

By being curious, the thrills of exploring are available to you now. You don’t need to be a trained explorer with lots of expensive equipment. And exploring can happen almost anywhere—whether you’re traveling to an unknown land or figuring out the possibilities of a new idea in your mind. Explorer Games’ First Mission is discover what makes you curious. What makes you want to explore? Every game has Rules, and two in this game are having an open mind and “playing attention.”

Explorer Games asks you to keep open mind

And being curious, can lead you to the answer to this Question.

Some of us know at an early age what the answer is. For others of us, it takes a longer time. Some folks think they know but are fooled with answers that that aren’t accurate. Explorers Games is a tool to get on track. Then the exploration starts. You will know it when you experience it.

Explorer Games includes questions, illustrations, videos, and experiments to locate where you’re curious. You’re never required to answer any of the questions or do any of the activities. Some questions have been answered to provide insight. If you choose to answer, there some questions like Question 8 that you know.

8) If you could build your field of dreams, what might it be? Ball is just one example. It can be about anything. What might that mission look like? What’s the environment? What tools would you need? What kind of folks would be there to assist? What would the core value? If you don’t know at the moment, an Explorer Games‘ goal is to rouse different perspectives

You may notice that you choose questions, ideas, and experiments that may have some pattern. Seeing patterns can help make sense of the world. Otherwise life can be annoyingly random. Whether it’s simply knowing when to cross at a traffic light, or figuring out which repetitive behaviors make you happy, or miserable, understanding patterns allows you to predict and affect your world. And Dr. Cornelia Bargmann proved that even worms with 100-cell brains want to predict and affect behaviors of their mates.

9) Can you recognize a pattern in your life? Does it serve you, or need to be modified, or dropped completely?

9a) Pattern Challenge: Can you look first for the hexagons? And when a sheet of hexagons is folded over, they make this 3D effect. Geometry can be fun.

10) Nature is filled with patterns. Symmetry is an example, or when one side of an object is similar, or even the same, as the other. Humans, like so many species are built symmetrically. Having two sides being similar saves energy. And symmetrical patterns are often considered what we call beautiful.

Mission 2 of Explorer Games: note any patterns where your curiosity lives. Those are special places. When you recognize what attracts you, and enjoy returning to it, that may be a “Keeper” for you. Keepers are incredibly valuable. More on that a little later.

11) Can you figure out how we created this effect?

12) Did you remember any of those questions or quick images from a few frames ago? We humans have the ability to encode, store, and retrieve information that catches our attention for a few seconds or over a lifetime. They’re two different memory capabilities Research shows the two most effective ways to place concepts into long-term memory, where they are never forgotten, are though repetition and emotion.

Repetition makes sense, but emotion? Yes, emotion. It’s the reason you can remember your first crush, or when you got into big trouble. Explorer Games chooses to focus on the more positive emotions like joy and curiosity.

And curiosity is considered an emotion. So, if you remember any of the images or questions, it probably stirred your curiosity, or you may have repeated watching the images.

See if any of these next questions or experiments trigger your curiosity.

13) When you daydream, have you ever noticed the places your imagination takes you to?

14) Humans have struggled throughout history as to who gets freedom and who doesn’t. Power, it’s use and even what it means, is something our species has caused so much suffering. In this era of where freedom and bondage are both rapidly advancing, what do we need understand about this crucial issue?

I asked my some students what their definition of power was.

To be superior, tower above all.  

Rule yourself and others–but not too much!

Looked up to or understood.


Being happy. 

(Being) at no one’s mercy.

Knowing what you want.

Complete control over what’s important to you, whether it’s a king who has power over a country, or anyone who is happy and has power over themself.

Greediness, Fascism and unfairness.

To be able to do stuff easily.

Something or someone knowledgeable or who knows themselves.

14A) What political documents would you consider to be the most advanced? Are there any that offer freedom to all humans? The U.S. Constitution? The Magna Carta? Ever hear about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by all countries (eight countries abstained and two didn’t vote).

Passed In 1948, with the former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s it It declares that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It took the deaths of seventy million people in WWII to motivate countries around the world to adopt it.


15) Ever see an Aurora do its thing (Aurora Borealis is seen in the Northern Hemisphere)? Check out the menu on the bottom left of nullschool.com site. Here’s a photo taken in Iceland. What causes auroras? Notice how transparent the aurora energy is in this photo? The Constellation of Orion’s Belt is still visible. You can see where the ever changing Auroras are located on the planet in the moment.


Click on the menu on the bottom left and choose”mode” and and then “space.” Then twirl the Earth to both poles.

Photo courtesy https://ivygordonphoto.com/

16) Want to learn something about your personality? https://www.outofservice.com/bigfive/

Can you learn about your personality through Games and Play too?

17) Ever feel stuck in a game that you’re not enjoying. If it’s possible, have you ever thought of changing a rule? Or you could look at the game from a different perspective? Dr. Edward de Bono, inventor of Lateral Thinking, suggested that you could look at the situation with A) The big picture in mind. B) Just the facts. C) Emotionally. D) Negatively. E) Positively. F) With new ideas.

18) Want to create a new idea on demand? de Bono devised a formula: Known A + Known B = New C

Known A, or a small stick + Known B, or making a fire = New C or the invention of matches which were created less than 200 years ago in 1832. There’s always the possibility of something truly unusal. Vegetable + Instrument = Vienna Vegetable Orchestra. All instruments are made from vegetables. https://www.vegetableorchestra.org/

Can Known A + Known B = New C create an Aha! moment?

19) Young kids, before they start kindergarten, are so much more in touch with their feelings. Watching them be themselves and their joy in just moving from point A to B… They do more than just walk. They skip, twirl, or dance at any moment. They’re in a rhythm of their own. When was the last time you listened to your body and deliberately chose a rhythm to feel good? It can happen almost anywhere: playing soccer, coasting on a skateboard, or moving to your favorite music. Renown neuroscientist, Dr. Antonio Damasio, says experiences like these are not just a good idea, they are the “bedrock” of our existence.

20) We’ve all played lots of games in our lives. But as we get older, unless you’re into sports or other games, play is considered trivial and just for kids. Yet, these highly skilled dancers, who’ve been trained at a most prestigious school in the performing arts, Juilliard, are fully engaged and enjoying a simple ball game. They were willing to try new ways to move and to play like kids again.

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They described this and other unusual movement experiments in these words: “jubilant,” ‘pure,” “fun,” “committed, “unheard of, ” and “free”

21) How recently have you tried something “childlike?” It’s way more fun than being a serious adult. What if understanding games is one of the most important skills in life? Ask jet fighters pilots if they’ve played on a simulator to learn their skills. Or why surgeons using laser techniques train on simulators too ? Can you moving differently with a friend–like walking as you wiggle all your fingers or arms? Or, walk in tiny steps? Or make a noise on every new step you make?

22) You can even learn math through play. You can figure out how fast you’re going by playing this game or watch the one below. I’s a more personal way to understand: Rate or speed = Distance divided by Time.

Explorer Games Mission: Level 2: One of the missions of Explorer Games is to understand what activities make you feel stronger and alive. If you can discover what these activities are for you, and practice or play with them, the more satisfying life is. And, eventually, if any of those practices lead to paying your bills, or serving the community, you are fortunate human. If you’re willing to explore, what these possibilities may be, that’s helps in winning Explorer Games. Everyone is practicing something. For many, it’s not conscious. If you find an activity that gets you out of a funk, we call those “keepers.”

23) Here’s a clue to find a “keeper.” What activity did you do when you had free time between the ages of 6-10? I played lots of ball. Still do. It energizes and relaxes me. And now I get to demonstrate to young people how playing ball and games can be used to learn academic skills. It’s far more important in understanding life than we adult types care to admit.

24) What if this sculpture was a goddess? What kinds of qualities would she represent?

25) Have you ever been tossed in the air? Feeling weightless, even it’s only for a second (it feels a lot longer), is an exceptional experience that you never forget. We used a folded parachute held by a dozen guys. We needed that many to toss and catch the bigger folk.

26) What if we learning about nouns was fun? Would we remember them more easily?


27) What could “farnoogle” mean?

How about, “The sound you make when sitting upon a papaya.” Thank you, Chris.

28) Cool air is heavier, and sinks below hot air. Differences in hot and cold air temperature creates winds. What patterns do you see?


29) A million and a billion are two very large numbers. If you started at 1 and added a number every second and didn’t stop until you hit a million it would, it would take about 11.5 days. Counting the same way, a billion seconds would take you over 31 years. A trillion? That would take over 31,000 years.

30) “Don’t change people, change environments.” urged Bucky Fuller, designer, futurist, and inventor of the Geodesic Dome. How often do you change your environment?  What do/did you enjoy about the change?

Here’s two more experimental environments that we created to learn in a different way.

31) What pattern in your life do you like better: when there there is a lot of order where everyone has a clear role. Or, do you like more chaotic conditions where there is more improvisation? BTW, cosmos means order.

32) The Earth is the only planet not named after a Greek or Roman god. How did our planet get its name? And why doesn’t it make sense? 

33) Can you give an example when you followed your own path?

Below are some answers to that assignment. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.

When I decided to be different, and others around disapproved.

When I wanted something, and others argued.

To ignore cruel, rude people.

Decided not to go to college.

 Cut my hair short.

 Decided I like being big and beautiful. As long as I’m healthy, I’m okay!

When I began getting depressed, I felt what my parents wanted me to be wasn’t ME!  It made me mad and I rebelled.

Didn’t ever do my homework.

Going 2 jail.

When I quit smoking.

When I read Tao Te Ching.

When I stopped gang banging.

Listening to Frank (Sinatra), not the pop music of today.

Playing football for a year even though I was small.

When I stopped doing gangster rap and went hip hop.

I don’t do drugs anymore.

I was the first one of my friends to get a job.

I went to a different school.

34) If you could choose a team of three to five people to be on your team who might they be? Their mission is to give you good advice whenever you ask for it. Perhaps, a trusted friend or two? An older person you admire? Or, brilliant humans who once lived on this planet like Joseph Campbell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bucky Fuller, Carl Sagan, Maya Angelou, John Wooden, Helen Keller, or Robin Williams?

We all get confused from time to time. The right words, at the right time, from someone you trust can make a big difference.

34) If you could choose a team of three to five people–alive, or in the history books, or even sci-fi characters–to be on your team, who would they be? Their mission is to give you good advice whenever you ask for it. Perhaps, a trusted friend or two? An older person who you admire? Or, brilliant humans who once lived on this planet like Joseph Campbell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bucky Fuller, Carl Sagan, Maya Angelou, John Wooden, Helen Keller, or Robin Williams?

35) Why is understanding games a key to becoming a powerful human? Then keep scrolling down to Chapter 2. If not go to Chapter 3.

Chapter 2

The Power of Games: MR PET or Why Not Knowing about Games Can Land You in Jail

Explorer Games uses a simple and universal system that all societies, even those before recorded history, have used to ensure their survival: play and games. Play and games for survival? If a society is to endure, it teaches its young the skills to continue its existence. Play and games are the vehicle to transmit that information no matter the time or the society. Unfortunately, play and games are undervalued in our society.

Not only do mammals play games, but reptiles, birds, and even insects do the same. Playing games are actually a multi-dimensional tool. They’re enjoyable and inherently present new challenges to develop skills and strategies. And play and games are a most efficient system for the young of all ages to enjoy learning these new skills and strategies.

36) Have any idea what game these four young women are playing?

37) Even in the harshest of climates, play is vital. Check out 46:47 on the video below

38) In order to play, people can’t be busy working or doing chores all the time. The Ancient Greeks formalized this time of play and called it school. Yes, they invented the term “school.” It meant: “spare time, leisure, rest, ease; idleness; that in which leisure is employed…” 


We sure have changed the mission of school and have suffered the consequences. Play, games, and leisure turn out to be a wonderful and effective way to learn. Any notable results from this new system called school? The Ancient Greeks only invented, or codified, physics, philosophy, geometry, drama, architecture, history, and the Olympics.

39) They also followed a societal value: to develop their talent (arete) to the best of their ability. How often do we honor excellence in our society? We have examples of that like Kobe Bryant, Helen Keller, and Steve Jobs. Do you know anyone like this? And why is it rare?

40) Though watching kids play, play and games may seem random. They’re not. Every game has a mission. Check out our goofy video called “The Mission.” It may seem like child’s play, but there are multiple levels to it.

Unless the goal or mission of the game is commonly understood, the players can have very different perspectives

In our classes there would always be tough guys who would repeatedly get into spats with the local cops. Those kids would always lose, land in jail, because they defined their mission in only one dimension. They believed it was to get respect from the cops. Even though I understood their point, I disagreed. My mission would be to get my freedom back as quickly as possible without getting a ticket or worse. If I got the respect of the police or not, it wasn’t as great of importance to me as it was to them. If you look at who has the power amongst the players (cops and students) and with who has the tools, you can see that by trying to be tough, or get the “respect,” there was little chance of victory for my students.

41) These students were stuck on one point of view, and it cost them their freedom for a time. How often do you try on a new way to see inside your head?

Defining your mission can be an eye opening experience.  

42) “The Mission” video explained that every game has MR PET. And if you know this pattern, you can learn how to stay out of jail, or some other kind of trouble. But can this system lead to something more positive? How about understanding what a true friend is?

Mission: How to know a true friend

Rules: (You may have different rules) 1. They celebrate your victories and are saddened by your losses. 2. They listen to what you’re actually saying. 3. They don’t gossip or tell your shared secrets to others 4. You can count on them in a pinch. 5. It’s much fun to hang out together. 6. What else?

Players: You and a possible friend.

Environment: Almost anywhere.

Tools: You don’t need many or any. A little bit of money can bring some treats. Or, you can share a new tool that’s a kick.

Two old buds.

43) Understanding the five elements of MR PET will increase your ability to play the game more effectively. In competitive games, understanding MR PET leads to more wins. In a cooperative game, it will allow you to keep the game going longer. If it’s your game, you can change a rule, or even your mission, to see what works better for you. In other words, it’s experiment and modify. Isn’t that an upgrade from “trial and error?”

MR PET can be used in almost any area where there is a mission: like what to do after you finish school.

Mission: Figuring out what to do after school

44) Rules: Depends on your values. Do you know how to figure out your values?

45) Do you know the big difference between a value and a belief?

Players: What kind of humans do you want to have in your game? What kinds of qualities?

Environment: Environments are vital for what they provide and what they limit. Understanding that can make or break the success of your game.

Tools: What tools make do you have? How skillful are you with them? How much more do they allow you to accomplish?

46) What if you feel stuck and unhappy? Here’s a system that offers relief. If you can see your situation as a game with a mission that has rules, players, environments, and tools, and since it’s your game, you can change a rule, or even your mission, to see what works better for you. In other words, it’s experiment and modify.

When exploring, new environments by nature present an unknown world–sometimes with a big challenge. When exploring, new environments by nature present an unknown world–sometimes with a big challenge. Having been thrust onto another planet, our man Vin is dealing with exactly that .

Chapter 3