This issue of the American Journal of Play appears as the world continues to fight a global pandemic that has cost more than three million lives. As some of our authors and interviewees suggest, play has served an important role during the pandemic. Explorations of how we play and what play means to us remain as relevant as ever.
An interview with developmental psychologists and educators Kathy Hirsh- Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff opens the issue. They discuss playful learning and its relationship to raising and educating successful children in a century that will be characterized by rapid technological and labor force changes. In an interview with the curators of The Strong National Museum of Play, Christopher Bensch, Andrew Borman, Michelle Parnett-Dwyer, and Nicolas Ricketts discuss some of the ways in which play has changed during the pandemic and how the The Strong has sought to document and preserve stories and artifacts about play during this challenging time. Peter Gray draws on self-determination theory and surveys and studies conducted after the first two months of school lockdowns to suggest that, for many children, an increased time for play, increased opportunity to contribute constructively to family life, and increased family togetherness improved mental well-being during the early months of the pandemic. Angela Pyle, Martin A. Pyle, Jessica Prioletta, and Betül Alaca examine misalignments in research, public discourse, and classroom realities related to play-based learning. They suggest that a need exists to develop a broader understanding of play-based learning and its role in classrooms for media outlets and the stakeholders they influence. Video games have become a preferred form of play during the pandemic, and Patrick Markey, Christopher Ferguson, and Lauren Hopkins close the issue with a review of the current research about video game play. Focusing on the areas of social skills, obesity, mood management, visuospatial cognitive abilities, desensitization, violence, and aggression, the authors dispel common myths, consider the medium’s benefits, and conclude that playing video games can be a worthwhile activity for most children when balanced with life’s other responsibilities.