Volume 10, Number 2

Editor's Note

The year 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the American Journal of Play. The Strong founded the Journal with the aims of increasing awareness and understanding of the role of play in learning and human development and the ways in which play illuminates our cultural history. Our hope, too, was to provide seemingly disparate communities of scholars studying all aspects of play with a forum to share and exchange their ideas with not only specialists in their own fields, but also with a wider audience of researchers, educators, policymakers, and readers. A decade later, the Journal continues to meet these aims by pub-lishing new research and significant scholarship, including hundreds of articles, interviews, and book reviews for readers and contributors from more than fifty countries around the world. 

Over the last decade, the Journal has acted as a forum for play scholars from a wide variety of fields such as psychology, history, sociology, education, cul-tural studies, anthropology, neuroscience, museum studies, English, philosophy, public health, digital humanities, game studies, and many more. And through special themed issues, we have also highlighted emerging fields and important new findings in areas such as the science of play, play in children’s literature, free play, pretend play, cognitive neuroaesthetics, the interpersonal neurobiology of play, play in the ancient world, and the new video game history.

None of this would have been possible without the support and efforts of The Strong and its board of trustees, the Journal’s founding editors, all those who have served on our editorial staff, members of the editorial board, guest editors, contributors, interviewees, reviewers, and readers. We hope the next decade proves as much fun—and as enlightening for the study of play—as the last one.


by Thomas S. Henricks


The author counters the common descriptions of play as endlessly diverse, ambiguous, and even paradoxical by describing it as a fundamental experience comparable to three others—ritual, work, and communitas. Play, he argues, entails a distinctive strategy of selfrealization and a strategy for liv-ing. He first examines four basic types of play—exploration, construction, interpretation, and dialogue—and links them respectively to four patterns of self-location: marginality, privilege, subordination, and engagement.  He then discusses the character and implications of the four kinds of play and evaluates a profoundly important variation in all play—that between its orderly, cooperative expression and its disorderly, oppositional articulation. Calling the first “green play” and the second “red play,” the author asserts that both are pertinent to all four kinds of play and that both have important implications for self-realization.  Key words: communitas; green play; patterns of self-location; red play; ritual; self-realization; types of play; work and play

by Autumn M. Dodge (with Paul A. Crutcher)


The author discusses Magic: The Gathering as not only a card game but as situated in New Literacies as a Discourse and community of practice with rich, complex, and multimodal literacy practices. She describes apprenticeship to the game from the perspective of a novice and a long-time player and argues that entering its Magic Discourse depends on the requisite vocabulary, multimodal texts, and embodied literacy practices. She discusses the game in relation both to literacy and to play and reviews relevant theory and research, giving concrete examples from her own experience. The author describes the game as a rich, complex literacy tool that can foster important literacy practices in its players. Key words: card games; literacy; Magic: The Gathering; New Literacies

by Meredith L. Rowe, Virginia C. Salo, and Kenneth Rubin


The authors ask if participating in an early-childhood theater production improves pretend play and cooperation among preschoolers.  They examined play sessions immediately before and after productions of interactive early-childhood performances at Imagination Stage, Inc. and measured children’s engagement, cooperation, pretense, and misbehavior.  They found that participating in the performances enhanced the cooperation and pretense of preschoolers. The authors discuss their results in relation to the role of the arts and of play in early creativity and social-competence development. Key words: cooperation; creativity; early-childhood development and the arts; make-believe; pretense; social competence

by Cathlena Martin


Game historians usually trace the literary roots of role-playing games to J. R. R. Tolkien and other fantasy authors. In this article, the author argues that, although Tolkien indeed provided pioneer game creators with specific content, historians have missed the important early influence on game history of children’s literature that advocates and illustrates role playing. Game scholars nod to such child’s play as make-believe and playground games, they often cite accounts of personal experiences in the childhood play of game designers, and they credit game books as an interactive link to fiction, but they have not included children’s texts in their histories. The author argues for placing children’s novels in such histories, particularly Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Egypt Game, which this article describes in full as a cultural forerunner in the history of role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Keywords: games and play; game history; role playing; The Egypt Game

Book Reviews

by Miguel Sicart

If we look at recently published books, it seems that the study of play is seeing a major revival. Ian Bogost’s Play Anything and Steven Johnson’s Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World explain the importance of play to a broad audience, while academic articles about play abound in many different journals. It is therefore quite significant to review Celebrating 40 Years of Play Research: Connecting Our Past, Present, and Future, as it provides an insightful historical account of the study of play, mapping the past, present, and future of the field.

by Susan Asbury

In It’s All a Game, Tristan Donovan explores the roots of board games’ persistent popularity. Analyzing the influence of social, political, and economic influences on board game designers and manufacturers, Donovan maps the evolution of our modern-day relationship with board games across time, international boundaries, and cultures. He also examines the impact this leisure activity has had on popular psychology. Donovan concludes that games have “shaped us, explained us, and molded the world we live in” (p. 7). 

by John W. Seymour

Cathy Malchiodi and David Crenshaw invite their readers to consider the sources of and solutions to the vexing question of how to respond to children who “clam up” in child psychotherapy. In their book What to Do When Children Clam Up in Psychotherpy, a panel of distinguished child psychotherapists addresses this question. In eleven chapters, the editors and authors weave together the most recent trends in understanding silence in the therapeutic relationship with vivid case studies that illustrate how play therapy and other expressive therapies can facilitate communication in therapeutic sessions.

by Gabriel I. Lomas

The demand for evidence-based treatments has increased. In some states, agencies charged with providing intervention for children in care are required to use evidence-based interventions. Historically, play-based interventions have been marginalized, as many in the mental health field discounted the power of play as effective therapeutic treatment. Knowledge of the potential impact of play in child therapy was once reserved for practitioners who used play therapy and the children they served. However, today there is a growing body of research that points to play as an effective, empirically based intervention for children. Empirically Based Play Interventions for Children is a compilation of thirteen chapters that describe the use of play techniques and strategies to meet the needs of children with various psychological and emotional needs. 

by J. Richard Stevens

The rising recognition of toys as an understudied form of culture has led to a number of recent explorations of toys and toy franchises. Such studies and books come from a variety of perspectives, including sociology, the political economy of media companies, the history of industry, media studies, fan studies, and explorations of specific toy lines and connected “branded entertainment” texts.

by Samuel Tobin

Fans and Videogames: Histories, Fandom, Archives consists of thirteen chapters by a range of scholars and an introduction by the editors. The book is divided into three sections: Historicizing Game Fandom, Fan Contributions to Game History, and The Archive. These sections and the book’s subtitle highlight the methodological and conceptual orientation of the book; it is a collection of works about game history. This focus is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it suggests the growing importance of historically oriented research in contemporary game studies. The editors Melanie Swalwell, Helen Stuckey, and Angela Nda-lianis argue in their introduction: “Game history is a relatively understudied aspect of game studies” (p. 4). I am unconvinced, game history is arguably the most vibrant and active subfield in game studies, at least of late. The high quality of the work in this collection will only make it more so. Second, in connecting games studies and fan studies through history, the concept and figure and practices of the fan are recast in meaningful ways. At the same time, the figure of the fan allows the contributors to talk about people and practices beyond the player and play, a long-standing problem in game studies. 

by Riccardo Fassone

“Metagames are the only kind of games that we play” (p. 3). Metagaming opens with a rather bold statement. Or, possibly, with the most common of common senses about games. We never really engage with the abstract, platonic, perfectly formed rule set of a game, but rather we play around it, engage with it in messy ways, shape it to our and other players’ advantage. Playing means, in fact, performing meta-operations on and around the materiality, authored mechanics, and rules of the peculiar object that is a game. Not absolute obedience to the precepts of the game, nor boundless, liberating freedom, the metaplay of the metagamer is an act of approximation and negotiation, at times subdued (“spectating,” “making,” “trading”), at times violent (“cheating,” “breaking”). Stephanie Boluk and Patrick Lemieux, both professors at the University of California, Davis, build a compelling theoretical structure that rests on this complex duality, ultimately claiming that the metagame is the site where the authority of the game and the creativity of the player coexist in a constant state of tension. 

by Jay Mechling

There is such a large body of books and essays on video games that it is hard to imagine that anyone has anything new to say, but Allen’s book takes a fresh tack and is a welcome addition to the subject. He is familiar with the history of the development of digital gaming, and in the culture wars over the role of violent First-Person Shooter (FPS) games in the lives of young people. He sides with those who see little evidence that playing the games stokes violent behavior in the players and who see lots of evidence of the “moral panic” (as historians call it) in adults who actually know little-to-nothing about the games and play they are condemning.

by Michael Anthony DeAnda

In the current sociopolitical climate, Soraya Murray provides a significant intervention into the construction of race and gender in video games. She begins by interrogating the intersection of cultural studies, visual studies, and game studies to understand how games work as cultural reflections and tools of cultural production through their representations of social systems. Murray argues that video games, as complex systems of visual culture, “create and uphold value systems and hierarchies of one constituency,” often the dominant class, at the expense of another (p. 46).

Autumn M. Dodge is Assistant Professor of Language and Literacy at Lynchburg College. Her work has appeared in academic journals and books, including Educating through Popular Culture: You’re Not Cool Just Because You Teach with Comics; Addressing Diversity in Literacy Instruction, Literacy Research, Practice, and Evaluation; Intercultural Education; Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy; and Distance Learning. Paul A. Crutcher is Assistant Professor of English and Director of English Education at University of Arkansas at Little Rock. His research, which focuses on popular culture, education, and social issues related to education, has appeared in numerous academic journals and books, including Intercultural Education, Educational Review, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, and International Journal of Comic Art. 

Thomas S. Henricks is the J. Earl Danieley Professor of Sociology and Distin-guished University Professor at Elon University. He established the program for sociology majors and developed the Faculty Resource Center at Elon. He also served as dean of the social sciences department and associate dean of the university. His publications include Play and the Human Condition; Disputed Pleasures: Sport and Society in Preindustrial England; Play Reconsidered: Sociological Perspectives on Human Expression; and Selves, Societies, and Emotions: Understanding the Pathways of Experience

Cathlena Martin is the Assistant Professor of Game Studies and Design and Director of the Honors Program at the University of Montevallo. Her publications explore topics that include Peter Pan and video games, play in Ender’s Game, and game adaptations of children’s texts and have appeared in Beyond Adaptation: Essays on Radical Transformations of Original Works; Adaptation in Contemporary Culture: Textual Infidelities; and The Role-Playing Society: Essays on the Cultural Influence of RPGs. Her latest research focuses on the influence of tabletop role-playing games on board games and card games and on pedagogical uses of gamification. 

Meredith L. Rowe is Associate Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research on the role of children’s social experiences in their development has appeared in numerous journals, including the Journal of Child Language; Child Development; Developmental Psychology; Developmental Science; and Science. Kenneth Rubin is Professor of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the University of Maryland, College Park. His research investigates the role of play in development, and his findings have been published in The Handbook of Child Psychology (1983) and such journals as Child Development; Developmental Psychology; Human Development; and Development and Psychopathology. Virginia Salo is a doctoral student in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the University of Maryland, College Park.