Volume 11, Number 3
Anthony T. DeBenedet, M.D. is a practicing physician in Ann Arbor, MI, and a behavioral-science enthusiast. His interviews and writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, TIME Ideas, on the Today show, and elsewhere. He is the author of Playful Intelligence: The Power of Living Lightly in a Serious World (2018), a book about the surprising ways that playfulness affects adulthood; and he coauthored The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It (2011), a book about the importance of parent-child physical play in parenting. DeBenedet has a B.S. in biomedical engineering from Duke University, an M.S. in health and health care research from the University of Michigan, and an M.D. from the University of Virginia. He completed his internal medicine residency and gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Michigan Health System. Key words: adult playfulness; emotional intelligence; playful intelligence; rough-and-tumble play; roughhousing; social play; Sasuke
The author demonstrates that war places children’s play under acute stress but does not eliminate it. He argues that the persistence of children’s play and games during periods of armed conflict reflects the significance of play as a key mode for children to cope with conditions of war. Episodes of children’s play drawn from the recent Syrian Civil War illustrate the precariousness and importance of children’s play and games during contemporary armed conflict and focus attention on children’s play as a disregarded casualty of war. The article compares the state of underground children’s play in con- temporary Syria with the record of clandestine games played by children in the Holocaust to substantiate its claim that children adapt their play to concretize and comprehend traumatic wartime experience. The article posits that play is both a target of war and a means of therapeutically contending with mass violence. Key words: play and trauma; play therapy; Syrian Civil War; the Holocaust; underground play; war play
Research about playfulness in adults has viewed it as something that ema- nates from personality and other individualized characteristics, and therefore many previous studies adopted a trait approach to predict playfulness, largely ignoring gender differences. The author conducted a facet-level analysis of the so-called big-five personality predictors and of four humor-related attri- butes and analyzed whether playfulness should be considered individually or compositely. She generated hypotheses from the extant literature and sur- veyed hundreds of undergraduates to discover characteristics distinctly dif- ferent between the playfulness of young adult men and women. Keywords: adult playfulness; gender and play; personality and play
Toys both guide and foster the play—and stimulate the imaginations—of players of all ages. The authors investigate adult use of toys as a point of entry to the world play of both transmedia-connected and stand alone toy characters—dolls, action figures, and soft toys. They point to how adult toy players engage actively in world building in their world play and suggest that play better describes the object relations of adults with toys than such notions as collecting or pursuing a hobby. They discuss how adults use world playing with toys to develop toy industry back stories and replay—and sometimes revolutionize—original story lines familiar from popular fiction. And they highlight how mature audiences for character toys employ these physical objects to explore their capacity for imaginative, spatial, and hybrid world play. Key words: adult play and creativity; object play; object relations; photo play; social media and adult play; social play; toys; toy play; world building; world play
The informal setting of online multiplayer video games may offer safe spots for speakers of other languages learning English to practice their communi- cation skills and reduce their anxiety about using a second language. In this study, the author examined the relationship between both these concerns and the time spent playing such games by basic and intermediate English-as-a- second-language (ESL) college students in Puerto Rico. The results indicated a statistically significant relationship between them, supporting previous studies that establish a relationship between online multiplayer video game play and increased confidence and lowered anxiety about using English among second-language learners. Key words: affective filter; communica- tive anxiety (CA); English as a second language (ESL); massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG); willingness to communicate (WTC)
Alexandra Lange packs a lot into this engaging, informative, and provocative book. At various points throughout, one can find insights into architectural history, social history, child development, environmental history, urban planning, material science, even autobiography. A design critic married to an architect, Lange has built a highly respected career assessing things and places, especially those involving domestic life. And when she had her first child—she dedicates the book to her two children—she became especially fascinated by children’s stuff (her italics), not just commercial toys but what, how, and where kids used stuff beyond the home, in school, in playgrounds, and in their larger community. If designed and used properly, Lange concludes—and she does not
take an entirely uncritical stance—these things and places have high educational value: a child’s environment, she argues, can be what educational philosopher Loris Malaguzzi has called “the third teacher,” as important to learning as the home and the school.
In this book Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), leads readers through his career in designing and studying learning experiences with youth. Lifelong Kindergarten is structured around the themes of projects, passion, peers, and play as they relate to the cultivation of creativity. He presents the creative learning kindergartners exude as a spiral that follows the acts of imagining, creating, playing, sharing, and reflecting. The ultimate message in Lifelong Kindergarten is that creative thinking can be carried into aspects of our lives as learners beyond that playful, joyful, but all-too-brief kindergarten school year.
A small volume and easy to read, Lisa Dion’s book is packed with clinical wisdom. Written primarily for play therapists, it is of interest to scholars of play, child- development and mental-health practitioners, and early-childhood educators. The author has built on the groundbreaking work of Bonnie Badenoch (who wrote the foreword to the book) to provide play therapists with a clear and highly understandable rationale for integrating interpersonal neurobiology into their work in the playroom. Theresa Kestly’s The Interpersonal Neurobiology of Play: Brain-Building Interventions for Emotional Well- Being (2014) also deserves mention for its contributions on the literature about the interpersonal neurobiology of play.
“Games are about invention itself.” Douglas A. Guerra puts this proposition to a rigorous test in Slantwise Moves: Games, Literature, and Social Invention in Nineteenth-Century America. By drawing from the careers of preeminent game designers such as Milton Bradley, William Simmons, and Anne W. Abbot, Guerra reconsiders several landmarks of midcentury American literature as archives of social performance—Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855), Herman Melville’s The Confidence Man (1857), The Autobiography of P. T. Barnum (1855), and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance (1852). In many ways, this is a book less about games than about how games can illuminate the social meaning of literary works. Readers expecting a detailed survey of nineteenth-century board games and parlor games will likely be frustrated; at times, the author is more engaged with critical theory than with the relevant historiography and material culture. Yet Guerra’s approach not only enriches our understanding of the cultural history of nineteenth-century games, it yields a productive—if unwieldy—framework for extending the field of game studies beyond the material culture of formal game play.
The field of educational game design and development in digital media is still young and rapidly evolving. Emerging technologies provide new possibilities for content, deployment, and means of distribution. This plethora of opportunities has unfortunately also fostered the development of many products being labeled “educational games” without any fact-based foundation for making this claim. Even the terminology for how to describe this kind of work seems constantly in flux. Games that seek to educate players and change post-game player behavior may be called serious games, games for impact, games for change, and applied games (among other terms). This volume seeks to establish a rigorous foundation and clear guidelines for practice to enable the production of what the authors call “resonant” games—games that “create deep learning experiences inextricably connected to the educational ecosystem they exist in” (p. 3).
In the introduction to Future Gaming: Creative Interventions in Video Game Culture, Paolo Ruffino notes that the game industry has been obsessed with predicting its own future as a force for world changing even as it is in the midst of an identity crisis (and, notably, a labor crisis). The narrative of games is certainly forward facing: whole conventions are dedicated to revealing the next big thing. Yet optimistic views of a continually progressive future for gaming do not reconcile well with a cultural moment that includes “gamergate”—a culture war over “gamer” identity that started with an attack on game designer Zoe Quinn by an ex-partner and escalated to include attacks on feminist or inclusive voices in game design, journalism, and academia—and its lingering, inescapable, aftermath. Ruffino notes that “these stories about the medium only hide the complexi- ties of the problems they seek to resolve and are reassuring precisely because they do not change anything” (p. 6). Ruffino offers his approach to creative game stud- ies as an antidote to the repetitiveness of some of the narratives of the game industry perpetuated in games academia, and as such the volume acts not so much as a history of its own but as a manifesto calling for renewed attention to the potential value of game studies as a field of inquiry.
Lynn A. Barnett is Associate Professor in the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism at the University of Illinois. She is the coauthor of research articles and chapters about the benefits of play for developing children, the design of play environments to optimize playful expression, and the characteristics of playful personality in children and young adults. Her latest edited book is The Play of Individuals and Societies, which situates play within cultures as expressive of its literature, theater, art, games, and other elements. She is the cofounder of the nonprofit organization KOOP (“Kid Owned and Operated Play”) dedicated to encouraging children to communicate their playful proclivities in natural environments, aside from those that are artificially constructed, programmed, and managed by adults.
Daniel Feldman is a lecturer of English literature at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. He specializes in Holocaust literature and young adult fiction of the Holocaust. He is currently writing a manuscript on the use of play in young adult literature of the Holocaust. His articles have appeared in Comparative Literature, Partial Answers, The Lion and the Unicorn, and Children’s Literature.
Katriina Heljakka holds a postdoctoral position at University of Turku in Fin- land (digital culture studies) and studies toys and the cultures of play in the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies. She currently leads Pori Labora- tory of Play (PLoP) where she explores the emerging “toyification” of culture, toy design, and the hybrid and transgenerational dimensions of ludic practices. Heljakka is a long-term member of the International Toy Research Association and Women in Toys. J. Tuomas Harviainen is Associate Professor of Information Practices at Tampere University, Finland, as well as one of the editors of Simulation & Gaming, the oldest existing academic game research journal. His work has been published in Organization Studies, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Documentation, and New Media & Society.
Kenneth S. Horowitz is an Assistant Professor of English at Pontifical Catholic University, in Ponce Puerto Rico. He teaches research, writing, and Introduction to Game Studies. He has published articles about video games and language learning in Language Magazine and the Hispanic Educational Technology Services Journal. His publications include Playing at the Next Level: A History of American Sega Games and The Sega Arcade Revolution: A History in 62 Games.