Volume 7, Number 2

Interview

Overview

Bernie DeKoven is both a play theorist and a play practitioner. He is the author of The Well-Played Game (reissued in 2013 by MIT Press) as well as Junkyard Sports, Power Meetings, and Connected Executives and of the compact disc Recess for the Soul, an assemblage of monologues about playful meditation. A Playful Path, his most recent work, is a collection of essays from his popular blog deepFUN. In 2014 he teamed with the improv organization ComedySportz Indianapolis to stage his interactive show Play’s the Thing. DeKoven developed the interplay curriculum for Philadelphia’s public schools, and he has devised electronic games for toy and games manufacturers such as Ideal Toy Company, Children’s Television Workshop, Mattel Inc., and CBS software. This earned him an Ifil-Raynolds Award from the North American Simulation and Gaming Association. In 1971 DeKoven founded The Games Preserve, a retreat center in Eastern Pennsylvania dedicated to the exploration of games and play. In this interview, DeKoven talks about the virtues of playful play and discusses the roots of playfulness, the power of shared imagination, the joys of performing, the difference between schooling and learning, the perils of play deprivation, and the gentle, comic, restorative mischief of noncompetitive games. Key words: game design; improvisation; playful play, teaching games; The Games Preserve

Articles

by Michael D. Bartanen and Robert S. Littlefield

Abstract

The authors identify competitive speech and debate as a form of play that helped democratize American citizenship for the poor, who used what they learned through the practice to advance their personal social and economic goals. In addition, this competitive activity led to the development of speech communication as an academic discipline and legitimized the pedagogy of game theory. Through a brief overview of the evolution of competitive forensics, an overview of the theory of play and its role in personal development and interpersonal and group interaction, and an explanation of the theory of forensics as a form of playfulness, the authors show the impact of forensics on the course of educational practices in America. Key words: debate as play; competitive forensics; game theory

by Smita Mathur and Gowri Parameswaran

Abstract

The authors explore gender differences in the play of children of migrant farm workers from Mexico. They review the literature that indicates children exhibit gender differences in their play as early as three years old, but the authors claim their findings do not corroborate the existing research on gender differences in play. The twenty-one migrant girls and twenty boys they studied failed to exhibit gender differences in their play in the classroom, during their free play outdoors, or during their unstructured play at home. The authors also found no gender differences among these children in cognitive tasks, social interactions, and their use of their preferred language. The authors offer several reasons for these results and note that research studies of other cultural groups suggest that gender roles are altered when communities are displaced or undergo migration. The authors speculate on the possible implications of their findings for preschool teaching. Keywords: gender differences in play; Mexican immigrants; migrant children; play patterns and gender

by René T. Proyer and Lisa Wagner

Abstract

The authors elaborate on the role of playfulness as a preferred characteristic in potential long-term partners recently espoused by Garry Chick and others. They aim to replicate the findings of such research by studying a different culture (that of German-speaking countries) and to develop them further by taking into account the participants’ relationship status and individual differences in their playfulness. A sample of 327 students completed a rating scale for desired characteristics in potential partners and a questionnaire for playfulness as a personality trait. Their findings do indeed lend support to the notion that being playful is a desirable trait of potential long-term mates. Keywords: Adult play; play and romantic relationships; play and sexual selection; playfulness; Preferences Concerning Potential Mates rating scale; Sexual Strategies Theory

by Jaipaul L. Roopnarine and Kimberly L. Davidson

Abstract

In this article, the authors argue for a greater understanding of children’s play across cultures through better integration of scientific thinking about the developed and developing societies, through consideration of socialization beliefs and goals, and, finally, through the use of more complex models in research investigations. They draw on theoretical propositions in anthropology and psychology to describe and interpret the meaning of parent-child play activities in the context of everyday socialization practices in societies in various stages of economic development. Key words: cross-cultural studies; parent-child play; play’s effect on child development

Book Reviews

by Michael DeAnda,

In Play Matters, Miguel Sicart proposes a theory for the ecology of play that emphasizes understanding the activity of play and situates play within the world. The author dislocates play from within Johan Huizinga’s widely accepted “magic circle,” and, instead, contextualizes it directly in tension with reality. Sicart admits that his definition of play is fixed in the current social structure, reacting to postmodernist definitions of play—a definition he believes will one day be obsolete. Yet at present his theory is useful in identifying the transmission between reality and play. Play Matters is a succinct but provocative addition to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press’s Playful Thinking book series. In his first chapter, Sicart establishes a foundation for his theory of the ecology of play. The next three chapters build upon his foundation and provide concrete examples. Chapters 5 through 8 expand his exploration of play ecology into more abstract ideas that demonstrate his theory that play serves as a means to deal with reality.

by Gary Cross

English Professor John Beckman’s book is an erudite, engaging history, utterly free of jargon. His thesis is simple but one that gives him plenty of room for telling delightful stories and offering insight. Somehow, he says, inherent in the American character is a love of “fun,” the active, risk-taking, often irreverent enjoyment of “flaunted pleasure in the face of authority” (p. xiii), but also a fun that unites “the crowd in common joy” (p. xiv). This love of fun originates with the people, even though it was co-opted by impresarios like P. T. Barnum during the Gilded Age and, later, by Walt Disney; but the best fun still is rebellious and mocking, while remaining civil. American fun descended from the festivities of Thomas Morton at Merry Mount in Puritan Massachusetts and the playful Sons of Liberty whose protests against the British imposition of the Tea Act precipitated the American Revolution in 1776 to the Merry Pranksters of Ken Kesey and the new leftists of the Yippie movement in the 1960s and even the antics of punks and anti–World Trade Organization rallies in the 1980s and later.

by Sharon M. Scott

Drawing on images and items from the Minnesota Historical Society’s collection, exhibit developer Kate Roberts, curator Adam Scher, and contributor Robert J. Smith III have published a visually engaging book documenting three decades of American playthings. Toys of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s describes the midcentury American toy boom as a product of post–World War II prosperity. According to the authors, increased income, birth rate, leisure hours, and media influence led to a greater demand for new toys as well the ability of manufacturers to supply them. From American Flyer Trains of the early1950s to Star Wars action figures of the late 1970s, this book tracks the evolution of American toys through thirty critical years.

by Victoria Stevens

We live in an age when psychotherapeutic treatment emphasizes quick diagnoses based on more or less standard categories of left-brain dominant cognitive understanding and verbal interaction. However, there is mounting evidence from developmental interpersonal neurobiology that this approach must be balanced with empathic resonance attunement at a nonverbal level for the facilitation of healing and deep therapeutic change. This evidence suggests “clinical intuition”—or the right-brain, fully-embodied mode of perceiving, relating, and responding to the ongoing flows and changing dynamics of psychotherapy—is an essential skill that enables a clinician to track and connect with his or her patients at an emotional and sensory level. Yet, because intuition is inherently subjective and unquantifiable, few have considered it a skill that can be taught or developed systematically.

by Patrick Jagoda

In his 1991 book The Theory-Death of the Avant-Garde, Paul Mann declares, “The avant-garde, we know, is dead; nothing could appear more exhausted than its theory, its history, its works.” This provocative claim warrants reevaluation in the early twenty-first century, which has brought with it numerous experimental art movements, many enabled by the increased centrality of digital media. Brian Schrank’s Avant-Garde Videogames, declares that the avant-garde is alive and well, especially in what are often called art, serious, and “DIY” games. An avant-garde game, for Schrank, is one that “opens up the experience of playing a game or expands the ways in which games shape culture” (p. 3). He argues that unlike mainstream games that strive for universal literacy, avant-garde games seek to foreground their medium, defamiliarize conventional mechanics, and disrupt play flow. They also interrogate the ideologies, technologies, and systems that are central to contemporary culture.

by Robert Guyker

Virtually Sacred: Myth and Meaning in World of Warcraft and Second Life is in many ways a natural follow-up to Robert W. Geraci’s 2011 book Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality. His latest work is erudite, lucid, and a poignant and significant contribution to the flourishing multidisciplinary study of games and virtual worlds. It also adds to the recent body of scholarship examining the nexus of virtual worlds, sacred traditions, meaning making, and myth, including sociologist William Sims Bainbridge’s eGods: Faith Versus Fantasy in Computer Gaming and psychologist Nick Yee’s Proteus Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual Worlds Change Us—and How They Don’t. Virtually Sacred stands firmly alongside such works, offering a theoretical premise derived from the social sciences in general and the sociology of religion in particular.

by Thomas H. Rousse

A new generation of video game historians must preserve the medium’s heritage before it disappears. In Raiford Guins’s compelling journey as an adventuring media archaeologist, arcade machines from the heyday of arcade video games are an endangered species: they rot away in dumps, corrode on beachfront boardwalks, and succumb to the indignities of a ceaseless tide of button mashing without the care to keep them running. While threatened in the wild, some fortunate games have been removed from their natural habitats and placed into preserves ranging from museums, private collections, and historically minded arcades. By exploring and documenting the many ways in which people and institutions preserve digital games, Guins challenges the status quo of game history, surveys, and underused artifacts and archives in the United States, and invites others to follow in his footsteps to write a richer history of video gaming. Crucially, Guins’s project is not to engage with games-as-artifacts merely to recapture the authenticity of the play experience at the moment of its release as a consumer product. Instead, he seeks to trace the path of games as they travel through time and space and in so doing take on different meanings, cultural environs, values, and epistemologies.

Robert S. Littlefield is Professor of Communications at North Dakota State University. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of several books, including Forensics in America: A History; Intercultural Competency: Learning, Communicating, and Serving; Effective Risk Communication: A Message-Centered Approach; and Voices on the Prairie: Bringing Speech and Theatre to North Dakota. A contributor to numerous other works, he has also coauthored several workbooks and written dozens of articles that appear in the Journal of Management and Strategy, National Forensic Journal, Visual Communication Quarterly, The Forensic, and elsewhere. He has also lectured extensively and serves currently on the editorial board for Communication Studies. Michael D. Bartanen is Professor of Communications and Theatre at Pacific Lutheran University. His areas of interest include communication history and the history of the study of forensics in the United States. He is the author or coauthor of Forensics in America: A History; Nonpolicy Debate; Lincoln- Douglas Debate: Preparing for Value Argumentation; Teaching and Directing Forensics and a number journal articles on forensics. In addition, he is the secretary-treasurer of Pi Kappa Delta, a national speech and debate honorary society.

Smita Mathur is Associate Professor and Coordinator of Inclusive Early Childhood Education at James Madison University. She has lectured internationally on linguistics and early-childhood education; contributed articles and chapters to numerous journals and books; and is the author of Acculturation, Ethnic Identity, and Marriage among Asian Indians: An Intergenerational Perspective. She serves currently on the editorial board of Game-Supported Interactive Learning. Gowri Parameswaran is Professor of Education at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is the coauthor of Women: Images and Reality; Social Conflict; Equity and Schooling in Developing Countries; and Educational Access and Social Equity: A Global Perspective. Her research has appeared in more than three dozen journals and books, and she has spoken on her work in the Canada, China, France, India, and the United States.

René T. Proyer is Assistant Professor of Psychology and Senior Assistant for the Department of Personality and Assessment at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He is the author or coauthor of several books including Theorie und Praxis Objektiver Persönlichkeitstests. He has authored or coauthored more than one hundred articles and book chapters, and his work has appeared in such journals as European Journal of Psychological Assessment; Humor: International Journal of Humor Research; International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology; Personality and Individual Differences; and Psychology Science. Lisa Wagner is research and teaching assistant at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. She has presented papers at scholarly conferences on psychology in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

Jaipaul L. Roopnaire is Professor of Child and Family Studies and Director of the Jack Reilly Institute for the Early Childhood and Provider Education at Syracuse University. He also serves as Adjunct Professor of Teaching and Leadership in the School of Education at Syracuse and as Senior Research Scientist at the Family Development and Children’s Research Centre at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago. Roopnaire is the author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor of more than a dozen books, including Issues and Perspectives in Early Childhood Development and Education in Caribbean Countries; Approaches to Early Childhood Education; Caribbean Families: Diversity among Ethnic Groups; and Parent-Child Socialization in Diverse Cultures. He has contributed chapters to more than three dozen books, and his numerous articles have appeared in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Journal of Family Psychology, and the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, among others. Roopnaire has lectured internationally and served as a board member and advisor for various organizations including the American Psychological Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Kimberly L. Davidson is a doctoral candidate in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics at Syracuse University.