Volume 8, Number 1
Phyllis Booth is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a licensed clinical professional counselor, a registered play therapist and supervisor, and Clinical Director Emeritus of the Theraplay Institute in Evanston, Illinois. Her professional career includes training in clinical psychology at what is now University of Chicago Medicine, teaching at the University of Chicago nursery school and serving as a consultant to Head Start in Chicago, working as a clinical associate at London’s Tavistock Institute, studying with British psychiatrist John Bowlby and pediatrician and psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott, and spending a year at London’s Anna Freud Center, which specializes in child psychoanalysis. Along with developmental psychologist Ann Jernberg, Booth helped establish the theoretical underpinnings of the Theraplay approach to child and family therapy. Later she developed the training program for Theraplay and designed the certification practicum for therapists who employed the method. She has trained therapists in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Finland, and South Korea and is the author of Theraplay: Helping Parents and Children Build Better Relationships through Attachment-Based Play, now in its third edition. In this interview, Booth recalls her childhood play experiences, talks about her mentors and intellectual progenitors, discusses advances in the theory and practice of play therapy, and recalls resistance to and rewards in the field of play therapy during her career. Key words: attachment theory; attunement: child therapy; family therapy; Group Theraplay; John Bowlby; Theraplay
The author investigates what he believes one of the more important aspects of play—the experience it generates in its participants. He considers the quality of this experience in relation to five ways of viewing play—as action, interaction, activity, disposition, and within a context. He treats broadly the different forms of affect, including emotion, then critically reviews several prominent theories of the connection between play and experience. He concludes by emphasizing the need to integrate these approaches for a deeper understanding of how play functions in people’s lives. Key words: play as affect; play as action; play as activity; play as disposition; play as experience; play as interaction; play within context
Play, an elusive concept despite the extensive literature on the subject, remains especially problematic for research focused on the perspective of children. The author discusses her study on children’s perspectives about play, exploring drawing as a method for learning how young children conceptualize play within a social-semiotic framework. Her study emphasizes children’s own definitions and representations of play, and her findings suggest that children look at play not as a set activity but as a kind of experience related to many different activities. Key words: children’s perspectives on play; conceptualizing play; drawing; research methods; social semiotics
Gamification—the use of game mechanics in conventionally nongame activities—has received attention in the field of education. Games, however, are not reducible to the common mechanisms of gamification that target extrinsic motivation, and may also include elements such as role playing, world making, and collective storytelling. Here, the authors discuss the potential learning benefits of largescale and situated alternate reality games (ARGs) that complicate conventional gamified systems. They also explore the scaling up of improvisational modes of play in these games from intimate groups to large collectives exceeding the size of typical classrooms. They use a case study of The Source (2013), an ARG they designed (with funding from the National Science Foundation) for urban youth of color from the South Side of Chicago in an out-of-school setting using play across several platforms. The Source aimed to promote the academic areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), as well as twenty-first-century literacies and social justice. The authors argue that such ARGs facilitate learning by engaging semifictional and immersive play made flexible and extensible through game forms. They suggest that, although designers determine the challenges in an ARG, the players shape the experience and shared game world through collaborative actions. Key words: alternate reality games; gamification; scaling; teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics); twenty-first-century literacy; worlding through play
In this survey of the research on psychological approaches to play, the author outlines its various focuses on the similarities and differences in the thinking and behavior of individuals and groups in relation to play and on the environmental factors that influence these. She notes that although psychologists often use standard experimental research methods to study play, they also conduct studies based on direct observations, interviews, and other qualitative activities. These researchers, she notes, have been particularly interested in testing theories of play, developing systems to explain playful behavior, and understanding how play influences education and child rearing and their effect on development and learning. The author also surveys researchers from other disciplines, such as philosophy, ethology, anthropology, linguistics, and education, who have studied the psychology of play. They, she concludes, often employ research methods similar to those used by psychologists, and thus their work, too, has contributed to a psychological understanding of the thinking and behavior related to play and the environments that encourage it. Key words: play and child development; play studies; psychology of play; research and play
This two-volume publication finally fills a void that play scholars—and those who recognize the primacy of play as a fundamental expression of humanity—have been anticipating with a tremendous sense of urgency for many years. The Handbook of the Study of Play unites the diverse academic disciplines that theorize, research, or apply play—ranging from cognitive, developmental and positive psychology, anthropology, evolutionary biology, ethology, sociology, philosophy, cultural and intellectual history, neuroscience, education, performance, and folklore studies to psychotherapy. Many of these disciplines have traditionally only implicitly devoted themselves to play, such as sociology, which has researched play under the guise of leisure studies. Others, such as psychology, have focused only on children’s play, although we as humans distinguish ourselves as neotenous and retain juvenile characteristics, such as our capacity for play, throughout adulthood—a biological trait we do not share even with chimpanzees.
Becoming Human is a curious book in the best of ways. Its broad questions regarding ontogeny—this is, becoming (or development)—are posed intriguingly, and its intense focus on items some people might consider mundane, such as eggs, toys, and tables, helps us view these familiar objects in fascinating ways. J. Allan Mitchell’s coherent argument regarding perpetual mutability in life creatively connects the particular with the universal.
Through The Science of Play: How to Build Playgrounds that Enhance Children’s Development, Susan G. Solomon strongly advocates for the revamping of playgrounds in the United States. According to the author, playgrounds in this country are poorly designed and a waste of funding. She makes the case for replicating the playgrounds of Europe and Japan that provide spaces for taking risks, solving problems, experiencing natural consequences, and engaging in multiple-generational social interactions.
Over more than fifty years, LEGO sets have expanded from an open-ended building system to include instructions for building specific models, themed play sets, and licensed products. More recently, the company has become a transmedia empire with books, games, educational products, a feature film, and more. LEGO Studies works from the premise that LEGO is a distinct medium that warrants closer consideration. The book offers fifteen essays incorporating play theory, games studies, cultural studies, media industries scholarship, fan cultures, adaptation studies, and other disciplines to articulate both LEGO’s cultural significance and to explore the many complex ways that LEGO products work in play.
I am old enough to remember what Joseph P. Laycock describes as the 1980’s “moral panic” concerning Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). I was a casual player of the game at that time, and I also enjoyed the Saturday morning D&D television series that aired from 1983 to 1985. My parents, to their credit, never bought into the anti-D&D hype that Laycock explores—I think they harbored a fundamental mistrust of evangelists such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson—yet, neither did they join in my or my sister’s game sessions or even ask much about D&D.
In assembling the collection of scholarship that comprises Playing to Win, Robert Alan Brookey and Thomas P. Oates make a solid contribution to the growing body of literature analyzing sports video games. Relying on a group of researchers from sports studies and video game studies, the book offers great diversity in its coverage of why we should take sports video games seriously and offers critical insights into how we can think about them meaningfully. The major drawback of the book is one of timing, because much of the work seems to be written well before the book was published.
In Gaming at the Edge, Adrienne Shaw offers an incisive critique of the ways in which scholars, activists, and media producers have approached issues of representation and diversity within video games. Shaw’s work is based on a number of in-depth interviews she has conducted with individuals who are at the “margins” of gaming culture—individuals who are not part of the core demographic (young, white, heterosexual males) that many major gaming studios are assumed to view as their target audience.
Doris Bergen is Professor and Interim Chair for the Department of Educational Psychology at Miami University in Ohio. She has published scores of articles and essays and is author, coauthor, or editor of eight books, including the forthcoming Technology Play and Brian Development. Her other works include Assessment Methods for Infants and Toddlers: Transdisciplinary Team Approaches; Educating and Caring for Very Young Children: The Infant/Toddler Curriculum; Play from Birth to Twelve: Contexts, Perspectives, and Meanings; Human Development: Traditional and Contemporary Theories; and Brain Research and Childhood Education: Implications for Educators.
Pauline Agnieszka Duncan is a postdoctoral fellow in the Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. She has held teaching appointments at both the University of Edinburgh and the University of Stirling. Her writings have appeared in Drawing and the Non-Verbal Mind: A Life-Span Perspective, Journal of Creative Behaviour, and other publications, and she has spoken about her work in British Columbia, Estonia, Greece, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Thomas S. Henricks is the J. Earl Danieley Professor of Sociology and Distinguished 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.
Patrick Jagoda is Assistant Professor in English and New Media Studies at the University of Chicago and Cofounder of the Game Changer Design Lab. His areas of interest include techniques for playful learning, experimental games, electronic literature, and media theory. He has contributed coauthored chapters and articles to numerous books and journals, including Critical Inquiry and International Journal of Learning and Media. In addition, he has served as the creative director and co-creator of alternate reality games, including S.E.E.D.; The Source; and Play as Inquiry. Melissa Gilliam is Professor of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Pediatrics and Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Contributors in the Biological Sciences Division at the University of Chicago. She is the creator of the university’s Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health, where she partners with colleagues of other disciplines to research the racial and social interplay of systems that affect reproductive health in young women. Peter McDonald is a first year PhD student in English at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on the interpretation of play and how it affects the broader culture in which it develops. His essay on interpreting time, rhythm, and gesture in play appeared in Game and Culture. Christopher Russell is a second-year PhD student in the Screen Cultures Department at Northwestern University. He is studying digital games and computing cultures, and his research focuses on issues of gender and sexuality.