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There’s more to play

taxonomy of play

As a teenager I spent lots of time in my garage designing and making boardgames. Highly elaborate fiendishly complex and virtually unplayable boardgames.

The first computer game I designed from scratch was a simple town planning simulation. It was about 15 years ago and I built it to complement a theatre show for schoolchildren. Since then I’ve largely concentrated on computer and console-based gaming.

Attending this year’s Games+Learning+Society conference in Madison, Wisconsin, I had a moment of epiphany. Talking to the likes of Katie Salen, Eric Zimmerman, and Colleen Macklin reminded me that games can take many forms and in most circumstances play doesn’t require technology. I needed reminding that children can play on their own. Adults too.

Corinne Hutt’s model of play (shown above) eloquently describes the range we enjoy.  She argues that in epistemic play we explore the basic properties of materials and in doing so find the basis for developing further knowledge, skills and understanding.

Ludic play, including socio-dramatic play, provides opportunities for language play and creativity and for rehearsal and practice.

Games-play offers increasing levels of difficulty and gratuitous rules.

These helpful definitions provide a useful framework and a timely reminder that the benefits of play are not confined to the electronic world.  At the GLS conference, we derived as much pleasure playing simple card games such as the MetaGame as we did from the Arcade.  Cards, anyone?

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