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Unhappy families: using tabletop games as a technology to understand play in education

Lean, J and Illingworth, SM and Wake, P (2018) Unhappy families: using tabletop games as a technology to understand play in education. Research in Learning Technology, 26. ISSN 2156-7069

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Abstract

In this article, we argue that tabletop games provide a helpful means of rethinking the affordances of digital games in pedagogy. We argue that tabletop games offer a distinctive technology from digital games in exploring the idea of play as experience, providing a sociable, accessible and tactile platform that can easily be adapted by players to suit their needs. At a workshop session at an international conference on play in education, we used tabletop games to enable discussion and observation of play. This workshop suggested that, rather than a singular definition, tabletop play means different things to different people, and what is ‘counted as’ play depends upon both individual and group interactions. Building upon this discussion, in this article, we return to both tabletop and digital games to discuss the idea of play as experience, especially with regard to the use of technology in educational settings, and how games might be seen as less ‘predictable’ than other technologies. We hope that this discussion provides future inspiration to other scholars who are considering the use of tabletop games in both pedagogical and technological research.

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