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The Work of Play

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[Sample Chapter]

Certain educational researchers have claimed that videogames can energize learning in both traditional and non-traditional contexts, cultivate skills more useful to a changing economy, and present information in ways more appealing to students. The notion of “serious games” dates back as early as the 1950s, but so far has failed to make a significant lasting impact on what goes on in education. One component missing then—and is still scarce even now—is empirical evidence showing how videogames promote learning, and what hinders or enhances it.

The Work of Play is an attempt to describe such learning on the micro-level, capturing the moment-by-moment interactions between players and showing how meanings are shaped over time. It builds on anthropological methods, including ethnography and conversation analysis, to re-construct how situated learning occurs and how players’ perception of the game evolves as their experiences with the game change.