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

Keywords: tabletopGames, digitalTechnology, play


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.

Published: 9 May 2018

This paper is part of the Special Collection: Playful Learning Conference, edited by Fiona Smart and Mark Langan. More papers from this collection can be found here.

Citation: Research in Learning Technology 2018, 26: 2027 - http://dx.doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v26.2027


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Author Biographies

John Lean, Manchester Metropolitan University
PhD Scholar, Faculty of Education
Sam Illingworth, Manchester Metropolitan University

Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Paul Wake, Manchester Metropolitan University

Reader in English Literature, Faculty of Arts and Humanities

How to Cite
Lean J., Illingworth S., & Wake P. (2018). Unhappy families: using tabletop games as a technology to understand play in education. Research in Learning Technology, 26. https://doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v26.2027
Playful Learning Conference - Themed Collection