Children's psychology and play

I’ve gotta turn in an essay on the “commodification of play” for my cultural industries course, and I’m looking for academic works on how and why children play. I guess I’ll find heaps of material with a little google-fu, but I figured I might as well ask here as well.

So far, I’m focusing on how the synergistic marketing pioneered (at least according to the material I’ve found) by Nintendo and Sega on games like Pokémon and Mushiking and their spin-offs contribute to the reduction of play into a commodity that children need to consume in order to enjoy. I want to contrast that with material on how kids played back in ye olden days before those fancy microchips and Pikachu plushies started infesting our youth, and hopefully some contrasting claims on how either of those inhibit or improve social and cognitive abilities.

Yessir. Not very focused yet, but any and all help is appreciated either way.

The British Board of Film Classification just yesterday released the study on, among other things, why people play videogames. Some of the points certainly could be useful for your purpose. The full doc can be downloaded here.


That’s an interesting angle that you’re taking, I was going to pull the Disney word out as an example of aggressive commodification but Pokemon is much better.
I’m in the luddite corner when it comes to childhood products, so I’m interested in seeing what other people say.

Your school library should provide you access to a variety of academic research search engines. ERIC and ProQuest are two popular services that would certainly have articles in your field of study. I’ve heard mixed reviews of Google Scholar, but you might want to try that out too.

Great! Looking at the BBFC report now, and putting ProQuest and ERIC through their paces on “psychology of play”. I’ve picked at Rules of Play by Salen and Zimmerman, but that’s not focused enough on just why children play games and what social roles they fulfill. They’ve got cute cats and dogs comparisons, which are helpful in justifying play as behavior, but it doesn’t really get at how children can benefit from play. Which isn’t the point of the book, anyway.

Will be scouring my school library as soon as I get back to London.

The GF’s a child Psychologist, I’ll show her this thread when I get home and see what she suggests.

Nellie: Thanks a lot!

Did some Google Scholar searches on the psychology of play and was met by an avalanche of psychoanalysis, which I’m trying to dig through now. Also did a search on commodification of play, and discovered that if there’s one field that does not need any additional entries, it’s that one.

Good for me, then. Twenty minutes of source-searching provided me with a lifetime worth of reading. A small flicker of love for Google has been reignited.

Looks like you got what you needed from Google, but I’d add PsycINFO to the list Ryan A provided.

Google Scholar gives me a lot of links to places requiring subscription, but at least it provides me with titles, authors and ISBN numbers so I can wreak havoc at my uni’s library when I get back to London. Strangely, it’s much easier to find recent academic work online than stuff dating back to the first half of the twentieth century. I would have thought that academic works entered public domain just like everything else, and that places like Gutenberg and Google Books would devour them.

I’ll check out PsycINFO right away.

Maybe replace Pokemon cards with baseball cards for ye olde greatest generation (“Tom Brokaw is a punk”) and mention that maybe the commodification of play began before Nintendo and Sega.

Right then, her in the know, A Psycotherapist, not Psychologist I’m reliably informed suggests to start with:

“Playing and Reality” by Winnicot - Theory of play and development of creativity.

Paper by Shirley Hoxter called “Play and Communication”

Melanie Klein is also suggested if you want to delve deeper and “Clinical Klein” by R.D Hinshelwood (ISBN: 1-85343-315-2) might be a more manageale summary.

It’s also suggested that you take a wander to Tavistock Library if you’re in London as it’s got the most specialised section on children and play in this subject matter from a psychoanalytical perspective.

Most of this is double dutch to me, but if it’s wrong or you’ve already been through it or something let me know and I’ll re-interrogate her, but she would be interested in reading your paper if you’d let her.

Mein gott. Well, that’s all rather new to me, but I’ll definitely look at it. Tell your girlfriend she’s an angel, and that I’ll post my essay here once I’m through with it if she wants to have a look.

snowcrash: Baseball cards noted. I’m thinking of drawing parallels between Disney’s merchandising empire and the slightly more post-modern videogame phenomena. Google must be tired of processing the term “commodification of play” now.

Did anyone ever play a variation of this game?

We didn’t have a name for it, but you might as well call it “chase each other in the dark”. It’s a simple, primal game.

When the parents went out, and I was left in charge (I don’t remember what age … 13-14 say?), we’d turn off all the lights, barracade the stairs (to prevent anyone from falling down them) and go hide from each other. We lived in the country so it was PITCH black inside. We’d draw the curtains if there was any moon light.

Anyway, then you had to hunt people down and pounce on them in the darkness. It was cool because you had to control your breathing and move as silently as possible. Everyone was a hunter and prey at the same time. There were no real rules other than to attack and get away.

Invariably someone would get pounced and try to run away and run right into a bookcase or a wall or trip over something and come crashing down. You’d hear a faint, pain-filled “LIGHTS!” from them and the game would pause to assess the damage. When my cousin or some friends would come over it could get crazy. I remember one time I ran full into a bookcase and bounced right of it then the books fell on me. God, it was fun.

Anyone else ever play this game?

I knew two brothers whose favorite game was to get each other in sleeper holds and then when the victim passed out, he’d let him go and everyone would see if he was faking or really knocked out. You could tell if he was knocked out when his head bounced off the floor.