Role of Play Changing in the Modern World According to American Journal of Play

The Strong News Release
One Manhattan Square Rochester, NY 14607 585-263-2700

August 9, 2016

For Immediate Release

Shane Rhinewald, 585-410-6365,

Noelle McElrath-Hart, 585-410-6325,

The Role of Play Changing
in the Modern World
According to
American Journal of Play

ROCHESTER, NY—Have people become less spontaneous in the way that they play? In the latest issue of The Strong’s American Journal of Play, Thomas Henricks, professor at Elon University and one of the nation’s foremost play theorists, explores the place of play and playfulness in the modern world. Henricks notes how society has modernized over the last century and a half; how it has grown increasingly better organized, more technically sophisticated, and more “rational.” Henricks gauges the emotional impact of this revolutionary change, asking if the softer, more expressive side of life has diminished as a result.

Henricks also raises questions about the effect of this shift on the way that people play. Does modern life shrink available space for exuberant, spontaneous, disorderly play? Henricks argues that modernity is often associated with a certain style of play, which gravitates toward order-making, clearly defined goals, technical emphasis, and institutional games. Henricks writes that often, “Play is envisioned as a process of advancement and skills development.”

Henricks sees this diminution of spontaneous play as problematic because “…play at its base celebrates disorder, improvisation, unpredictability, irreverence, and impulsive display.” He posits that people need to be able to play just beyond the edge of their own control, and argues that the advent of “extreme sports” represents a revolt against this organization and calculation.

Additional articles in Vol. 8, No. 3 of the American Journal of Play include:

“Active Play: Exploring the Influences on Children’s School Playground Activities,” by Brendon Hyndman, program manager and lecturer at Charles Darwin University in Australia; Amanda Benson, senior lecturer at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia; and Amanda Telford, associate professor at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. The authors explore the levels of influence that the school playground has on children’s active play.

 “Exquisite Moments: Achieving Optimal Flow in Three Activity-Based Groups Regardless of Early-Childhood Adversity,” by Paula Thomson, associate professor at California State University in Northridge, California, and S. Victoria Jaque, associate professor at California State University in Northridge, California. The authors analyze three activity-based groups (performing artists, athletes, and recreational-level participants) and compare their childhood adversity. They argue that despite differences in the adversity faced, the all were “generally resilient and derived meaning from their preferred activity.”  

“Visiting the Muses: Creativity, Coping, and PTSD in Talented Dancers and Athletes,” by Paula Thomson, associate professor at California State University in Northridge, California, and S. Victoria Jaque, associate professor at California State University in Northridge, California. The authors investigate the link between dancers and athletes and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), finding that both populations have a higher percentage of participants diagnosed with PTSD compared to the general population. They argue that engaging in adult forms of play can offer PTSD sufferers relief and pleasure.

“Play Ball? Reflections on My Father’s Youth Baseball Experiences and Why They Matter,” by Jay C. Kimiecik, associate professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Kimiecik explores his father’s youth baseball experiences and argues that cultural shifts have changed youth baseball from a playful experience to one of organized sport. He suggests that this shift away from free, unstructured sport will affect the quality of a child’s development.

The complete issue of the American Journal of Play can be accessed freely online at Printed editions are also available for subscription and single copy purchase.

About the American Journal of Play
The Strong’s American Journal of Play is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary publication that serves as a forum for discussing the history, science, and culture of play. Published three times each year, the Journal includes articles, interviews, and book reviews written for a broad readership that includes educators, psychologists, play therapists, sociologists, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, museum professionals, toy and game designers, policy makers, and others who consider play for a variety of reasons and from various perspectives.