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Press Release

American Journal of Play Releases Special Issue on Games, Play, and Urban Environments

Published January 6, 2021

Wednesday, January 6, 2021
For Immediate Release

Shane Rhinewald, 585-410-6365, srhinewald@museumofplay.org

ROCHESTER, New York—During the COVID-19 pandemic, play spaces, including playgrounds and gyms, have often been closed or restricted. People have found other ways, places, and avenues to play, though. In a special issue of The Strong’s American Journal of Play, guest editors Sybille Lammes and Dale Leorke from Tampere University in Finland explore the intersection of games, play, and urban environments. The articles in the issue examine how play unfolds in urbanized environments and uses the “city as a playground whose shape can shift according to context, time, and engagement.”

Building on this theme, the article “Japanese Seasonal Play: A Prehistory of Pokémon GO” by Hugh Davies explores the popular mobile game Pokémon GO that transforms player’s real-life environments into a game environment made to explore in pursuit of collecting creatures. The game skyrocketed in popularity in 2016 and used augmented reality and location services to turn urban and other environments into a massive and immersive scavenger hunt. Davies says that many credit the game’s technological innovations for its popularity, but he contends that the game’s attraction has its roots in more traditional forms of Japanese play. He points to the game’s similarities to popular Japanese seasonal play—insect collecting, shrine pilgrimage, and leisure tourism—as drivers for its appeal worldwide and posits that many of the players fit an archetype of people naturally drawn to that type of play.  

Additional articles in Vol. 12, No. 3 of the American Journal of Play include:

“Getting through a Tough Day (Again): What Possum Springs Says about Mental Health and Social Class,” by Mia Consalvo and Andrew Phelps. The authors explore how the fictional town of Possum Springs in the 2017 adventure game Night in the Woods comments on issues of social class and mental health. The game, the authors argue, intentionally links the small town’s economic health to the mental health of its characters, showcasing how game designers can address complex and current issues through game environments.

“Playing, Mapping, and Power: A Critical Analysis of Using Minecraft in Spatial Design,” by Hamza Bashandy. The author examines the potential of video games—particularly Microsoft’s sandbox game Minecraft—to aid in community mapping and participatory design. Looking at three architectural projects across the globe, Bashandy offers critical analysis of their accessibility to their communities and mechanisms for community exclusion.

“Decoding the City: Analyzing Urban Play through Wayfinder Live,” by Troy Innocent and Dale Leorke. The authors examine the augmented reality game Wayfinder Live—which one of them helped create—to analyze urban play and the way that it allows players to test a city’s physical and social boundaries.

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

About the American Journal of Play
The 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 by The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, 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