Why Do We Play?


We play to have fun. We play to stimulate. We play to educate. We play because we must. We play because the world does not fit our needs. We tinker and design our environment to better fit our needs. As human beings we do not merely exist in reality, rather we construct our realities whenever we are confronted with a reality that does not fit our needs. 

Often “researchers and practitioners envision the school as a monolithic entity that constructs [students] as an audience for learning” (Korobkova). This is very problematic because “it limits the social networks where [students] are allowed to play, learn, and share their ideas with others to connect them to opportunity” (Korobkova) and “it positions [students] as consumers of educational content from teachers rather than active participants and creators within a given setting” (Korobkova). Students “can be rather adept at developing skills needed to create and share across digital publics when given the opportunity” (Korobkova) to play around in their environment.

Over the years we have seen a trend of “increasing demand for more content to be delivered to meet academic and industry standards. At the same time, the world is changing rapidly, and content quickly becomes obsolete or needs to change to keep up. Students have access to vast stores of information, and today it makes little sense to ask them to memorize content. They most need to learn to use the content” (Owen). A more playful approach to learning in the digital age is needed. We need to restructure our current curriculum “into [a] living curriculum intended to adapt, including research and inquiry, focused projects with highly interactive modular, short, mixed media and mode assignments”(Owen). I think by doing so we can align ourselves more to the student’s cultural preferences and produce more “[engaged], adult learners”.

We play because it engages us. It does not only engage us mentally or physically to the project or thing we are playing with. Play engages us culturally. Play is universal. It does not matter where you are from or what language you speak. We understand to play the same way across continents. As a result, a lot of online communities have popped up through play. These communities would then through playing and interacting generate content and research much like an educational institution would. They also have public forums to discuss their user-generated content and discourse. Although they may not consider themselves academics nor will the greater public view their work as cultural, we must nevertheless define their actions and methodology objectively. And objectively, the way they conduct public discussions are institutional. The way they work is as rigorous if not more than most academic research. The subject of their research is undeniably cultural. In the end, aren’t we all fans of something or actively engaged with something? Why can’t we accept the fact that when we are having fun or playing, we are also being productive?

Owen, A. (2016). Culture matters ❤ engaging students in redesigning coursework with digital components.

Digital Culture & Education, 8(1), 40-56.


Korobkova, K.A. & Rafalow. M. (2016). Navigating digital publics for playful production:

A cross-case analysis of two interest-driven online communities. Digital Culture & Education, 8(1), 77-89.