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The Study of Play (April 2019): Closing Thoughts

By Charles Kroncke and Ronald F. White

Closing Thoughts

Though for the most part playtime scholarship is discipline specific, in recent years it has become more interdisciplinary, and playtime scholars make clear that expertise in the study of play requires knowledge of more than one discipline. Disciplines that now study play include history, psychology, evolutionary psychology, political economy, and philosophy. The traditional applications of playtime scholarship include childhood education, playground design, parenting, games and sports, and toys. The challenges of playtime study are often framed as either/or: supervised and/or unsupervised play, male and/or female play, cooperative and/or non-cooperative play, and so on. Underlying much of the scholarship is the nature and nurture of sex play, and this area of study is mostly underdeveloped, impeded by a variety of moral and legal constraints that discourage playtime scholars from taking on this controversial topic.

Going forward scholars interested in play anticipate a surge in works based on evolutionary psychology and evolutionary politics, works that explore the increasing cultural mismatch in the West between playful hunter-gatherer brains and the growing predisposition toward more work and less play; the tendency for more adult-supervised play and less free play, and more online play and less physical and face-to-face play; and the growing penchant for watching others play, often at the expense of participating in play  And playtime scholars will continue to examine political aspects of play, including how legal constraints have affected and continue to affect childhood play.