Paraplay: Exploring Playfulness Around Physical Console Gaming

  • John Downs
  • Frank Vetere
  • Steve Howard
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8119)


We present the concept of paraplay: playful activities that take place within the context of an interactive game or other play activity, but outside the activity itself. By critically examining work related to gaming and play goals and motivations we argue that the concept of playfulness should have a stronger role in our understanding of gaming sessions, and particularly social gaming sessions. In order to further understand the role of playfulness in social gaming we conducted an empirical field study of physical console gaming. Six families with a total of 32 participants were provided with an Xbox 360 console, Kinect sensor, and three casual physical video games to play together for a period of approximately two weeks. Participants were instructed to record their social gaming sessions. We conducted video analysis on these recordings as well as interviews with many of the participants. We found numerous types and examples of playfulness within the gaming session even from those who were not actively participating in the game. Drawing on the results of this study we present a taxonomy of paraplay and discuss the ways that playfulness can be exhibited in a social play session. We show that participants in a game situation act within a wider context of playfulness, according to a variety of significant roles ranging from active player through to audience member. We explore these roles and their attributes to provide a rich account of paraplay and its importance in understanding playful activities broadly.


Games context of gaming metagames physical console gaming play social gaming videogames 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Downs
    • 1
  • Frank Vetere
    • 1
  • Steve Howard
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Computing and Information SystemsThe University of MelbourneAustralia

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