Beyond pleasure, is there emotional depth to play? Aaron Trammell, a researcher in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, answers this and related questions in a new book he wrote that examines differences in the way play is experienced on one hand by White people and on the other by Black, indigenous and people of color. In the work, he suggests that the experiences of BIPOC individuals have been largely erased from leisure activities. Titled “Repairing Play – A Black Phenomenology,” the book was published this Black History Month by MIT Press.
“This is a book for game designers and philosophers. I wanted to write it because there is so much soul to the concept of play, because play is beautiful, even when it is frustrating and painful,” said Trammell, an assistant professor in the Department of Informatics. “When I wrote it, I had in mind anyone who has ever played a game that made them cry. These meaningful and soulful elements of play work to center BIPOC people in what was previously a predominantly white conversation about ‘fun and games.’”
Trammell suggests that even in seemingly nonconfrontational games, players subtly discipline one another to stay within rules. The result is social exclusion. Viewing games this way is a kind of “intellectual reparation,” according to Trammell, who hopes his work will help readers focus on the deeply painful and traumatic aspects of play. Trammell’s ongoing research at UCI examines how games further White privilege and hegemonic masculinity with their players. He is the editor-in-chief of the journal Analog Game Studies and the multimedia editor of Sounding Out!