New Publication: The Fun of Its Parts

I am pleased to announce that The fun of its parts: Design and player reception of educational board games, a paper I wrote with Matt Koehler and Liz Owens Boltz, has just been published (and is freely available under CC BY-NC 4.0) through Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education.

This paper is based on information on educational board games that we retrieved from the application programming interface of the wonderful BoardGameGeek website. BGG is a crowdsourced database of thousands and thousands of board, card, and other games, and we used this crowdsourced data to:

  • see which themes, mechanics, and genres were most common among games tagged as “educational” on BGG, and
  • determine whether and how these design features influenced player reception of these games.

The results of our study indicate common designs for educational board games and highlight specific design elements that might be helpful for pre- and in-service teachers seeking to evaluate games for potential use in educational settings. That said, we also endorse a holistic evaluation of games (i.e., beyond the design elements that stood out in our study) and acknowledge that this is an early attempt to do this work and that looking at more BGG data (and other sources of data) will be needed to further explore these questions (in fact, BGG announced just today that they’re overhauling the part of their database that allowed us to do this work, so folks may be able to do better work in this vein moving forward).

The more that I focus my work on social media, the more that this particular study might feel out of place—I hope you’ll indulge me in a brief recap of how that is actually not the case. :) Matt, Liz, and I have been working on this project for about five years at this point, and five years ago, my research interests were firmly focused on educational games. This study actually grew out of my second-year research practicum at Michigan State University, and despite being received well (and receiving a “Best Paper” award) at the 2016 SITE conference, it took us a while to find the right journal for this. This research actually ended up setting the stage for my social media research, though. Learning to work with an API (initially through Google Sheets, funnily enough) and recognizing that “participant”-generated, nonintrusive data (as opposed to researcher-solicited, intrusive data) has value in research settings put me in a position to be interested in working with Twitter data when that opportunity presented itself. So, even if this looks thematically different from my more recent research, it’s actually the “ancestor” of the work I do today! I’m very excited to see it in print and hope that it will be useful.