Thursday, February 4, 2010

Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society

The Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society is a unique, wide-ranging two volume reference to all aspects of sports, recreation, play and leisure.

In the area of games it includes categories like Adult Games (billiards, bowling, charades, crosswords, etc.), Children's Games (blindman's bluff, car and travel games, clapping games, etc.), Board Games (Backgammon, Battleships, Bingo, etc.), Card Game (ace-deuce-jack, all fives, baccarat, etc.), and Video Games (flight simulation, Grand Theft Auto. Mario, etc.). There are articles on "Toys and Businesses" concerning phenomena like action figures, dolls, hobby horses, teddy bears, and various other branded toys.

The chapters on "Outdoor games and amateur sports" cover all kinds of competitive and recreational activities--from horse racing and kite flying to maypole dancing and mazes. The major professional sports receive limited attention in this set, the intent being to look at "all aspects of play as an informal activity" (p. xii). It's also worth noting that the Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society also altogether lacks entries for gymnastics, track and the Olympics.

The two volumes include several chapters that detail the history of play. These include sections written about a variety of societies from antiquity up to the recent present. There are also nearly one hundred articles about play in countries all across the globe.

For the student and scholar there are also theoretical articles pertaining to the psychology and sociology of play as well as the subject of play in education and child development. "Play as Interspecies Communication" examines human play with animals. There are even articles on "Play as Catharsis" (on the release of "superfluous energy" (p. 500) and "Play as Mock War" that looks at war games and computer gaming.

The aim of these chapters in this work is not merely to describe the rules of play, but instead to detail the history, development and meaning of the games, sports or activities. Each entry includes a bibliography that provides a basis for further research.

In addition to these 450 articles, there is also a "chronology of play," a glossary, a resource guide, and an index. Finally the first appendix provides statistics about play, and a second appendix reprints a United States Federal Trade Commission report on "Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children."

Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society, Rodney P. Carlisle, general editor (SAGE, 2009).

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