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Affinity Spaces and Adult Spaces of Play: The Intersection of Play, Identities, and Community at Board Game Bars

Authors: Walter Brediger*, University of Nevada, Reno
Topics: Recreational and Sport Geography, Cultural Geography, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: affinity spaces, board game bars, tabletop gaming, adult play, identity
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Gaming spaces such as board game cafes and bars are increasingly new additions to urban landscapes around the world. This phenomenon indicates a shift in the geography of play towards in-person interactions in public settings. However, research on these new play-centric spaces is sparse despite the growing popularity of the tabletop gaming hobby and the global reach of these changes. While there is abundant literature on the definition of play and its function in human development, there is markedly less scholarship on play and its function for adults. Drawing on interviews and mental maps from participants at a tabletop gaming bar in Reno, Nevada, this paper explores how people participate in and make use of adult spaces of play. It further examines the meanings, ideas, and knowledges formed within and taken from these places. This paper argues that board game bars are “affinity spaces,” an extension of James Paul Gee’s semiotic social spaces, that center and create social relationships around acts of shared interest, in this case, tabletop gaming. Preliminary findings indicate that board game bars may serve as vital urban spaces in which a confluence of identities form a unique expression of community.

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