Adult Spaces of Play: Board Game Bars as Affinity Spaces

Authors: Walter Brediger*, University of Nevada, Reno
Topics: Recreational and Sport Geography, Social Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: affinity spaces, board game bars, tabletop gaming, adult play
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 35
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Gaming spaces such as board game cafes and bars are a new addition to the urban landscape (CMON, 2016), indicating a shift in the geography of tabletop gaming away from living rooms and retail backrooms towards in-person interactions in public settings. However, research on the use of these new play-centric spaces is sparse. Likewise, while there is abundant literature on the definition of play and its function in learning and development for children, there is markedly less scholarship on play and its functions for adults. Drawing on interviews conducted with participants in a board game bar in Reno, Nevada, this paper explores how people participate in and make use of adult spaces of play and examines the meaning and knowledges formed within and taken from these places. This paper argues that board game bars are “affinity spaces,” an extension of Gee’s semiotic social spaces (Gee, 2005) that center and create social relationships around acts of shared interest, in this case, tabletop gaming. Results and implications will be discussed in terms of how the board game bar serves as a vital urban space in which a confluence of identities and activities form a unique site of informal learning through adult play.

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