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Editor's Introduction.

This issue of Communication Research Trends looks at a relatively new area of communication study. Though people have played games since time immemorial, scholars have considered games and game playing only for the last 80 years. Dependent on technological advances, video games moved from laboratories to public places only in the 1970s and into the home in the late 1980s. As Cunningham notes in her review essay, communication researchers began to study these games in the late 1990s. Before that, games formed only a peripheral interest for communication.

The philosophical or sociological consideration of games entered into wider discussion with the publication of Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens in its original Dutch edition in 1938. Published in English translation in England in 1949 and in the U.S. in 1955, the book examines play in human life and society. Interested in the "play element" of culture, Huizinga's lectures (and later book) focused attention on things early scholarship had dismissed as not serious. His work demonstrated both the seriousness and centrality of play. Among his observations, Huizinga notes several characteristics of play: its sense of freedom along with its rule-governed nature; the dividing line between play and ordinary life; its disinterested nature. Play, Huizinga argues, offers a necessary condition for culture and forms of play exist in every human society. Play is also immersive: it creates its own world as players enter into the game space or game experience--what Csikszentmihalyi (1990) terms "flow." People playing somehow live in a world different from the world of ordinary experience.

While many different academic disciplines have studied play, communication scholars have noted how play requires a level of meta-communication, since play involves the same activities of ordinary life, but in some way re-codes or re-interprets them. The play of a boxing match requires the same aggression as a fight, but with communication signals to let the boxers know the different contexts. similarly, much language play or joking depends on an almost simultaneous reframing of what people say. What sounds like an insult (and in fact would count as an insult) becomes a joke with a complementary nonverbal signal (Cherry, 1966).

More recent communication study began to examine the non-play and very serious communication involved in play. For example, Ishak (2017), writing in Communication Research Trends last year, reviewed the growing body of communication literature on sports and communication in sports settings. These range from player-coach communication to team communication to motivation, social support, and role negotiation. This issue takes a different approach, by looking at game playing itself, focusing on gender issues.

Communication study has become more attuned to gender in the last 20 years, examining not only gender differences in various communication contexts, but the context and construct of gender itself. Cunningham looks at precisely the confluence of gender and game play as both occur in video and computer games. Her review essay provides a brief history of both video games and game studies before she moves to the central theme of how communication scholars study gender in video game research.

Caroline Cunningham serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University where she teaches courses on digital storytelling; women, communication, and leadership; and communication teaching and pedagogy. Last year she published the book, Games Girls Play with Lexington Press.


Cherry, C. (1966). On human communication: A review, a survey, and a criticism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (First edition, 1957)

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. Harper & Row.

Huizinga, J. (1955). Homo ludens: A study of the play-element in culture. Boston: Beacon Press.

Ishak, A. W. (2017). Communication in sports teams: A review. Communication Research Trends, 36(4), 4-38.
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Title Annotation:Communication, Gaming, and Gender
Author:Cunningham, Carolyn
Publication:Communication Research Trends
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 1, 2018
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