Millions of children visit virtual worlds every day. In such virtual play spaces as Habbo Hotel, Toontown, and Whyville, kids chat with friends from school, meet new people, construct avatars, and earn and spend virtual currency. In Connected Play, Yasmin Kafai and Deborah Fields investigate what happens when kids play in virtual worlds, how this matters for their offline lives, and what this means for the design of educational opportunities in digital worlds.
Play is fundamentally important for kids’ development, but, Kafai and Fields argue, to understand play in virtual worlds, we need to connect concerns of development and culture with those of digital media and learning. Kafai and Fields do this through a detailed study of kids’ play in Whyville, a massive, informal virtual world with educational content for tween players. Combining ethnographic accounts with analysis of logfile data, they present rich portraits and overviews of how kids learn to play in a digital domain, developing certain technological competencies; how kids learn to play well—responsibly, respectfully, and safely; and how kids learn to play creatively, creating content that becomes a part of the virtual world itself.
About the Authors
Yasmin B. Kafai is a Professor of Learning Sciences at the GraduateSchool of Education at University of Pennsylvania. Her research has focused on children's learning as players and designers of educational software, video games, and virtual worlds. She has published Minds in Play (1995) and edited Constructionism in Practice (with Mitchel Resnick, 1996). She lives, plays, and works in Philadelphia.
Deborah A. Fields is Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University.
“This is a terrific multimethod analysis of nine-to-twelve-year-old users of the virtual world of Whyville. It contributes substantial information about an understudied population of tween digital media users and it contributes to an expansive understanding of how play in the digital world extends real-world experiences. Connected Play is an informative and yet nuanced description of the ways digital playgrounds are being used by tweens today and how these play experiences represent educational opportunities. Both children’s media designers and those who study the role of digital media in children's development will find this a rich contribution to the literature.”
—Ellen Wartella, Director, Center on Media and Human Development, Northwestern University
“A rich and insightful examination of the complex—and too often misunderstood—universe of tweens’ online gaming. Connected Play not only provides a comprehensive overview of the diverse relationships and learning opportunities that can emerge out of young people’s virtual world play, but also serves as a template for how to conduct a methodologically rigorous study of a digital environment and its inhabitants.“
—Sara Grimes, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto