Series Spotlight: Playful Thinking

We’re excited to introduce a new monthly blog feature that will highlight our various book series. Our first spotlight is on the Playful Thinking series. Series coeditors Jesper Juul, Geoffrey Long, and William Uricchio explain how the idea for the Playful Thinking series came about, why it’s relevant and original, and what they hope this series will accomplish.

Many people find video games exhilarating, but why? What do video games do? What can they be used for? How do they work? How do they relate to the rest of the world? Why is play both so important and so powerful?

This spring has seen the release of the two first volumes in the MIT Press’ Playful Thinking series. Playful Thinking is a series of short, readable and argumentative books that share some playfulness and excitement with the games that they are about. Each book in the series is small enough to fit in a backpack or coat pocket, and combines depth with readability for any reader interested in playing more thoughtfully or thinking more playfully. This includes, but is by no means limited to, academics, game makers, and curious players.

The Playful Thinking series was sparked by discussions and research conducted at the MIT Game Lab (then the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab), a research group at the MIT Comparative Media Studies program. The editorial board consists of Geoffrey Long (Microsoft), William Uricchio (MIT) and Jesper Juul (New York University).

Our aim is to feature books from both scholars and industry luminaries, short 100-page books that make high-level and sharp arguments, while being accessible to academics, professionals, and laymen from a broad range of backgrounds and levels of experience. While our focus is on video games, each volume has a hook and theme that is relevant to readers outside video game studies.

The first two books in the series exemplify the series’ approach:

Greg Costikyan’s Uncertainty in Games is a detailed look at the uses of uncertainty in game design. Greg Costikyan is a renowned designer of both analog and digital games, and a Senior Designer at Disney Playdom’s Dream Castle Studio.


Jesper Juul’s The Art of Failure examines the role of failure (and frustration) in our playing of video games. Jesper Juul is a video game researcher at NYU. This is his third book with MIT Press.

Three more titles are signed and slated for 2014: Possibility Space: The Strange Beauty of Games, by Frank Lantz; Works of Game: Art Games, Game Art, and Aesthetic Perspectives on Games, by John Sharp; and Gut Wrenching: How Games Shape Our Emotions and Transform Relationships, by Katherine Isbister. Lantz is a scholar, game developer and director of NYU’s Game Center. Isbister holds a joint appointment with the NYU Game Center and New York University’s Polytechnic Institute, where she is the Research Director of the Game Innovation Lab. Sharp is an award-winning artist, an Associate Professor of Games and Learning at Parsons The New School for Design, and a partner in Supercosm, where he helps clients entertain, educate and organize interactive experiences.

For more information about the series, including information on how to submit proposals, visit