Uncovering the Learning Practices of Tabletop Roleplaying Game Communities: The Affordance of Play and Non-Digital Media for Learning and Identity
Antero Garcia

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Colorado State University

Primary Discipline

Literacy and/or English/Language Education
As recent research enthusiastically points to the possibilities that videogames provide in supporting academic learning, the possibilities of these digital tools to impact youth learning appear promising. However, despite this enthusiasm and an explosion of commercially produced educational videogames, there are few studies that look at the principles of gaming and the affordances of play in digital and non-digital contexts. Further, as online spaces can sometimes lead to hurtful experiences, as most recently highlighted by #gamergate, the negative effects of digital gaming are often left unaccounted for by educational researchers. As such, it is likely that many of the educational values of videogames could also be derived and more sustainably distributed in non-digital formats. Conducting an 18-month ethnographic study of two gaming communities, this project highlights the learning and literacy practices that emerge in non-digital tabletop gameplay. Focusing on tabletop roleplaying games–Dungeons & Dragons being the most widely known example–this study will look at the ways players collaborate, communicate, and learn within gaming communities. This process includes transcribing and coding more than 400 hours of fieldnotes and interview transcripts in order to better understand how individuals construction meaning making and strengthen literacies in this extracurricular environment. The study contributes a needed empirical corpus of data that highlight how learning within games occurs. By exploring this out-of-school context of non-digital gaming, this project significantly expands educational gaming research and offers practical strategies for the use of non-digital games within schools. By offering findings that support additional in-school research on the use of games, this work bolsters pre-existing assumptions about the educational validity of videogames and highlights how 21st century learning principles are supported without digital tools and primarily through face-to-face interactions.
About Antero Garcia
Antero Garcia is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University. Prior to moving to Colorado, Antero was an English teacher at a public high school in South Central Los Angeles. Antero completed his Ph.D. in the Urban Schooling division of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on developing critical literacies and civic identity through the use of participatory media and gameplay in formal learning environments. Antero’s research has appeared in numerous journals including The Harvard Educational Review, Teachers College Record, English Journal, and Rethinking Schools. He is the author of the books Pose Wobble Flow: A Culturally Proactive Approach to Literacy and Learning (with Cindy O’Donnell-Allen; Teachers College Press, forthcoming), Critical Foundations in Young Adult Literature: Challenging Genres (Sense, 2013), and Teaching in the Connected Learning Classrom (DML Hub, 2014).

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