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Subject: Benefits of tabletop games - looking for research rss

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Doug Maynard
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Hi, all -

I am wondering if any of you have run across sources that I haven't related to the benefits of engaging in board and card game play. Someone from a major newspaper is working on an article and is interested in this question. I want to represent what we know from the research (as opposed to our collective feeling that it challenges us, brings us together and all the good stuff we love gaming for). I'm also just interested for my own scholarship purposes. I don't know yet exactly what the journalist means by "benefits" but I'm thinking of things like happiness/well-being, social connectedness, learning/mastery/self-confidence, autonomy, prosocial behavior - essentially, positive and fulfilling personal and social outcomes.

There seems to be much more on the digital side, but I am having trouble finding as much relevant research as I'd expect. I am aware of some stuff such as the Eurogames book which is a qualitative analysis but goes much broader than well-being, learning, and so on. So what are people aware of (books, journal articles)?

If it turns out there isn't much out there after all, well, then, I have my own research program defined for me.

Thanks in advance!
~Doug
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Mark McGee
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Depending on your angle, this may or may not be helpful.

There's a book I read a few years ago about the benefits of play. Board games are a subset of play, but the anecdotes in the book are not related to board games.

If this sounds like it's along the same lines, you can read the description on amazon and it'll tell you a summary of some of the benefits. Here's the link.

That description is better than I can tell you in the same amount of time.
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Doug Maynard
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Thanks for the recommendation! My library has it so I'm going to pick it up later this afternoon. Even if it's not central to the question at hand, it sounds like a good read.
 
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Jerry Martin
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Yes Play is mandatory reading for you also see reality is broken by mcgonnagal(sp?) it looks at video games more but has non video games as well.
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MARCUS GABRIEL
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I've read this book and found it pretty interesting: Moves in mind: The psychology of board games
F Gobet, J Retschitzki, A de Voogt - 2004

If you Google Scholar it, you can follow other citations of this work and other similar works.
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Emperors Grace
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I can't cite them off the top of my head but there have been innumerable articles on the health benefits of retaining an active mind as we age.

Many of them focus on puzzles but the parallels are there.

Just a quick Google shows this one:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758967/

"Conclusions: A possible beneficial effect of board game playing on the risk of dementia could be mediated by less cognitive decline and less depression in elderly board game players."
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Liam
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A google scholar search will net you many academic articles on the subject.

You may need to be in a library of academic institution to access the full articles but the abstract may tell you everything you need to know.
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Carl
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If you are heading to the library anyway, save yourself a lot of aggravation talk to a reference librarian--this is exactly why they exist. That person might not hand you a stack of info, but they should get you pointed in the right direction.

For your purposes it will be to your advantage to visit an academic (college or university) library that has some sort of public access. Unless, of course, you are attending already. In which case, you should still definitely go talk to a librarian!

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Steve B
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Libraries still exist? Wow. (Actually local library has loads of board games, from Eclipse to Catan. Never noticed the books though!)
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Kevin Jonas

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I am not sure if that Play book mentions this. Another benefit, though I don't have a reference handy right now, is keeping your mind active, constantly challenging it, helps delay issues like Alzheimers. You will need to search for some references.

It's like anything else with your body. It you work it out and keep it active it continues to function properly and improve.

Actually, it's a lot like many things. I am currently working on an older motorcycle of mine. It's been in storage for a couple of years and I am finally bringing it out again. The gas is old, the oil is old, the carbs are gunked up from dried gas, gaskets are dried, etc... all because it wasn't being used. It's not a happy bike right now.
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Doug Maynard
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Thanks, all.

I actually teach at an academic institution and so definitely have access to journal databases/inter-library loan etc. My initial database searches have not turned up much, which is why I asked our community to help point out directions and obvious things I've missed (such as Google Scholar, which I keep forgetting about because of my access to said databases).

I have read Reality is Broken and enjoyed it quite a bit. It was almost all video games and 'geographically-situated games' if I recall, though. I'll have to interlibrary loan Moves in Mind again - I did skim it a while back but not for this purpose and so I may have missed things that would now be relevant to this.

Anyway, I've gotten some more detailed information about what the reporter is interested in, in case folks know of specific scholarship that would be helpful:

"[She is] researching a story about the value of children playing traditional card games together with their families. She's looking into what is lost when families don't play together (for example, are we losing the opportunity for older family members to model good behavior during friendly competition, to teach numeracy skills, etc.?).

Do you know of any research about the benefits of playing such games together? Are there some games that are better than others? Finally, do you happen to know of any groups or advocates who are active in this area?"

Thanks once again for your suggestions so far!
~Doug
 
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Doug Maynard
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I thought folks might be interested in hearing about what I find. I am also inclined to update the board game and card game entries in Wikipedia as a way to get the word out there about research on the benefits of playing games, when I get the time to do so.

Here's one encouraging study:

- LeFevre et al. (2009) studied 146 Canadian children from kindergarten to 2nd grade along with their parents. They asked parents to report on math-related activities they engaged in with their kids, both direct (flash cards and other math learning aids) and indirect (playing board/card games, using math while cooking together).
- "Parents reported playing board and card games about once a week, but some parents reported that they never participated in these activities." (p. 59)
- Engagement in board and card games was associated with kids' greater mathematics knowledge and mathematics fluency even after controlling for a number of other factors (e.g., gender, grade, SES, and direct math learning activities)
- Time spent playing games with kids was also positively related to their scores on spatial memory.

It's important to note that this is correlational research, so we cannot conclude that playing games caused these benefits, just that they are associated. For example, it's possible that kids who are mathematically inclined might show greater interest in gaming, and thus their parents pick up on this and engage with and encourage these activities together.

LeFevre, J.-A., Skwarchuk, S.-L., Smith-Chant, B. L., Fast, L., & Kamawar, D. (2009). Home Numeracy Experiences and Children’s Math Performance in the Early School Years. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 41(2), 55–66. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0014532
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Doug Maynard
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I've found other studies demonstrating the success of game-based interventions to improve numerical abilities in case anyone is interested (references below). Ramani and Siegler (2008) found that board game play at home was associated with higher numerical ability in four areas, while card and video game play were each associated with just one. Sadly, if playing board and card games are helpful for developing math ability, they also found that lower-income kids were less likely to play them at home or with friends than middle-income kids (e.g., 80% MI kids have played board games, but only 47% of LI kids, 87% vs. 61% for card games).

Ramani, G. B., & Siegler, R. S. (2008). Promoting broad and stable improvements in low-income children’s numerical knowledge through playing number board games. Child Development, 79(2), 375–394. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01131.x

Siegler, R. S., & Ramani, G. B. (2009). Playing linear number board games—but not circular ones—improves low-income preschoolers’ numerical understanding. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(3), 545–560. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0014239

Young-Loveridge, J. M. (2004). Effects on early numeracy of a program using number books and games. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19(1), 82–98. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2004.01.001

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Yuliyan Kalaydzhiev
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Hi Doug,

you can check out:
http://scottnicholson.com/

I am very interested in your findings - please keep them coming!
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Doug Maynard
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Thanks, Yulian! I know Scott a little (we met at a game-based pedagogy conference in January and we are co-running an interactive storytelling workshop at another conference in July) and I respect his work greatly. He's been in this field much longer than I have!
 
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Doug Maynard
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A quick update as I am reading through Moves in Mind: The Psychology of Board Games.

Christaien & Verhofstadt-Denève (1981) conducted an experiment examining the impact of 1.5 years of chess instruction on 5th graders as compared to a control group. Developmental post-tests were measures of formal operational thinking (essentially, did chess instruction speed progression to this stage of Piagetian development?). There were trends in the expected direction but they were not significant (perhaps due to the relatively small sample size). There were apparently significant differences in academic performance.

I'm waiting on the article via inter-library loan. The article is in Dutch, though, so I'm wondering if anyone out there who is fluent in Dutch might be interested in reading it to provide some more detail!
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bradelli wrote:
Libraries still exist? Wow. (Actually local library has loads of board games, from Eclipse to Catan. Never noticed the books though!)
Libraries are for playing board games meeple

Seriously. I lived in a region where monthly, board game meet ups were scheduled. They would reserve a large, conference/presentation style room months in advance. We'd get around 20 to 50 people for each event. It was potluck, so we'd have some food too (although if you want a proper meal, it's a roll of the dice, and you're better off playing it safe by getting a sandwich or burrito before or afterwards).

Otherwise, the library is the place to go where you need internet (for those who don't or can't use their internet enabled cell phones AND your home internet connection conks out), borrow media like movies, TV shows on DVD, music, and to read magazines and newspapers for free.
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Yuliyan Kalaydzhiev
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I recently discovered:
Mackey, A. P., Hill, S. S., Stone, S. I. and Bunge, S. A. (2011), Differential effects of reasoning and speed training in children. Developmental Science, 14: 582–590

Seems solid, Haven't had time to read it yet though.
 
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Why does everything have to quantified in some way all the time? It's as if every activity needs to be able to become an output chart in SPSS or Excel. I just played a nine hour TI3 game! Let me figure what how many XP were added to each player's social interactivity levels and cognitive reading ability so I can somehow justify it to those who already don't care! Forgive my rant but I remember when this was a big thing in video gaming and how it somehow had to defend itself in external ways that GTA 3 didn't spawn a generation of serial killers or ruin sport participation rates and all the trivial accusations that doing something just for fun seems to have to make.
 
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Doug Maynard
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Party Hats wrote:
Why does everything have to quantified in some way all the time? It's as if every activity needs to be able to become an output chart in SPSS or Excel. I just played a nine hour TI3 game! Let me figure what how many XP were added to each player's social interactivity levels and cognitive reading ability so I can somehow justify it to those who already don't care! Forgive my rant but I remember when this was a big thing in video gaming and how it somehow had to defend itself in external ways that GTA 3 didn't spawn a generation of serial killers or ruin sport participation rates and all the trivial accusations that doing something just for fun seems to have to make.


On the one hand, you're right in that there's no need to justify board gaming on the basis that it might be 'good for you' beyond the enjoyment you get from the activity. In a book I read recently, the author (maybe Stuart Brown in Play?) noted that, as compared to playful activities, which strike folks as frivolous for adults to engage in, people don't question why millions of people watch sporting events or ask for evidence that doing so is 'healthy'.

On the other hand, people do make claims that playing games is good for your brain, helps you connect with others, fulfills psychological needs, etc. I am interested in seeing what the evidence is for claims like this, and where the holes in the research are. This would be valuable to know as libraries, school, workplaces, museums and other institutions are trying to decide these days how gaming does or does not fit into their missions.
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Yuliyan Kalaydzhiev
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Oh, I just saw the link I sent from my smartphone is broken... Will edit the post with the correct link. In the meantime, here is an article about the paper I quoted:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/blogs/nurture-shock/20...
 
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