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Adult Spaces of Play: Board Game Bars as Affinity Spaces
AuthorBrediger, III, Walter Edgar
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Gaming spaces such as board game cafes and bars are a new addition to the urban landscape (CMON, 2016), indicating a shift in the geography of tabletop gaming away from living rooms and retail backrooms towards in-person interactions in public settings. However, geographic research on the use of these new play-centric, largely adult spaces is sparse. Likewise, while there is abundant literature on the definition of play and its function in learning and development for children, there is markedly less scholarship on play and its functions for adults. Drawing on interviews and participant-observation of patrons in a board game bar in Reno, Nevada, this paper explores how people participate in and make use of adult spaces of tabletop play, the nature of the relationships enacted in these spaces, and the meanings and knowledges formed within and taken from these spaces. This paper argues that board game bars can be understood as “affinity spaces,” an extension of Gee’s semiotic social spaces (Gee, 2005) that center and create social relationships around acts of shared interest, in this case, tabletop gaming. Through the concept of affinity space, interview and observation results show that the board game bar serves as a vital urban space and a unique site of informal learning through adult play.