Considerations of the pedagogical value of ludus, or play, feature prominently within constructivist metatheory, having been of interest to both cognitive constructivists (Piaget, 1951) and social constructivists (Vygotsky, 1978), and the topic has seen renewed attention in recent years (cf. Singer, Golinkoff, & Hirsh-Pasek, 2006). At early stages of development, children engage with the world and people around them through playful interactions that allow them to learn by imitation, symbolic interaction, and cognitive representation, thereby constructing experiential knowledge about the world (Piaget, 1951). As a result, play for children is “an engaging and deliberate activity to which they devote great effort and commitment” (Rieber, 1996, p. 44), and out of such play, children can develop deep and important understandings. Current research in a variety of fields suggests that “play is an important mediator for learning and socialization throughout life” (Rieber, 1996, p. 44; see also Csikszentmihalyi & Bennett, 1971).
With the introduction of digital technologies, researchers were empowered to think about play in new and innovative ways, and digital games as a method of play have become commonplace amongst consumers on computers, game consoles, and mobile devices. In 2009, for instance, it was reported that 42 percent of U.S. homes had a game console (Ivan, 2009), and the emergence of Internet-based social networking technologies and new content distribution platforms such as Valve Corporation’s Steam (2003) and Apple’s App Store (2008) have enabled the growth of new popular methods of digital gaming like massively multiplayer online games (MOOG’s), casual games, mobile games, and social gaming.