Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Rochelle Rodrigo

Committee Member

Joyce Neff

Committee Member

David Metzger

Committee Member

Anne Wysocki


The language used to discuss play in current academic spaces tends to center around formal games (and computer games in particular in the 21st century classroom). Scholarly conversations tend to distort the actual practices that occur in classrooms and subsequently limit the scope of any investigation of the pedagogical function and outcomes of those practices. This project explores the use of play and games in the classrooms of nine composition instructors. From these stories, this project begins to map out a taxonomy in order to begin building toward a pedagogy of play for 21st century writing classrooms. Using a multiperspectival cultural studies approach, this study amplifies the voices of actual writing teachers while examining the theoretical implications and possibilities of the language surrounding gamification and gameful design.

In particular, this project reflects on the ways in which the “gamification” trend affects the methods used by writing teachers, and also how the language used to discuss those methods reflects on a particular set of anxieties present in (but not necessarily unique to) this cultural moment. By investigating the relationship between language and thought in this instance, this project offers insight into the attitudes and moments that have yielded such a strong preoccupation with gamification over the past decade. Attention to such details will, subsequently, provide new ways of considering what it means to use games in these spaces.