1st Edition

Ludic Inquiries into Power and Pedagogy in Higher Education How Games Play Us

Edited By Amelia Walker, Helen Grimmett, Alison L. Black Copyright 2025
    336 Pages 24 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book interrogates the roles games and playfulness bear in both formal education and informal social learning. Responsive to contemporary social and ecological challenges, this book especially explores games’ interactions with social power. On one hand, games sometimes operate to reinforce ideologies that normalise social injustice and environmental disregard. On the other, games offer rich possibilities for questioning such ideologies and encouraging change.

    Strongly interdisciplinary, the book assembles twenty chapters written by fifty experts across fields including education, game design, cultural studies, sociology, Indigenous studies, disability studies, queer studies, STEM, legal studies, history, creative writing, visual arts, music, the creative industries, and social inclusion. These contributions not only make games a focus, but incorporate playful research writing strategies, demonstrating methods of what we term ludic inquiry. This includes chapters written using arts-based research, practice-led research, poetic inquiry, narrative inquiry, autoethnography, duoethnography, and more.  

    Organised across four themes – ‘philosophical sparks’, ‘lived experiences’, ‘pedagogical perspectives’ and ‘the spirit of play’ – this book emphasises the radical egalitarian possibilities inherent in critical attention to games and how we play (or get played by) them. Its fresh insights will interest all readers interested in creatively remaking our worlds.

    Amelia Walker, Helen Grimmett, and Alison L. Black

    PART I. Philosophical sparks and promises of transformation

    1. Weaving conceptual, philosophical, and methodological threads amongst tapestries of privilege, power, and pedagogy
    Amelia Walker, Helen Grimmett, and Alison L. Black

    2. Diversity and cultural pedagogical games and play: Through an Aboriginal lens
    Linda Payi Ford and Adriana Ticoalu

    3. Women leadership in higher education: Using positional power to change the game and amplify women’s voices
    ‘Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela and Adéle L. Moodly

    4. Power and the game of higher education: Self-validating aggrandisement or transformational praxis?
    Aidan Cornelius-Bell and Piper A. Bell

    5. oWL, Bear, ::machine:: : Virtual NPC design as a shamanistic mode of resistance
    Chantal Ryan and Matthew Hooton

    PART II. Lived experiences

    6. Mahjong, the PhD and me: Which game should I play and how?
    Emily Sun

    7. Navigating the academic panopticon: An autoethnographic exploration of chronic illness, productivity, and belonging in academia
    Alexandra Pucciarelli

    8. Queer(y)ing board games as public pedagogy: ‘Playing out of bounds’ to activate LGBTQIA+ agency in academia and beyond
    Amelia Walker, Axel-Nathaniel Rose, Jax Brown, Mandy Henningham, Jarad Bruinstroop, Duc Dau, Misty Farquhar, and Quinn Eades

    9. Here to kick neoliberalism in the balls: The bogan in the university
    Stef Rozitis

    10. Games and invasion: Accounts of lived experience from First Nations writers, artists, and researchers
    Samantha Faulkner and Cat Kutay

    PART III. Pedagogical perspectives

    11. Academic kinship: I once had a game, or should I say it once had me?
    Frances Wyld

    12. As play becomes practice: Observations on robust gamified education elements in the new normal
    Daniel Pitman and Stephen Whittington

    13. Ludic reflections: Exploring strains of relational thought arising in a video games-based ‘STEMinar’ course
    Joshua Cruz, Johanna Keene, Gina Childers, Elizabeth Goldberg, Jack Byers, Christi Whitworth, Olivia Kuper, and Samanthia Noble

    14. Playing the game of education is playing the game of life for students with disability
    Melissa Cain

    Part IV. The spirit of play

    15. Playing with power and being played: Collaborative gameplay as a site of connection and insight
    Catherine Thiele, Alison L. Black, Brendon Munge, Catherine Manathunga, Stephen Heimans, Vicki Schriever, Rachael Dwyer, and Shelley Davidow

    16. Ludic lessons in liminality: A provocation from playing Solitaire
    Helen Grimmett

    17. Cards against academia: Playing the game of ‘opportunities’ through a feminist friendship lens
    Susannah Emery and Michele Jarldorn

    18. Refluxus – Four soluble heads: Collective play through domestic art pedagogy
    Geraldine Burke, Pamela Irving, Maria-Luisa Nardella, and Heather Shimmen

    19. Gaming the system: Choosing to play the infinite game in academia
    Sandra Elsom, Alison L. Black, and Vicki Schriever

    20. Remembering how to play: Breaking the rules (with meaning)
    Caty Flynn

    Amelia Walker, Helen Grimmett, and Alison L. Black


    Amelia Walker lectures in Creative Writing at the University of South Australia, on Kaurna Yerta, the unceded lands of the Kaurna people. She has been writing and publishing poetry since her teenage years. Her fifth poetry collection, Alogopoiesis, was published by Life Before Man (Gazebo Books) in 2023. Amelia’s research embraces creative methods of knowledge-making.

    Helen Grimmett is a Teacher Educator in the School of Curriculum, Teaching and Inclusive Education, Monash University, Australia, on Bunurong/Boon Wurrung Country. Her passion is taking playful and creative approaches to both her teaching and research in order to disrupt expectations and challenge traditional understandings of teaching, learning and schooling.

    Alison (Ali) L. Black is a Senior Lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia, on Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi, Kabi Country. She uses autoethnography, poetry and narrative to listen to and understand inner worlds and wider cultural experiences. Ali’s research recognises the importance of contemplating, acknowledging, and responding to lived lives. 

    A highly useful resource for practitioners, emerging to established, operating across expansive modes of creative practice. Incorporating multiple perspectives, this text offers various methods – transferable and adaptable across a variety of disciplines – future-minded, action-based approaches to complex issues. A deft collection, offering playful opportunities for empathic and intersectional engagement.

    Associate Professor Julia Prendergast
    Discipline Leader: Creative Writing, Literature, and Publishing (Swinburne University)
    President|Chair of the Executive Committee: Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP)

    This important book is essential reading for all educators interested the aspects of ‘play’ in its broadest sense, in the pedagogical arena. It is a timely reminder of the function and need for play to engage and invigorate students and teachers in all fields.

    Dr. Grant Caldwell, a senior lecturer in the Creative Writing Program at The University of Melbourne, where he has coordinated the large first-year Creative Writing subject for over ten years. Dr. Caldwell is also a widely published poet and novelist.

    This timely and multi-faceted book places games, game-playing, ludic inquiry, rule-making, rule-bending and rule-breaking firmly in the world of academic research into power, privilege, creativity, cross-cultural and colonial critiques, pedagogical methods, and the system itself of beliefs and practices that builds for us our universities and what we have come to call academia. And it is an important development. We need only reflect briefly on the deeply ambivalent values and ambiguous meanings we can draw from terms that are embedded in language to sense the importance of such an inquiry: ‘play the game’, ‘the long game’, ‘game-playing’, ‘gaming’, ‘the spirit of the game’, and many others to be found in this book.  Most importantly, the book itself is an invitation to set out on the much ignored and even feared pathways of  discovery-through-play.

    Emeritus Professor Kevin Brophy AM

    Creative Writing, University of Melbourne