Hi there. I’m Sean, and I’m an Assistant Professor in Indiana University‘s Learning Sciences program. I study cultures of play and learning. I believe that games are important contexts for understanding play in everyday life, but also that games, game design, and even gaming communities provide critical sites of situated learning that can help us to rethink instruction, curricula, and educational systems more broadly. Games and play aren’t interesting just because they’re fun or because kids like them (which, of course, are both true). Games are important expressive media, featuring complex systems of rule sets and narratives, whose designers can have important artistic, political, or critical goals. Oh, and they’re also fun. Sometimes.

In my work, I’m interested in investigating the learning implications of many forms of games — digital, board, card, and role-playing games have all played roles in my current research. Recently, I have published or presented on topics ranging from informal science reasoning in World of Warcraft to co-constructed narratives around The Legend of Zelda series to the use of Minecraft by unschooling proponents to collaborative computational thinking in the board game Pandemic. I’m currently involved with new projects including looking at interactions on Steam, learning in “story games” (Fiasco, Dog Eat Dog, Monsterhearts), and am working with students on projects involving systems thinking in Dota 2, teacher/parent/youth interactions around Minecraft, and using games such as Local No. 12’s The Metagame instructionally. A common thread in my work is one of collaboration in games, looking at how critical gaming, game design, and interpretive gaming communities feature people working together to do interesting things (and sometimes overtly in opposition to other people doing terrible things).

My lab, currently housed in IU’s Center for Research on Learning & Technology, is called the Playful Culture Lab, and I encourage you to check it out if you’d like to hear more about our projects. If you’d like to find out more about me, I encourage you to check out my profile at IU’s School of Education website, or my rarely-updated page. If you’re interested in my work, I occasionally tweet about it at @playcult.

Also, I am actively recruiting students for the lab — if you’re interested in earning a Ph.D. studying games and learning, I want to talk to you! My email is secdunc at Indiana’s .edu address, so feel free to shoot me a note or a tweet.

Finally, just for the hell of it, I leave you with a picture of my kid, holding onto what I maintain is still the best gaming controller ever invented (in the digital/non-polyhedral category).