Using activity theory to understand intergenerational play: The case of Family Quest

  • Sinem Siyahhan
  • Sasha A. Barab
  • Michael P. Downton


We implemented a five-week family program called Family Quest where parents and children ages 9 to 13 played Quest Atlantis, a multiuser 3D educational computer game, at a local after-school club for 90-minute sessions. We used activity theory as a conceptual and an analytical framework to study the nature of intergenerational play, the collaborative activity between parents and children in the context of role-playing virtual game environment, and the opportunities and challenges of bringing parents and children together around an educational video game. Our analyses of five parent-child dyads revealed that the nature of intergenerational play is different for different parent-child dyads, but has positive outcomes. Implications of the study for supporting family learning and bonding through video games are discussed.


Collaborative problem solving Informal learning environments Intergenerational play Parent-child interaction Video games 



This research was supported by grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of their Digital Media and Learning initiative. We would like to thank Adam Ingram-Goble and Ellen Jameson for their design and technical support.


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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.; Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sinem Siyahhan
    • 1
  • Sasha A. Barab
    • 2
  • Michael P. Downton
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Research on Learning and TechnologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Research on Learning and TechnologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  3. 3.Center for Research on Learning and TechnologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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