It’s all fun and games until someone loses an ‘I’


'Once upon a time four very different women went into the Academy. They did not share a disciplinary homeland but forged new bonds closer than kinship and worked together for teaching to triumph over research. Things change, and scattered to the four corners of the realm they vowed to remain true to their playful hearts. Through missives, they storied, imagined, and strove to sing new worlds of wonderment into being.'

This paper chronicles their quest, tells of the old ways and the new, tells tales of beings and becomings, of how we make stories and stories make us.  

We share our experience of academic development as inherently playful. We suggest that reflective practice, narratives of teaching philosophy and exploration of teaching identity engage academics with an exploration of their possible teaching selves. This potentiality is inherently fictional – we invite academics to dwell in imagined worlds, to imagine the possible, to exist in uncertainty, and initiate uncanny encounters. By engaging colleagues playfully, we can support them in pushing the boundaries of self and practice. This paper will embody an uncanny encounter, as we interrogated our work through letters exchanged and remixed to create imagined worlds and imaginary friends. A spirit of play brought a willingness to accept and embrace constraints, to try something difficult where success was not guaranteed. Extending playfulness into our methodology brought risk, challenge, and failure as we lost ourselves in fictional flow, until reflection-in-action restored us. We propose that this union between playful fiction and reflection can promise a happily ever after. Reader should we marry them?  


Storytelling, Identity, Playfulness, Signature pedagogy, Academic development, Reflection

How to Cite

Carr, J., Cunningham, C., Mills, J. & Taylor, N., (2021) “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an ‘I’”, The Journal of Play in Adulthood 3(2), 62-81. doi:







Jenni Carr (London School of Economics & Political Science)
Catriona Cunningham (University of Stirling)
Jennie Mills (University of Warwick)
Natasha Taylor (RMIT)



Publication details



Creative Commons Attribution 4.0


Peer Review

This article has been peer reviewed.

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