Subject Headings for Play, Games and Sports

Subject Headings for Play, Games, and Sports

ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee

Question/Answer on Cataloging Issues – November 2013

Question: What subject headings are used for materials on play, games, and sports?

By Carolyn J. McCallum, Wake Forest University

In the Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology, play is defined as “a framing or orienting context consciously adopted by those engaged in it (players) that is pleasurable and systematically related by allusion to the not-play world and by transforming the objects, roles, actions, and relations of ends and means characteristic of that world.” (Lavenda, p.936).

Games are structured forms of play that incorporates rules, and along with sports can be played within different contexts such as work or ritual (Lavenda, p.938).

Copious subject headings, both general and specific, can be found in the Library of Congress Authorities to apply to the subjects of play, games, and sports. Listed below are examples incorporating the main headings Play, Games, and Sports, which can be subdivided geographically, topically and by genre in a variety of ways:

Play—Cross-cultural studies

Play—Religious aspects

  • PlayReligious aspectsChristianity

Play—Social aspects

Play—Sociological aspects

Games (may be subdivided under ethnic groups)

  • Indians of North America—Games
  • Cherokee Indians—Games

Games—Cross-cultural studies


  • Games—Southwest, New—Folklore

GamesReligious aspects

  • GamesReligious aspectsHinduism

Games—Social  aspects

  • Games—Rome—Social aspects
  • Games—Social aspects—Rome

Games—Sociological aspects

GamesSymbolic aspects

  • GamesSymbolic aspectsFrance—Pays Basque

Sports (may be subdivided under ethnic groups as well as military services)

  • Cherokee Indians—Sports
  • United States. Army—Sports 

Sports—Anthropological aspects

  • Sports—Anthropological aspects—United States

Sports—Cross-cultural studies

  • Sports—Asia—Cross-cultural studies

Sports—Religious aspects

  • SportsReligious aspectsMormon Church
  • Sports—United States—Religious aspects

Sports—Social aspects

  • Sports—Social aspects—Cross-cultural studies
  • Sports—Social aspects—Developing countries

SportsSociological aspects  “Here are entered works on sociological theories applied to sports” (LCSH Authorities).

Two additional LC subject headings that could be assigned to works on play, games, and sports are Amusements and Athletics.

Narrow and broad authorized Library of Congress subject headings for games and sports are listed below. Please note that this is not an exhaustive listing.

Ball games (may be subdivided geographically and topically)  Individual sports can be subdivided under names of individual educational institutions (e.g. Harvard University—Golf).

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Billiards
  • Bowling games
  • Croquet
  • Field hockey
  • Football  “Here are entered general works on football games as well as works on American football” (LCSH Authorities).
    • Australian football
    • Canadian football
    • Gaelic football
    • Soccer  Subject heading is used to refer to English football and/or European football.
    • Flag football
    • Touch football
    • Rugby football 
    • Golf
    • Lacrosse
    • Polo
    • Pool (Game)
    • Table tennis
    • Tennis
    • Volleyball

Aquatic sports

  • Diving                                                            
  • Logrolling (Aquatic sports)
  • Rafting (Sports)
  • Rowing
  • Sailing
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Wakeboarding
  • Water polo
  • Water skiing

Winter sports

  • Bobsledding
  • Curling
  • Hockey
  • Skating
  • Skis and skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Tobogganing

Extreme sports

Professional sports

School sports

Fantasy sports LC subject headings for specific fantasy sports include:

  • Fantasy baseball (Game)
  • Fantasy basketball (Game)
  • Fantasy cricket (Game)
  • Fantasy football (Game)
  • Fantasy hockey (Game)
  • Rotisserie League Baseball (Game)
  • Rotisserie League Basketball (Game)
  • Rotisserie League Football (Game)

Some examples of games and sports indigenous to specific cultures and represented in LCSH’s thesaurus include:

  • Dreidel (Game)
  • Highland games
  • Mah jong
  • Bullfights
  • Cricket
  • Anetso  “A centuries-old Cherokee ball game still played today; a precursor to lacrosse” (LCSH Authorities).

Alternate reality games – Per Wikipedia, “An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions. The form is typified by intense player involvement with a story that takes place in real-time and evolves according to participants’ responses, and characters that are actively controlled by the game’s designers, as opposed to being controlled by artificial intelligence as in a computer or console video game. Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and often work together with a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities. ARGs generally use multiple media (such as telephones, email, and mail) but rely on the Internet as the central binding medium.”

Fantasy games

  • Dungeons and Dragons (Game)
  • World of Warcraft (Game)

Role playing


Board games

  • Monopoly (Game)
  • Checkers
  • Chess
  • Risk (Game)
  • Pachisi – Authoritative heading for the game also spelled as Parchisi, Parchesi, or  Parcheesi.

Card games

  • Poker
  • Rook (Game)
  • Canasta (Game)
  • Rummy (Game) 
  • Hearts (Game)

Carnival games

Drinking games

Darts (Game)

Foosball (Game)

Educational games

Electronic games – There are 3 narrower terms under this heading listed below with specific examples under each:

  • Computer games  “Here are entered works on games played on a computer” (LCSH Authorities).
    • Computer checkers
    • Computer chess
    • Second Life (Game)
    • Internet games
    • Video games
      • Angry Birds (Game)
      • Donkey Kong (Game)
      • Grand Theft Auto games
      • Guitar Hero (Game)
      • Halo (Game)
      • Legend of Zelda (Game)
      • Mortal Kombat (Game)
      • Pac-Man (Game)
      • Video poker

Games for one

Games for two

Group games

Games for travelers

  • Punch-Buggy (Game)  – Per Wikipedia, “Punch buggy (also called punch bug, punch dub, piggy punch, slug bug, or beetle bug) is a car game generally played by children in which participants punch each other in the arm upon first sight of a Volkswagen Beetle while calling out ‘Slug bug!’ or ‘Punch buggy!’ in reference to the Beetle’s nickname, the Bug.”

Guessing games

Indoor games

Outdoor games

Paintball (Game)

Geocaching – “Geocaching is part treasure hunt, part outdoor exploration. One person puts together a collection of things-toys, mementos, trinkets, and places them in a container, called the cache, takes a reading of its position with a GPS device, then posts the location numbers on a web site. Someone else looks up the location, finds the cache, takes one item from the collection, and replaces it with another” (LCSH Authorities).

Letterboxing (Game) – “Letterboxing is something between a sport and a hobby, a sort of a combination of orienteering and treasure hunting that consists of using maps, clues, and compasses in the search for containers. Each letterbox contains a notebook and a unique rubber stamp. Each letterboxer carries a notebook and a personal stamp. Once a box is found … the letterboxer inks the stamp from the box and presses it into his own notebook, then inks his personal stamp and presses that into the little visitors’ book that’s kept in the box … Then the letterboxer reseals the box, replaces it in its hiding place, checks the clue sheet and the compass bearings, and heads off in seach of the next letterbox” (LCSH Authorities).

Subject headings for other various games played by children and adults alike.

  • Bingo
  • Dominoes
  • Dodgeball
  • Hide-and-seek
  • Hopscotch
  • Jacks (Game)
  • Kickball
  • Marbles (Game)
  • Ouija board
  • Pinball machines
  • Rhyming games
  • Ringtoss
  • Rope skipping (used for jump rope)
  • Shuffleboard
  • Singing games
  • Tag games
  • Tic-tac-toe
  • Truth or dare (Game)
  • Tug of war (Game)

Lavenda, R.H. (1996). Play. In D. Levinson & M. Ember (Eds.), Encyclopedia of

            cultural anthropology.