Play is a powerful source in people’s encounters with their everyday life, surroundings and society. Further, play is increasingly intertwined with a range of different fields, from learning, exercising, city planning to creative work relations. Identities are built through playful interactions with games and social media, playful learning engages students’ abilities and competencies, and organisations use play as a motor for innovation and engagements. The attempts to utilize playful behaviour in cultural, educational as well as organisational contexts reveal tensions when rational social organization meets forms of playful participation that are less bound by instrumental obligations. The articles in this issue ask: what exactly is playful participation? and: How might playful encounters motivate participation? To what extent can playful participation be utilised for e.g. cultural or educational purposes without losing sight of ‘being playful’? And how does playfulness challenge pre-established norms of participation?