Homer and Cicero wrote about incidents involving sea robbers that threatened the trading routes of Ancient Greece and Rome more than 2,000 years ago. Since then, each era has encountered new brands of pirates. Popular culture today glorifies the picture of a band of outlaws who are guided by the wind and their own set of rules—consider swashbuckler Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. In recent years, many video game designers adapt tales of the sea to attract pirate aficionados to interactive game play.
Frequently my two-year-old daughter Sidney greets me with two words: "chase, Daddy." It's a request that usually leads to lots of laughter and me circling around tables and chairs as I chase her throughout our house. In psychologist Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn, he notes that young mammals of nearly all species play chase games.
Physicists and astronomers tend to maintain two schools of thoughts on space exploration. The first school focuses on cost management and quick results and concludes that robotic, unmanned missions prove the best approach to space exploration. The second school advocates for humans to travel to space.
I recently read Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One. The story captivated me and likely appeals to other gaming fans, especially those who—like me—happen to love 1980s pop-culture. Although the book takes place in the future, the plot encouraged me to think more about games from the past. In Ready Player One, America becomes a wasteland. To escape the onset of depression, the vast majority of citizens flee into Oasis, a virtual video game world. When the creator (James Halliday) of Oasis dies, both the real and virtual worlds become chaotic.
ICHEG collects a vast array of materials. Sometimes they come in groups of thousands, like the archives of the Atari Coin-Op divisions we acquired, and sometimes they come in ones and twos, like John Romero’s first Apple II+ computer and design notebook that he donated. John recently joined us in installing these items in The Strong’s eGameRevolution exhibit.
Some video games make us want to throw our controllers against the wall and swear never to play again. But somehow we always seem to find ourselves plopped back on the couch, controller clutched tightly in our hands, determined that this time will be different. Frustration and challenge are part of the appeal of a good game and that fits with much of what we know about what makes good play.
Statistics sit at the heart of baseball. A hitter’s batting average predicts his success at the plate, a pitcher’s Earned Run Average measures his overall effectiveness, and a fielder’s rate of errors correlates strongly with his likelihood of making a play. Since computers prove effective tools for measuring probabilities and statistics, it is not surprising that some of the earliest applications of computers for game play involved baseball simulation.
My reading list seems to grow longer each year. It seems impossible to read all of the intriguing titles available; the Library of Congress alone has approximately 838 miles of bookshelves.
When I give guests a tour through The Strong, I always plan to spend a few extra minutes in the museum’s Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden where approximately 800 butterflies fly around. I’ve noticed that if you move quickly through the space you miss many butterflies that are resting or feeding. But when you stay still, your perception sharpens and you notice more butterflies and moths perched on leaves, on branches, or on fruit.