A local movie theater recently hosted an “Indoor Drive-in” series to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the original drive-in theaters. First opened by Richard Hollingshead in 1933, drive-ins became family destinations. People paid a minimal fee to enter a gated parking lot with a huge movie screen located at one end of the grounds. Hollingshead intended for guests to watch the movie from the comfort of their own automobiles. When technology permitted, guests rolled the window part-way down and attached a tethered speaker to the car.
The current “serious gaming” trend in both electronic and traditional play uses games to increase awareness of significant cultural, historical, and current events. Game designers Brenda Brathwaite Romero and John Romero recently visited The Strong and provided a compelling demonstration of this trend to staff.
Traditional library and archival materials help flesh out the history of video games. In addition to the personal papers of famous game designers like Ralph Baer, Ken and Roberta Williams, Dan Bunten, and Bill Budge, The Strong collections include many items that shed light on the formative decades for the development of electronic games.
Pretend play often helps us cope. When we’re sad, scared, or depressed, pretend play lets us escape our hurts and gather strength to face our fears and trials.
I’m writing this blog while carrying a phone with the potential to play tens of thousands of games like Angry Birds, Temple Run, and Words with Friends. The incredible diversity of game options reflects a revolution in mobile gaming. Today’s smart phones offer a cornucopia of choices inconceivable to users who back in 1997 were satisfied playing Snake on their Nokia phone. But while the number of different mobile games available is new, the desire for games to play on the go is quite old.
Henry David Thoreau advised his peers, “Let us first be simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our brows, and take up a little life into our pores.” Thoreau’s contemporaries professed similar emotional, individualist, and idealist sentiments. I respect authors of the American Romantic and Victorian period of literature; however, I don’t always enjoy wading through their sometimes ornate language. I recently discovered a few video game titles that provide a new format to interact with work from this period.
The roots of video gaming go deep into the longer history of games, puzzles, and play. Backyard games of cops and robbers predated first-person shooters. Puzzles existed long before designers incorporated them in video games. Pen and paper RPGs proved so exciting and immersive that programmers began creating electronic variations. To celebrate and explore this deep history of game playing and puzzle solving, The Strong has opened Game Time!, a permanent exhibit at the National Museum of Play.