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.
When George Gomez, Vice President of Game Development for Stern Pinball, found out he'd be designing The Avengers (2013) pinball machine, he was truly excited. The 2012 film of the same name was a box office juggernaut, grossing more than $600 million domestically.
I recently watched independent animation film director and designer Léo Verrier’s short film, Dripped. The 8-minute film presented a fictional story of a burglar who stole famous paintings from museums and proceeded to eat the artwork. Shortly after the thief consumed an artwork, his body morphed into a figure or design from the specific painting. I like to imagine that Verrier came up with this idea for his film after viewing a Picasso. Many artists find inspiration in existing art.
In 1970, the movie Patton became a top-grossing film of the year, earned eight Academy Awards, and starred George C. Scott as the brilliant, eccentric World War II tank commander General George S. Patton. At a time when the country was mired in jungle warfare in Vietnam, in which tanks played relatively little role, audiences warmed to the epic story of America’s fast-moving tactical victories in the “good war” a quarter-century earlier. Tanks fired the imagination of not only movie-goers, but game players as well.
On a recent stroll through the arcade in The Strong's eGameRevolution exhibit, I recalled a favorite childhood memory of my hometown arcade. During the early to middle 1990s, even as arcades declined, young gamers like me hurried to our local arcades after school to pick fights. No, these weren’t real fights, but some players left with sore fingers from mashing buttons and injured egos from too many lost battles.
Most everyone is some sort of a gamer, whether that means you play Call of Duty to strategically advance and complete missions or you simply log onto your iPhone for a quick game of Words with Friends. Electronic games are everywhere. The Strong has the advantage of interpreting electronic game history in the context of play history.