But We Play It Like This: House Rules for Games

But We Play It Like This: House Rules for Games

Here’s a fun experiment: suggest playing a game of Monopoly and predict the responses you’ll receive. More often than not, you’ll be hit with an audible groan and the familiar refrain of “Has anyone ever actually finished a game of Monopoly?” Admittedly, I used to be anti-Monopoly myself. (During high school, my friend Meg and I maintained an in-progress game of Monopoly in her mom’s basement for more than two years before finally giving up.) Then, while processing the Philip E. Orbanes papers here in the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, I discovered that my family had actually been playing the game incorrectly for years. (That $500 bill we’d been slipping under the Free Parking square? Not in the game instructions. Making everyone travel around the board one time before they could acquire anything? Nope, not a rule. Auctioning properties? Never heard of it.) My family’s informal additions, ironically, were the cause of my distaste for this classic board game. When I asked my mom why we didn’t follow the authentic instructions, she shrugged and said that this is how she learned to play.

Many of my friends have had similar experiences. Their families’ “house rules” have influenced how they played (and continue to play) board games and other amusements. This winter, I spent more than five harrowing minutes ranting to my bewildered boyfriend about why he couldn’t have a dictionary or a list of two-letter words on-hand for a (no-longer) leisurely game of Scrabble. His family had historically brought these resources to the table when they set up the Scrabble board, while mine instituted complex rules about word challenges and lost turns. (At some point in the 2000s, the Novakovics also established a “three-tile minimum” turn for Scrabble, because my youngest brother would always, without fail, put down two tiles to spell a word such as ‘TOE’ for three points, right where the next person had prepared to play all seven of their tiles on a Triple Word Score.) Following this revelation, I turned to a cohort of clever board and card game enthusiasts* to learn about their own versions of house rules, and I was not disappointed.

Have You Hugged a Troll Doll Lately?

Have You Hugged a Troll Doll Lately?

I first encountered troll dolls in the mid-1970s. My younger sister had one that she loved greatly and played with all the time. In fact, she played with her troll doll (named “Sloppy Joe Head”) so much that eventually all of his hair fell out and his felt clothes were torn to shreds. When we…

Rare! Weird! Collectible! A Great Donation of Board Games

Rare! Weird! Collectible! A Great Donation of Board Games

The Strong’s board game collection is unique in all the world. Unlike specialized collectors, the museum thinks broadly about what it acquires, striving to represent both ancient and modern examples, simple games and complex ones, and extremely typical editions and rare versions for the varieties of play they represent, as well as the cultures that…

From Tall to Small: The Lure of Exotic Animals

From Tall to Small: The Lure of Exotic Animals

Having grown up with dogs, cats, a rabbit, and the occasional fish or two, naturally I consider myself an animal lover. Like many folks who fall into this category, my love of creatures is not limited to domestic varieties, but extends well beyond to animals of sea, sky, and land, particularly exotic animals such as…

Little People Go Big: The National Toy Hall of Fame Announces its Newest Inductee

Little People Go Big: The National Toy Hall of Fame Announces its Newest Inductee

Unless you have been out of touch for several days—say, locked in an epic game of Dungeons & Dragons—you have probably heard that Little People, the tiny figures that accompany Fisher-Price play sets, played a big role in the induction announcement of The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame on November 10. Little People, along…

The National Toy Hall of Fame Is in Full Swing

The National Toy Hall of Fame Is in Full Swing

On November 10, The Strong announced that the swing had been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, along with Fisher-Price Little People figures and the game Dungeons & Dragons. Though the play figures and the role-playing game surely fit the hall’s criteria for iconic toys, the swing seems so suited to hall of…

Dungeons & Dragons: Innovative Role-playing Game Merits Hall of Fame Induction

Dungeons & Dragons: Innovative Role-playing Game Merits Hall of Fame Induction

In the 1970s, a group of gaming friends added the concept of role-playing to the previously straightforward play of war games. Gamers Gary Gygax and his associate Jeff Perrin published instructions for Chainmail, a medieval war game, in 1971. This game differed from all other published war games by including a fantasy supplement based in…

The History of Play-Doh: Good, Clean Fun!

The History of Play-Doh: Good, Clean Fun!

Chances are if you mention Play-Doh, your listener will know exactly to what you mean. Not only does the name elicit a mental image of the product in a small yellow can with a colorful lid, but it also evokes sensory memories: bold and vibrant colors; soft, pliable textures; an unmistakable aromatic scent; the soft…

A History of Film-to-Game Adaptations: Why I Play, Study, and (Sometimes) Like Bad Games

A History of Film-to-Game Adaptations: Why I Play, Study, and (Sometimes) Like Bad Games

In October 2015, I was awarded a Research Fellowship from The Strong. I had access to the library, the archives, the museum itself, and the seemingly endless rows of shelves full of playthings of the past. Both my 14-year-old self and my current 30-something researcher self were in a happy place. My job is to…

Barbie Hacks and Mods: On Swapping Voices, Removing Makeup, and Fighting Prejudice

Barbie Hacks and Mods: On Swapping Voices, Removing Makeup, and Fighting Prejudice

Barbie has raised eyebrows since her debut at the 1959 Toy Fair. Modeled after the German Bild Lilli novelty doll, Barbie provided girls a playroom outlet for their dreams and aspirations. Inventor Ruth Handler knew that girls wanted to play at more than being a mother to life-sized baby dolls, but Mattel executives were skeptical….