Screen-Play: Games Only Fictional Characters Could Invent

Screen-Play: Games Only Fictional Characters Could Invent

Pendulous grey clouds loom ominously to the west. Today is not an outdoor day. Salvation is in the closet, where colorful boxes of boards, cards, and tokens beckon us into other worlds. Games pass the time, make us laugh, and strengthen bonds among loved ones. The Strong is proud to preserve the history of games and inventors. As I tend to do, I turn to television and find characters having a grand old time creating their own games, too. I don’t foresee them experiencing the same levels of success as their counterparts represented at the museum, but why don’t you decide?

Ben Wyatt of Parks and Recreation
The Cones of Dunshire

As an 18-year-old mayor, Ben developed an ambitious winter sports complex that bankrupted his town. At his bachelor party, he elected to play The Settlers of Catan over other forms of entertainment. When last left to his own devices, he buried himself in stop-motion animation. Finally, while unemployed, Ben unleashes his most epic creation: The Cones of Dunshire. The rules are so convoluted, the setting and cast so expansive, that Ben can’t figure out where to begin explaining them. His geeky delirium is charming. Parks and Rec trots out Ben’s game in later episodes to the delight of accountants and gamers alike, and a few dozen superfans will play a real-life demo tomorrow at Gen Con in Indianapolis. (If you’re there, Mayfair Games will be using a floor game with giant pieces, so it’s worth watching from the sidelines, even if you didn’t spring for one of the $100 tickets benefiting Indy’s Food Bank.)

Screen-Play: Video Game Mania on Television

Screen-Play: Video Game Mania on Television

“Finish him!” “Save the princess!” “Time is running out!” Video game designers excel at creating high-stakes environments. And television has earned some laughs depicting the obsessive players who heed these calls to action. Here are some of the memorable ways television shows have turned video games into life-or-death situations. Seinfeld: “The Frogger” George holds the…

The Mighty Minion

The Mighty Minion

A new, rapidly growing species has sprouted among us: small, yellow, overall-clad creatures, helpful and hilarious, who love to sing, dance, and laugh. What are they? Minions, the lovable— often Cyclops-eyed—characters from the immensely popular films Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2. While some folks may consider the babbling and singing of minions purely nonsensical,…

Play: The Cure for the Seven-Year-Old Blues

Play: The Cure for the Seven-Year-Old Blues

“I’m running away to Australia!” This tearful statement greeted me as I entered my son’s room. He pointed to his duffel bag, packed with everything a seven-year-old boy needs to survive the wilds of the outback: his WWE wrestling figures and his well-worn Don’t Know Much About Space book. Clearly, John Cena and Pluto are…

Cowabunga!―It’s Turtle Power!

Cowabunga!―It’s Turtle Power!

The 1980s produced some totally radical slang terms. If prompted, almost anyone in Generations X or Y can spout off their own concoction of half-surfer dude, half-valley girl lingo. (No duh! That’s gnarly! Psych!) Though these terms were rampant in PG-13 movies of the 1980s, they didn’t make an appearance in children’s books or standard…

Muppets Among Us

Muppets Among Us

It’s time to play the music It’s time to light the lights It’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight It’s time to put on makeup It’s time to dress up right It’s time to raise the curtain on the Muppet Show tonight Why do we always come here? I guess we’ll…

Properly Packing Puzzles

Properly Packing Puzzles

I’ve always enjoyed working on jigsaw puzzles. I find the challenge of assembling a picture from the mass of jumbled pieces satisfying. Maybe it’s my bent for organization that wants to bring order to chaos and see the task through to a tidy completion. But I faced a different challenge recently when my fellow curator…

The Perils of Rosella and the Genius of Roberta

The Perils of Rosella and the Genius of Roberta

My family was cutting-edge back in the 1980s. We had a TRS-80. My father subscribed to 80 Micro. He dabbled in BASIC programming. My parents and my sister played early adventure games such as Zork and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. We were the most technologically advanced family on the block. I was not…

Hello, Vintage Phones? It’s You I’m Looking For

Hello, Vintage Phones? It’s You I’m Looking For

Do you remember when there was a bit of mystery involved in answering the phone? When you’d pick up the receiver and not know who was on the other end of the line? (An act so intriguing, Lionel Richie even wrote a song about it!) As the youngest of three kids in a busy family,…

Learning American History from American Girls

Learning American History from American Girls

Let’s face it: When you’re a grown-up, getting real mail can be terrible. (Look, another bill. Great, a reminder to get my teeth cleaned.) Occasionally you receive a nice letter-pressed wedding invitation or glossy gossip magazine. But when you were a kid? Getting mail was awesome. (Invitations to classmates’ parties! Birthday cards with a $5…