Roll the dice! Deal the cards! It’s time to welcome you to Game Time!, the newest exhibit at the National Museum of Play at The Strong. Game Time! explores the stories behind the non-electronic games that have played an important part in American life and culture over the past three centuries.
Anyone who’s ever competed at Go Fish, Candy Land, or pin the tail on the donkey will discover that many familiar games of today have histories extending back decades or even hundreds of years. Checkers and chess ranked among the favorite games of early colonists in North America. Britain’s Stamp Act of 1765 taxed playing cards along with other printed materials, raising many colonists’ temperatures about imperial infringement on local governance and setting in motion the political movement toward the American Revolution. Jumping 100 years ahead, game maker Milton Bradley turned his hit game, the Checkered Game of Life, into a pocket-sized version that proved popular with soldiers during the Civil War. And the classic strategy game Risk had its origins in the international tensions of the Cold War in the 1950s. Game Time! lets museum guests delve into these and other fascinating stories of play, past and present.
As fits the topic, Game Time! offers plenty of opportunities to play, whatever your age or interest. Crossword and Scrabble devotees can challenge themselves to finding the words hidden in the letter grid of Word Search. If spatial visualization is your strength, try the supersized Rush Hour puzzle. Feeling strategic? Then test your skills at naval maneuvers with a game of Battleship. Prefer games that require a little less thought? Game Time! shows off the range of games calling for hand-eye coordination, from timeless examples like Tiddledy Winks to newer variations such as Kerplunk and SpongeBob SquarePants’ own version of Ants in the Pants. Want to prove your own steady hands? A table dedicated to the toppling tower game Jenga gives you the chance to triumph over your companions. Sometimes, the biggest requirement of a game is that it gives participants a reason to be together and socialize. It might seem awkward to ask, “Would you like to come over and sit around for two or three hours?” But frame the invitation as an opportunity to come play Parcheesi, Pit, or pinochle and the offer sounds more appealing. On some social occasions, the game recedes into the background as people gather around a table to laugh and enjoy one another’s company. In other instances, the game provides the central structure for the experience, whether that means an evening of The Settlers of Catan or a weekend of Dungeons & Dragons. As the infomercials say, “But wait, there’s so much more!” Game Time! also offers a look into the world of puzzles, be those classic jigsaws or the all-time bestselling Rubik’s Cube. You’ll find unique activities such as a scaled up hands-on version of Perplexus, a 2012 Toy of the Year winner, for oversized puzzling fun. And the exhibit doesn’t neglect the kinds of games often found in rec rooms and dorm lounges. Come test your skills at air hockey, foosball, and vintage pinball games and explore all the exhibit’s insights and experiences. Whatever your generation, whatever your favorite game, Game Time! has so much to offer.