“All Aboard!” for Fun with Trains

“All Aboard!” for Fun with Trains

Growing up in Pennsylvania, my parents frequently looked for family excursions within a few hours’ drive from our home near Pittsburgh. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, became a frequent destination for the Novakovics, thanks in part to my younger brothers. Both Bobby and Billy loved reading the Thomas the Tank Engine series by Reverend W. Awdry; watching…

Spin Master: Putting Their Own “Spin” on Toys since 1994

Spin Master: Putting Their Own “Spin” on Toys since 1994

Think about some of the “must-have” toys you’ve seen (or even procured) over the last few years. How about the playful robotic dog Zoomer? Or the small, colorful, hooked building balls called Bunchems? Or the great craze of 2016, Hatchimals (described by some as a cross between a Furby and a Tamagotchi)? These massively popular…

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…

“He Shoots! He Scores!”: Hockey Games for the Off-Season

“He Shoots! He Scores!”: Hockey Games for the Off-Season

Being a fan of a professional sports team can be a lot of work. Sure, you can casually flip through the television channels on a Sunday afternoon and watch a few minutes of football, or you can accept some free tickets to a baseball game just to appreciate the sunshine and some stadium hot dogs,…

Dino-MITE!

Dino-MITE!

GIFT SHOP. Those two words might strike fear into the hearts of museum-going parents, but for children who have been bribed into good behavior, it is a beacon. Don’t disappear, don’t have a tantrum, don’t break anything—you may be rewarded with something from the museum’s gift shop. I grew up in Pittsburgh, where we had…

Random Knowledge: Brain Games

Random Knowledge: Brain Games

“All right, play time is over; it’s time to get your head in the game,” my friend Lauren sternly implores our team. We’ve been through six rounds. By our calculations, we must only be behind our chief rivals by a few points. Our highly competitive team has its regular starting line-up this week, and we…

RPGs and D&D: Learning from the PlaGMaDA Papers

RPGs and D&D: Learning from the PlaGMaDA Papers

I am a self-professed nerd. I blame (or should I say credit?) my parents, whose family vacation plans alternated visits to educational destinations such as Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg, and Washington, DC (No cruises to Aruba or trips to ski resorts for us, thanks. One spring break, my dad took my two brothers and me to…

Simon Says: Thanks, Ralph

Simon Says: Thanks, Ralph

I was deeply saddened to hear that Ralph H. Baer had died on December 6, 2014, at the age of 92. As numerous other writers have noted, Ralph invented the “Brown Box” home video game console (produced as the Magnavox Odyssey) and the electronic game Simon. He donated his professional papers to The Strong, and…

Recess Memories

Recess Memories

Many will remember how recess became the highlight of a grade-schooler’s day. At my own elementary school outdoor recess brought together classmates of all athletic abilities and creative talents. On the playground, the swing set filled up quickly with kids aiming to swing high and launch themselves into a pile of wood chips. Girls with…

“I’m Sorry, the Card Says ‘Moops’”: Play in Seinfeld

“I’m Sorry, the Card Says ‘Moops’”:  Play in Seinfeld

Seinfeld is not, as people often claim, a “show about nothing.” It is a television show about four narcissists whose seemingly petty dialogue and ripple-effect exploits produced a significant impact on the modern pop culture landscape. I confess―I’m a Seinfeld devotee. In fact, I recently completed my own personal “Summer of George,” where I re-watched…