Play Stuff Blog

The Strong’s historians, curators, librarians, and other staff offer insights into and anecdotes about the critical role of play in human development and the ways in which toys, dolls, games, and video games reflect cultural history. Learn even more about the museum’s archival materials, books, catalogs, and other ephemera through its Tumblr page.

Dolls in Focus

In October 2017, I had the chance to be at The Strong National Museum of Play as a research fellow collecting data for my Dolls in Focus project aimed at revisiting and expanding the findings of my previous linguistic investigation on dolls’ language. Surprisingly, what I thought would primarily be an exploratory incursion into dolls’ universe from an academic perspective turned out to be a rather touching and personal experience that allowed me to revisit my own childhood memories.

Bébé Triste doll, Jumeau, 1889-1895For a whole week, I had a wide variety of dolls coming in my direction, from old Jumeau Bébé dolls, walking and talking baby dolls, to Barbie dolls, of course. The Strong curators carefully selected more than 70 dolls for my examination, as well as seminal books I had requested. The museum’s staff proved to be extremely efficient in providing me with all information regarding the artifacts I was analyzing, such as their production date by the toy manufacturer. They also supplied me with instructions regarding the use of museum images in my future academic publications.

Barbie Game Developer, Mattel, Inc., 2016As an academic from the area of linguistics, I’ve been conducting toy research for almost 15 years, but I had never enjoyed the chance to engage with such a large collection of artifacts. My previous work had concentrated on language and images, notably the verbal and visual features of web advertisements for dolls. For this reason, being at The Strong gave me the opportunity to carry out a thorough analysis of dolls mainly as three-dimensional objects, which ended up enlightening my view of dolls’ material configurations.

From a linguistic perspective, my research and data collection experience at The Strong confirms that examining toys such as dolls as actual three-dimensional objects opens up possibilities for a broader analysis. The analysis can deal with the toys’ meanings as supported by design features such as their iconography, composition, material qualities, and the degree of realism of their representations. Such multimodal properties can lead to a deeper interpretation of their given motifs—or visual pointers—as clues to the meanings that their symbolic, somehow “unnatural” features convey. Observation on toys’ kinetic design perceived at the tactile level can also lead to relevant findings on their attached gendered meanings. In other words, a linguistic analysis that privileges not only a two-dimensional perspective but also a three-dimensional investigation of the visual, tactile and kinetic properties of toys like dolls might help to capture the essence of the social view on men’s and women’s roles in contemporary society.

These are only some of the reasons that made my research period at The Strong such a happy and productive one. This will certainly reverberate throughout my future academic productions on the language of toys, both in national and international contexts.

CHEGheads Going to Gaming Paradise . . . E3

The CHEGheads are headed to E3 Expo 2010. Both a trade show and a celebration of gaming, the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo presented by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is one of the most talked about industry events of the year. With the opening only a few days away, the E3 excitement is building on the blogosphere as gamers anxiously await news on “what’s next” in the gaming world.

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A Generous Gift of Video Game Guides

Ever been stuck in a game? You’re not alone. Back in the 1980s, when I was cutting my gaming teeth, I remember being stymied by Colossal Cave Adventure. I was playing the Osborne Computer version, written by Mike Goetz I believe, and to win the game you had to amass 580 points by solving a series of puzzles and challenges to acquire all the treasure. I had figured out almost all the problems in the game but couldn’t complete it. At last a friend told me I could teleport from room to room with the secret word, XYZZY.

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It's How You Play the Video Game

How many times have you thrown a fit when you lost a game? And in turn, how many times did a friend or relative remind you that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game that matters? In today’s electronic gaming world, manufacturers are emphasizing this point in new ways. For many gamers, it’s no longer about winning or losing, it’s literally all about how you play.

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The Curious Case of the China Doll

I don’t know that the words curator and curious come from a common root word, but I’ve noticed that most curators—like inquisitive three-year-olds—persistently ask questions. Even curators who’ve done thorough research keep on asking questions about their subject matter. And that’s the way things should be because researchers, historians, and collectors uncover new information all the time.

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Haute Couture Popping Up in Video Games

Coco Chanel from The Guardian

 

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Video Game Sing Along, Anyone?

It's only natural that ICHEG be located in Rochester, a city with universities and colleges that attract students and academics from across the globe. One evening, while reminiscing with a few of them about childhood memories, a student from Portugal recalled the numerous occasions when he skipped religious studies to go to the arcade with change his mother had given him for an after-school snack. He would slip the coins into the slot of the Contra arcade game like he was feeding it communion. He loved the way the mechanical, fast-paced sounds burst from the screen.

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Once Upon a Time...

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Who is Your Sailor Moon?

One of the most frequent questions I receive as a gamer is, “What kinds of games do you enjoy playing?” This question seems simplistic, but the answer is definitely not. I’ve given several different ones over the years, ranging from specific examples, such as Mario Bros., to broad genres, like puzzle games. As I get older, I realize my absolute favorite games are those that represent a connection to my personal life, especially games that take me back to a part of my past.

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Why are Casual Games so Compelling?

Lyman Abbott

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Which Came First, the Goose or the Egg?

Strong recently acquired a very rare and important board game—“The Jolly Game of Goose.” The game is printed on paper with old, yellowed tape on its folds.

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