2018 Annual Report Highlights

The Strong

The Strong is a highly interactive, collections-based museum devoted to the history and exploration of play. It houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play and is home to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the National Toy Hall of Fame, the World Video Game Hall of Fame, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library & Archives of Play, the Woodbury School, and the American Journal of Play.

OverviewGroundbreaking ceremony

  • Broke ground on a nearly 100,000-square-foot museum expansion and parking garage
  • Announced The Strong’s Powered by Play, a $60 million capital campaign
  • Welcomed nearly 585,000 guests on site, including guests from all 50 states and more than 50 countries, such as Ukraine, Thailand, South Africa, Dominican Republic, and Iceland
  • Maintained nearly 17,000 member households
  • Launched The Original Mobile Games app in partnership with Rochester Institute of Technology and Second Avenue Learning
  • Opened Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails! an exhibit Minnesota Children’s Museum (borrowed, January)
  • Opened Imagination Destination, an exhibit that allowed guests to role-play in inspiring spaces (permanent, March)
  • Opened Rockets, Robots, and Ray Guns, an exhibit that explored the playful side of science-fiction books, toys, movies, and video games (temporary, June)
  • Opened Jigsaw Puzzles: Putting it All Together, an exhibit that showcased The Strong’s world-class collection of puzzles (temporary, June)Women in Games speakers
  • Opened Be the Astronaut, an exhibit from Eureka Exhibits (borrowed, September)
  • Opened Women in Games, an exhibit that explored the untold stories of women in the video game industry (temporary, November)
  • Hosted the Women in Games inaugural event featuring female video game pioneers, including Bonnie Ross, Megan Gaiser, Jen MacLean, and more
  • Opened play zones at the Greater Rochester International Airport highlighting the National Toy Hall of Fame and World Video Game Hall of Fame
  • Hosted nearly 3,000 adults for the museum’s Happiest Hour events
  • Opened The Oregon Trail, MECC, and the Rise of Computer Learning; The Heart of the Matter: A History of Valentine Cards; World of War Games: A History of Wargaming; and A Brief History of Women in Gaming: The 1980s, online exhibits created in partnership with Google Cultural Institute
  • Opened Peanuts and Play display featuring items centered on illustrator Charles Schultz
  • Published A History of Video Games in 64 Objects with HarperCollins
  • Welcomed nearly 200 members of the Museum Association of New York for a “Night of Play”
  • Launched Game Saves from The Strong, a livestream program airing on Twitch highlighting The Strong’s electronic games collections
  • Partnered with Google Arts and Culture to make 72,000 museum artifacts available online
  • Launched the 20 for 20 Book Challenge in honor of the 20th anniversary of the museum’s Grada Hopeman Gelser Library
  • Selected Partners + Napier as agency of record
  • Featured on Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum in segments about Etch A Sketch and Ping Pong
  • Posted more than 80 blogs to Play Stuff and Tumblr

Grants of Note

  • Empire State Development, $20,000,000 for museum expansion
  • New York State Council of the Arts and Empire State Development, $725,000 for museum expansion
  • New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, $47,000 for general operating support
  • New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, $41,285 to upgrade The Strong’s theater facilities
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services, $135,763 to support cataloging and digitizing The Strong’s toy trade catalog collection
  • National Endowment for the Humanities, $75,000 for electronic games exhibits planning
  • William and Shelia Konar Foundation, $500,000 to assist with Woodbury School’s expanded classrooms and garden

National Acclaim

  • Awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Association of Games and Puzzles International
  • Named the “Top Place to Take Kids in the Rochester area” by KidsOutandAbout.com
  • Named the “Best Children’s Museum in the World” by Oyster
  • Named “Best Local Family-Friendly Attraction” by City Newspaper readers
  • Named the gold standard for indoor amusement in Rochester by Democrat and Chronicle readers
  • Named one of the top 20 “Best Family Museum in the United Stated” by Mommy Nearest


The Strong owns and cares for the world’s most comprehensive collection of toys, dolls, board games, video games, other electronic games, books, documents, and other historical materials related to play. This unprecedented assemblage offers a unique interpretive and educational window into the critical role of play in human physical, social, and intellectual development and the ways in which play reflects cultural history.

Key Acquisitions

Toy, Doll, Game, and Related Collections

  • A sculpture of Snoopy as Joe Cool previously housed in Santa Rosa, California
  • A collection of early 19th-century strategy and role-playing games
  • A rare board from The Landlord’s Game, a predecessor to Monopoly
  • A Japanese board game dating to 1740
  • Artwork for an Atari Wonder Woman pinball playfield prototype
  • A collection of artifacts related to team mascots created by Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison
  • A collection of Par jigsaw puzzles from collector John Lillie

Video and Other Electronic Game Collections

  • A collection of pre-production figures and portals, in-house molds and testing tools, and figures in original packaging from Toys for Bob’s gaming franchise Skylanders
  • A collection of promotional items related to Wargaming’s video game World of Tanks
  • An Altair 8800 computer and related documentation from former Atari game designer David Shapperd
  • An arcade version of Computer Space Ball created by Nutting Associates
  • A collection of prototype Atari arcade games

Archival Collections Related to Artifacts of Play

  • A collection of comprehensive corporate records from Mayfair Games
  • Additional toy, character, and mascot design documentation from mascot and Muppet character creator Bonnie Erickson for a collection acquired in 2016
  • A collection of design concept sketches, presentation renderings, and prototype images for dolls and toys developed by designer Stefanie Eskander

Archival Collections Related to the Study of Play

  • A collection of research notes, observational data, and scholarly papers from Alice Meckley, former president of The Association for the Study of Play (TASP)

Archival Collections Related to Video and Other Electronic Games

  • A collection of parts lists, bills of material forms, corporate memos, notes, playfield drawings, parts diagrams, wiring diagrams, and other documentation related to coin-operated game companies Bally, Midway, and Williams
  • A collection of artwork concepts, production schedules, and video oral history interviews chronicling the development of the gaming franchise Skylanders
  • A collection of photographs, promotional videos, and behind-the-scenes footage related to the development of video game developer Wargaming
  • A collection of fliers, brochures, hand-outs, manuals, and catalogs maintained by legendary pinball designer Steve Kordek


At The Strong, students and educators alike have fun while learning. All educational experiences provided by the museum are informed by Reggio Emilia, a playful, innovative approach to teaching and learning that emphasizes collaborative exploration and inquiry and the Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

Education and Outreach Highlights

  • Welcomed 13 interns from 10 colleges
  • Delivered school lessons to more than 15,000 Western New York students
  • Provided professional development experiences to more than 500 pre- and in-service teachers
  • Educated 68 preschool and early kindergarten students through the museum’s Reggio Emilia-inspired Woodbury School
  • Hosted The Strong’s second education conference, “Reclaiming Joy through Song, Movement, and Stories,” featuring keynote speakers Anna Rainville and Steven Levy (May)

Public Program Highlights

  • Presented more than 30 public programs, including Superheroes Weekend, Healthy Kids Day, and In Another Galaxy
  • Hosted more than 2,300 guests for ticketed events including Mario the Maker Magician, Museum Mondays for Seniors, Video Game Creation Workshop, and Women in Games: Inspire!
  • Provided badge activities for more than 300 Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Cub Scouts
  • Launched College Night after-hours program for students
  • Hosted Labo Launch Party in partnership with Nintendo of America
  • Launched Are You a Maker? Workshop series

National Toy Hall of Fame

The National Toy Hall of Fame recognizes toys that have inspired creative play and enjoyed popularity over a sustained period. In 2018, the prestigious hall welcomed three new toy inductees.

2018 inductionToy Hall of Fame induction ceremony

  • Honored the Magic 8 Ball, Uno, and pinball (November 8)
  • Generated national and international media coverage from The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and ABC News
  • Celebrated National Toy Hall of Fame inductees with special activities at The Strong (November 10 and 11)
  • Recognized other toy finalists under consideration for the 2018 induction: American Girl dolls, chalk, Chutes & Ladders, Fisher-Price Corn Popper, Masters of the Universe, sled, tic-tac-toe, Tickle Me Elmo, and Tudor Electric Football.

World Video Game Hall of Fame

The World Video Game Hall of Fame recognizes individual electronic games of all types that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general.

2018 inductionWorld video game hall of fame induction ceremony

  • Honored Spacewar!, John Madden Football, Tomb Raider, and Final Fantasy VII (May 3)
  • Generated national and international media coverage, including CBS News, USA Today, and Washington Post
  • Celebrated World Video Game Hall of Fame inductees with special activities at The Strong (May 5 and 6)
  • Recognized other video game finalists under consideration for the 2018 induction: Asteroids, Call of Duty, Dance Dance Revolution, Half-Life, King’s Quest, Metroid, Minecraft, and Ms. Pac-Man

American Journal of Play

The American Journal of Play, The Strong’s peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary publication with a global readership aims to increase awareness and understanding of the role of play in learning and human development. Current and archived issues may be viewed free of charge at journalofplay.org. This year, the journal celebrated its 10th anniversary.

ArticlesAmerican Journal of Play cover

  • “Theme and Variation: Arranging Play’s Forms, Functions, and ‘Colors’” by Thomas S. Henricks
  • “Examining Literacy Practices in the Game Magic: The Gathering” by Autumn M. Dodge (with Paul A. Crutcher)
  • “Toward Creativity: Do Theatrical Experiences Improve Pretend Play and Cooperation among Preschoolers?” by Meredith L. Rowe, Virginia C. Salo, and Kenneth Rubin
  • “Role Playing in Children’s Literature: Zilpha Keatley Snyder and The Egypt Game” by Cathlena Martin
  • “Quixotean Play in the Age of Computation” by Miguel Sicart
  • “Beyond the Ludic Lover: Individual Differences in Playfulness and Love Styles in Heterosexual Relationships” by René T. Proyer, Kay Brauer, Annegret Wolf, and Garry Chick
  • “Developing a Dramatic Pretend Play Game Intervention” by Thalia R. Goldstein
  • “Problem Gaming: A Short Primer” by Thomas E. Gorman, Douglas A. Gentile, and C. Shawn Green
  • “The Physical Environment for Play Therapy with Chinese Children” by Yih-Jiun Shen, Sylvia Z. Ramirez, Peter L. Kranz, Xinhua Tao, and Yuanhong Ji
  • “Liberating Human Expression: Work and Play or Work versus Play” by J. Talmadge Wright
  • “Desire and Doubt: The Potentials and the Potential Problems of Pursuing Play” by Christine Payne
  • “The Politics of Playtime: Reading Marx through Huizinga on the Desire to Escape from Ordinary Life” by Michael J. Roberts
  • “Twitch and the Work of Play” by T. L. Taylor
  • “Playing to Death” by Ken S. McAllister and Judd Ethan Ruggill
  • “The Emotional Work of Family Negotiations in Digital Play Space: Searching for Identity, Cooperation, and Enduring Conflict” by J. Talmadge Wright and David G. Embrick