Recently while visiting a friend, we began talking about Nintendo Wii. She noted that she had not purchased any video games for her six-year-old son yet and wasn’t sure if she wanted to. There was nothing unusual about this-many parents debate about when, or if, to buy video-game systems for their kids. What struck me as I looked around the room, however, was that her son already had a lot of electronic games-on a nearby shelf was a child’s play laptop loaded with video games, in a bin was a handheld football game reminiscent of the old Coleco handheld games from the 1980s, and scattered about were various toys that incorporated different types of electronic play. Little did she realize, her son was already playing with electronic games.
I’m finding that a lot of people who would never call themselves “gamers” in fact play electronic games. Adults may not log onto Xbox Live or own a PlayStation 3, but perhaps they have played Free Cell on their PC, Scrabble on the internet, or Texas Hold‘em on an iPhone. Young kids use educational software loaded with games both at school and home, talk with their friends about their Club Penguin accounts, or own Webkinz. From young children to senior citizens, the relevant question is increasingly not “Are you a gamer?” but “What kind of games do you play?”
Strong National Museum of Play is building a collection of tens of thousands of electronic games and related artifacts. Of course we’re gathering games and hardware for major systems like Wii, Xbox, and PlayStation (and obsolete consoles like Atari, Intellivision, and Sega), but we’re also acquiring old Texas Instrument Little Professors, vintage Simons, and modern electronic games like iPhone apps and kids’ play laptops. We want to build a collection that documents the diverse ways that electronic games have woven themselves into the fabric of our lives.
Help us know what we should be collecting. What do you play? What are your favorite kinds of electronic games? What electronic games do your kids play with?
By Jon-Paul Dyson, Director, International Center for the History of Electronic Games and Vice President for Exhibits