How do you tell the history of video games?
Fans of The Bachelorette and romance novels might be interested to know that The Coquette and her Suitors recently joined The Strong’s collections. This 1858 game features some of the most detailed design and lithography available at that time and undoubtedly drew its title from one of the most popular novels of that era, first published anonymously in 1797. The Coquette: or, The History of Eliza Wharton was still a best-seller some 50 years later and was not credited to an author until 1856, 16 years after novelist Hannah Webster Foster had died. Two years later, the Boston publisher and bookseller Brown, Taggard & Chase named a board game after the book’s protagonist, whose coquettish behavior led to her early demise. The book tells a sad story of a good girl whose dream of independence was overcome by society’s rules. But the board game paints her quite differently and the publisher probably only chose the game’s title for the mass recognition of the term “coquette.”
In historian Carly Kocurek’s recent American Journal of Play article “Ronnie, Millie, Lila—Women’s History for Games: A Manifesto and a Way Forward,” she reveals the hidden histories of three women who played important, but mostly forgotten, roles in video game history.
Today people find themselves bombarded with ideas, images, and characters from every kind of media.
What makes a game classic? Part of the answer is longevity. Most people consider chess classic; we’ve played it for centuries. What about playing cards? Woodblock-printed cards appeared during China’s Tang dynasty (618–907), while written rules for card games were first seen in15th-century Europe. Another characteristic of classic games is continued popularity. Games such as Monopoly in the 1930s and Scrabble during the 1950s broke sales records at first. But they continued to sell in the years that followed and do so today.
Labor Day weekend will be filled with the lighting of grills, the balancing of over-filled paper plates on knees, and the splashing of feet in lakes and pools. It’s prime picnic time in America!
“Are you a child or a teetotum?” a creature asks Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass (1871). The bewildered Alice can’t think what to say in reply. Spun from one mad adventure to another, she might well resemble the iconic “teetotum,” or spinning top, that was used in 19th-century board games.
I grew up in a small town with a population of roughly 5,000. It may not look it now, but it was once booming with activity and businesses. A basket factory and a canning factory ranked among the major employers. Then the train quit making stops in town. Without convenient access to supplies, factories slowly closed and the population dwindled. But what became of the train station and the hotel attached to it? That is a key part of my childhood.