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.

Board Game Prototypes and a Gift of Clank!

We receive lots of donations every year at The Strong, from single items to accumulations numbering in the hundreds or even thousands. One of the largest collections ever gifted to the museum has been the game collection we received from the founder of Mayfair Games. This collection includes not only thousands of games, but important archives related to a game manufacturer and to game design and marketing. And the collection holds game prototypes which I find fascinating artifacts.

Translyvania (Transylvania) game prototype and published edition, Mayfair Games, Inc. 1981, The Strong, Rochester, New York. The name is misspelled on both the game booklet cover and the map board.

Most of the prototypes relate to Mayfair’s published games, from the early, simple Translyvania (notorious for its spelling error) to the firm’s 1991 version of Cosmic Encounter. But recently I found a non-Mayfair prototype called Heroic Adventures with a many-years-old Post-It note that said “Return to Designer.” The museum chose to honor this request if we could. But all I had was a name.

Sometimes the internet rewards those who Google. Without much stress, I found a person with that name, who worked as a game designer. I emailed the firm, explaining what we had. Not long afterwards he wrote me back, astonished that his 20 or 30-year-old prototype had survived, and grateful that we offered to send it back. In exchange he said he’d be glad to send us a first edition of his latest successful and award-winning board game. Thus, The Strong added Clank! to its collection.

Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure board game, Renegade Game Studios, 2016, The Strong, Rochester, New York. Gift of Paul Dennen. Clank! won a Mensa Select award in 2017 and was highly recommended or nominated for about 15 other awards. The game is a deck-building grab for points while exploring a dungeon. Your wooden pawn hopes to steal an artifact for more power. But a dragon—represented by a beautiful black silhouette—hunts any intruders and may find them if they stumble and make a noise like . . . Clank! Quality materials and artwork characterize the game, and now there are expansion sets, multiple specialty versions, and different language editions. As a curator, it’s an honor to add such a gift from the game’s designer to The Strong’s holdings. The museum gains a new game , and I think we’ve also won a friend.   

Baby Nancy Inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame

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Block by Block: Leslie Scott’s Jenga Game (or, in Swahili, Zuia kwa kuzuia: Mchezo wa Jenga wa Leslie Scott)

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Extra, Extra: Read All About Newspapers and Play

For more than a century, the newspaper trade has had to determine creative ways to prevent a decrease in circulation and to find new subscribers. In the late 1800s, the Sunday edition of newspapers began to carry art supplements, which included parlor prints and toys for kids to cut out and assemble. Art supplements proved an innovative way to build an audience—each week parents read about the next must-have paper toys in the following week’s newspaper.

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Designing the Duke

Denise Chaudhari was the first woman hired for the then-secret Xbox project, where she designed more than just the original "Duke" controller that launched with the system in 2001.

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Digital Resources from The Strong’s Women in Games Initiative

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Carol Kantor: The Video Game Industry’s First Market Researcher

 

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The History of Black Barbies: From Playthings to Liberation

Aria S. Halliday, 2019 Strong Research Fellow Assistant Professor, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
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Stories from the Stacks: What You Don’t Know about Stormfront Studios

While processing the Don Daglow papers for The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, I had the privilege of sitting down with Daglow himself when he was in Rochester for an event here at The Strong. Though our time together was short, the stories he told me made a big impression. I think it’s important to document these details that provide so much context for the materials we have in our archive and I’m happy to share these fun anecdotes with you.

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Skater Girls: A Brief History of Female Skateboarders

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Toxic Times: The NIMBY Satirical Board Game

1989 was the year of the Basel Convention, officially named the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. An international treaty designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, it is meant to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries. It does not address radioactive waste. As of 2020, the United States signed, but never ratified the treaty.

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