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.

Getting Away: Is It a Vacation or Trip?

Vacation, about 1986. Photograph courtesy of Victoria Gray. Vacation. It’s a pleasant-sounding word and an even nicer thought. Most folks sigh at the very mention of it or even get a wistful, far-off look, whether they’re thinking about an upcoming planned getaway or just wishfully dreaming of one (as many of us are these days).

There are scientific studies dedicated to proving the legitimate health benefits of regular vacations, research that most of us would favorably support. On the other hand, I’ve also encountered people who have just returned to town only to utter the phrase “It’s wasn’t a vacation, it was a trip!” while looking completely exasperated, the implication being it was not quite the relaxing getaway they had envisioned. In general, it seems this response corresponds directly to the individual’s travel companion(s). Which makes me reconsider the years of family vacations I remember so fondly as a kid. Were my parents those people who returned to work harried and exhausted, touting our vacation as “a trip!” to friends and coworkers? Were my brothers and I terrible travel companions?!

Card deck, souvenir of New York City, about 1990. The Strong, Rochester, New York.

Regardless of how our individual vacation experiences may stack up, it’s clear that the industry of vacations certainly isn’t going anywhere, a notion substantiated by the trove of vacation-related artifacts housed at The Strong. Postcards, photographs, toys, games, hats, keychains—items of all shapes and sizes. While souvenir trinkets often boast a seemingly idyllic locale, photographs and handwritten postcards are likely to capture a more realistic experience. The museum’s extensive postcard collection holds some beautiful handwritten messages—and a few others. In one such exchange between friends Flop and Chub in 1906, it seems that things have gone horribly awry for poor Chub. The same applies to photos; some are breathtaking and picturesque while others capture those candid moments vacationers might rather forget. Regardless of where or when we go, one thing is certain: vacationers always return with a story. Good or bad, there’s usually at least one. Some are so ridiculous they’ll be told over and over again, regaling others and fueling fits of laughter, shock, or awe.

Postcard, 1906. The Strong, Rochester, New York. So next time you take break from your routine for some time away, be sure to bring back the best souvenir of all: a story to share. We could all use a little getaway from the day-to-day, even if it’s just a momentary escape in our minds. Would you call it a vacation or trip? It doesn’t matter. You’ll likely have an audience either way.

The 2010 TAGIE Award Winners

Imagine the Oscars for toy and game inventors—with a glamorous gourmet meal. That provides a good picture of the Chicago Toy and Game Group’s annual Toy and Game Inventor Expo (TAGIE) awards presentation dinner in November. The Strong is a co-sponsor, along with many other significant contributors, of the event which coincides with the Chicago Toy and Game Fair and Toy and Game Inventor Exposition, where new and established toy inventors demonstrate their creations. Outside of New York’s annual Toy Fair, it is the largest toy industry event in America.

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Geeking Out on Game History at D.I.C.E. and GDC

Over the last month, fellow CHEGhead Eric Wheeler and I attended two video game events—D.I.C.E. Summit and the Game Developers Conference (GDC)—featuring lots of information not only about the latest titles, but also about classic games and the history of the industry.

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A Tide of Tub Toys

Here’s a story about global toy distribution that’s driven by natural forces rather than consumer trends.

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New Pac-Man Game Coming to ICHEG

If you’ve seen me grinning as I drop tokens in ICHEG’s eGameRevolution exhibit, you’ve probably concluded I’m a huge retro coin-op fan.

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Dolls and their Care

Here at The Strong, we take dolls seriously.

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Chess Problems and Computer Games

I’ve played chess for decades, and during most of that time I’ve also enjoyed chess problems. Such puzzles, which chess players have constructed and enjoyed for centuries, present a chess position and task players to solve a particular problem related to it—white checkmates in four moves or black sacrifices a knight to win the queen.

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Telling Tales and Sharing Play Stories

When I went to college, I couldn’t decide on a major. I didn’t switch my course of study the way lots of college students do—I just smooshed it all into a double major. One major was in English because I loved writing and reading stories. The other major was in history because, well, I loved stories about the past. Now that I’m a museum curator, a lot of what I do involves storytelling. Every day, as I study the museum’s objects, I’m continually working out the stories that they have to tell.

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Bringing Video Game Style to Your Home

When I walk my dog, I also peek through neighbors’ windows and wrinkle my nose at textiles, wall paper designs, and furniture. When I attend parties, I pretend to engage in conversation while I discreetly determine how to rearrange the hosts’ furniture. I know that’s not polite, but I’m being honest here. I also know that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and decorating budgets are often slim. But adding a touch of style to your gamer pad is sure to win over your guests.

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Fore-Edge Paintings: Hidden Treasures

How many times have you been told that “you can’t judge a book by its cover”? As a librarian, I fully endorse this sentiment. I would, however, like to create a related maxim: you can’t judge a closed book by its fore-edge. What’s a fore-edge, you ask? In book-speak, that’s the name for the edge opposite the spine. Hidden beneath the gilt or marbled covering on some books’ fore-edges, you just may discover a most exquisite watercolor.

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The Buzz Surrounding Mobile Gaming Apps

Farmville

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