Christmas 2009 - Americans are bombarded with commercials for the newest, most technologically advanced electronic gaming. Playstations, X-boxes, Wiis - surely I've left something out - people today rarely play any games that don't involve expensive electronics and graphics that rival what you'd find on a movie screen. But the equipment, buy the game, buy the guides to cheat codes - the opportunity to buy amusement is endless. But is all this technology and expense really necessary to have fun?
Americans of years past would disagree. Even when I was a child (and I'm not that old), board games and card games provided hours of fun. Sorry. Monopoly. Mystery Date - I always wanted the guy in the suit when I was a girl, but now I know I'd go for the bad boy. We had fun without expensive games that took a team of engineers to design.
Amazingly, even during a tragic time in America's history, the Civil War, games provided an escape from monotony and troubles. Civilians and soldiers alike passed time playing games of all sorts - games that relied on skill, luck, and interaction with fellow players.
Card games were especially popular with military men. Poker was a popular favorite, while faro, keno, and twenty-one were also common choices. Manufacturers even produced card decks with military icons such as stars, flags, and generals.
Dice games such as craps were also popular. Since dice were often homemade, some were actually designed to enhance a cheater's ability to do just that.
Chess, checkers, and backgammon were popular board games of the time. Small, handmade checker boards were even carried by soldiers into the field.
Americans during the Civil War managed to enjoy life on the home front and in the field. Simple amusements and games provided welcome distractions from the ugly realities of life during a monumental crisis in America's history.