Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Monday, December 21, 2009

Games before Electronics: Yes, Virginia, There Were Games That Didn't Require Plugs or Batteries

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.

13 comments:

Pauline said...

And let us not forget our seafaring ancestors who enjoyed a simple game called "Shut the Box" wherein all the game pieces were handily installed in a wooden box. No need to worry about loosing anything in a rough sea.

Eliza Knight said...

Great article! Thanks for sharing!

Susan Macatee said...

Great post! Generations before us found all sorts of things to keep them amused. And I grew up playing board games. Even had some for my own boys when they were younger.

They also spent hours playing with Legos. And these are children of the 1980s and 90s. LOL.

Victoria Gray said...

The crazy thing is that even now, people enjoy games that require interaction when they give them a chance. Game nights are a lot of fun. I've spent a small fortune on electronic gizmos for my son, most of which is lying on his floor collecting dust. I'll take interaction over carpal tunnel anyday : )

Victoria Gray said...

Pauline, thanks for sharing the information on "Shut the Box"...great to learn something new : )

Kathleen Bittner Roth said...

My maternal grandfather was many years older than my grandmother and served in the Spanish American War. He still had a checker board that folded to a little case with the checkers inside that he carried in his knapsack (if that's what it was called) through the war. I was always so fascinated that this little box went to war with him. Great blog. Thanks.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I've always wondered who invented cards to be played in games over the years. I'd say that person has to be genius if you actually think about their design and what you can do with them. Really enjoyed your blog.

Cynthia Owens said...

Great post, Victoria. I wish I could convince my 10-year-old son that fun doesn't necessarily come with a video screen! My husband and I loved to play endless rounds of backgammon while we were dating, and still do to this day. And don't forget crossword puzzles and other word games like Scrabble and Boggle. Fun!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Great post. Thanks for reminding us of all the games of past. Right now, my family's favorite game is Scattergories, non-electric and very much a brain-user.

Victoria Gray said...

I love Scattergories...it's such a fun group game. I think my biggest complaint about the electronic games is that most of them are played solo and require no socializing. Don't even get me started on the violence and crime in video games :( Some are great, but others, you just have to wonder!

Victoria Gray said...

Susan, my sons both loved Legos...but even those now all seem to come in kits to build specific things, so where's the imagination at work? I'm not sure how kids are supposed to develop their creativity these days...gee, I sound like an old geezer...I'm not, not really, but things seem to have changed quite a bit in the last decade - and not always for the better.

Anonymous said...

So true. We encourage low-tech games around our house. Most nights we play Uno with our 6 yr. old.(the attached instructions have a t-shirt offer that expired in 1980. She has more fun and less frustration than she does playing electronic games.

Tracey Devlyn said...

Hey Victoria,

Some of my fondest memories of growing up are of my family playing card games into the wee morning hours.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Tracey