I feel pretty lucky to work at Strong National Museum of Play. When I was going through museum school, I never dreamed I’d wind up at the home of the biggest, most comprehensive collection of toys, games, dolls, and electronic games anywhere. If fate had worked differently, I might be toiling away at the Museum of Tedious Widgets instead.
Still, there are some days when I feel even luckier than usual to be at a museum whose mission is play. Monday was one of those days. That’s when some of my colleagues and I took a break from cataloging new donations or planning upcoming exhibits and settled in for a few hours of playing games.
Since we treat the games in the museum’s collection with the utmost care, it wasn’t appropriate to use those for our hands-on testing. So we invited a game enthusiast and his family to bring a few dozen of their favorites for us to explore firsthand with their expert guidance. After all, even the most diligent curator can only determine so much about a game’s experience from reading the rules—sometimes you have to break out the dice, deal the cards, and play the game.
It was great to have the chance to try a wide range of games and discover more about the appeal of each one. The oldest game we tried was Crokinole, from the late 1800s. I’d grown up playing that game but it was unfamiliar to some of my colleagues. (I still lost.) The newer games came in assorted styles and formats, from quick-to-learn dexterity games like Villa Paletti and Gulo Gulo, all the way to complex collaborative games like Shadows over Camelot. We puzzled over possible moves in Ricochet Robots and plotted to outmaneuver our fellow explorers in the quest for Incan Gold. I’ll look forward to another occasion when I can develop my strategies for Formula D or Cosmic Encounter. In the meantime, I’m hoping that cataloging objects and writing blogs improves my wildlife wrangling skills (and manual agility) in the hope of triumphing at Elk Fest and Hula Hippos the next time. And I’m darn glad to be part of the National Museum of Play.