Board Games Revisited

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The V&A Museum of Childhood’s major autumn exhibition – Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered – will be a celebration of the joy, excitement and occasional frustration of playing board games. . . . by Asian Lite News

Board games across generations have a universal appeal that transcends cultural and language barriers. They can mirror our lives and both teach and entertain us. The playing of board games is embedded into our culture, not just the games themselves but the act of playing, the interaction with family and friends, the lessons to be learned and the fun to be had. They  have enduring popularity even in the digital age. Monopoly is currently published in 47 languages and sold in 114 countries, and more than one billion people have played the game worldwide. And during the 2015 Christmas period, games were the second largest segment of toys sold.

Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered will present some of the most iconic, enthralling and visually-striking games from the V&A’s outstanding national collection of board games. Alongside current family favourites such as Cluedo and Trivial Pursuit, and traditional games such as chess, the exhibition will look at historical board games such as The Game of the Goose and beautifully-designed games from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The exhibition will show more than 100 objects, featuring games from around the world, and will explore the important role of design. Throughout the exhibition, selected games of special interest will be highlighted with a more detailed look at their history and influence. There will be hands-on interactive session and the opportunity to become a part of one of the big interactive games which will direct visitors around the exhibition, and invite them to think about game- playing in their lives and what sort of player they might be.

The exhibition will be divided into four sections:

Square One: Chess
The earliest known games come from the Middle East and are thousands of years old. Many of the classic games still played today have their origins in the Far East. The game of Go was first played in China more than 2,500 years ago and the popular games of Ludo and Snakes and Ladders are derived from early adult Indian games. Playing these games was very much a part of everyday life as was gambling as part of the play. A chess set made up from pieces of 16 different chess sets will be on display demonstrating a range of material, design and country of origin.

Game of Life: Game of the Goose
During the 18th and 19th centuries a particular type of board game was popular in Britain. These were intended to be both educational and entertaining and were produced mainly for children. Topics of history, geography, science and moral values were covered and the games were attractively designed. A popular theme was a journey through life, an idea that was carried forward into the modern era. Gioco dell’Oca or the Game of the Goose originated in Italy in the 16th century and is regarded as the father of the modern race game. It introduced new elements of themes and illustrations into board games that have been copied and adapted ever since.

Fun and Games: Monopoly
The 20th century produced the classic family games that are still played today – Monopoly, Scrabble and Cluedo among others. Easier and cheaper printing techniques led to an explosion of board game production. Games based on all sorts of human endeavour appeared, inspired by invention and exploration, sport and other leisure activities, travel and the factual and fictional world of television and film. Today, the influence of the outside world, particularly in the area of popular culture, continues to be reflected in the games played. There will be an early version of Monopoly based on the Landlord’s Game, and an early Charles Darrow design of the game before it before it was mass produced commercially.

Game Changer: Pandemic
During the second half of the twentieth century board games started to incorporate electronic elements. With the development of game systems such as the ZX Spectrum, board games were created in digital form and popular arcade games like Pac Man were turned into board games. At the same time a new kind of physical board game emerged in Europe which has continued to increase in popularity. These designer games like Settlers of Catan have prompted a new wave of social and co-operative playing. This section will feature early drawings and prototypes from American designer Matt Leacock, best known for the game Pandemic

At the end of the exhibition visitors will be invited to discover what kind of a game- player they are – a gloating winner, a cheater or a sore loser. And there will be an opportunity to share game playing thoughts and memories.

The role of design, both in the games themselves and in their marketing, will be explored throughout the exhibition. It will examine how the design of a game reflects the time and place of its production and how design adapts to different forms of use. Early games had simple designs and some could be reproduced wherever one happened to be. Advances in printing techniques allowed for more elaborate and colourful game boards. Modes of transport have resulted in miniature travel versions of board games and the digital age has witnessed the development of new electronic games and the redesign of the old.

Games companies employing teams of designers have created board games, sometimes with great success, sometimes not. The exhibition will include designs and prototypes of games and feature examples designed and made by players themselves.

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