Saturday, February 14, 2009

Coffee Table Book Party: "The Games We Played"

Margaret K. Hofer, The Games We Played: The Golden Age of Board & Table Games. Princeton Architectural Press, 2003.

This photo collection of board and parlor games from the turn of the 20th Century is endlessly charming in its own right, offering beautifully photographed gameboards and gamepieces grown exotic by the passage of time. But is also a fascinating glimpse into the beginnings of the modern middle class, with its new level of leisure time and discretionary income to spend on mass-produced trifles.

The subtitle -- "The Golden Age of Board and Table Games" -- is a bit of a misnomer. Hofer freely admits that in terms of gameplay, very few of the games of this era amount to anything more elaborate than rolling dice, advancing a gamepiece, and perhaps following the instructions printed on the space landed on. Even the more sophisticated of the games of the era are thus little more than "Chutes and Ladders" in drag.

Today, there are much better games available to people who want to exercise their strategic and tactical abilities with something besides chess -- and of course, we have Scrabble now, a major step forward for our civilization! Yet, it is also true that our publishing houses persist in pouring out dozens of worthless titles every year, most tied by phat marketing deals to movies or television shows produced under the same bloated corporate umbrella. Will these look as charming in 100 years as "Bicycle Race," a game that capitalized on the newfangled craze of the safety bicycle?

As of this posting, Amazon has used copies of this lovely book for as low as $9.74. Powells has one new copy at about $25.


Anonymous said...

Board game art seemed to fall a bit by the wayside during my teens. Everything turned to primary colors and minimalistic designs. But the older stuff, there are some fun eye spy type one with outstanding art. This book might be the inspiration for my wall art soon. I have a few dusty boxes that may have frame worthy pieces in them.

Rebel said...

I like this one, I could seriously spend and hour looking at all the vintage pictures.

Michael5000 said...

@Boo: BiggestSister5000 hangs old game boards as decor. I have an old, lovely, and mildly racist wooden Chinese Checkers board hanging in the studio. It's cool.

@Reb: It's on the coffee table, next time you drop by.

Jenners said...

I really like this one ... I looking at old stuff like this! I am hoping to post my coffee table book post tomorrow or Thursday.