A recent conversation with a friend about games we played as kids got me thinking about games in general, and the kind of all-consuming passion that we tend to develop for our favorites. The idea of children sitting blankly in front of a TV playing video games for hours is almost a cliche, but that same kind of obsessive playing can take place with games that are the total antithesis of video games. Remember how competitive jump rope was in elementary school? In my elementary school, at least, the girls who were best at double dutch or Chinese jump rope were definitely at the top of the unspoken playground hierarchy, and the rest of us practiced for hours to be as good as they were. I remember games of tag being similarly competitive, and we all played SPUD or freeze tag (or whatever variation was popular that week) at every chance we had.
Once we got to high school and began playing “real” sports (although in New York City public schools, anyway, double dutch is now an official varsity sport!), we left games like jump rope and tag behind for the most part and moved on to sports like football, basketball, soccer, or baseball (or track, or tennis, or swim team…). Certainly all of those sports have their share of devoted players and fans at the high school, college, and professional levels, and amateur leagues exist for those of us who didn’t quite make it to The Show. But even less physical games like poker, Scrabble, Donkey Kong, or pinball have legions of fervent– and very, very serious– players.
Of all the games that we become obsessed with, chess has to be the game that best exemplifies this. Players like Bobby Fischer serve to illustrate the stereotype of the eccentric genius chess player, and if you walk by nearly any park on a nice day and you will find tables filled with chess players, deeply engrossed in the game. Because strategy is such an important part of the game, books about the game are crucial. If you wander down to the “GV” section of the stacks here at the library, you’ll find that chess books occupy several shelves.
My own current gaming obsession is Boggle– I picked up the game at a yard sale recently, and find myself playing daily, often for most of the evening. It’s strangely addictive. Are there any games I’ve forgotten? Childhood or current obsessions? Let me know in the comments!