Your Own Games
( Originally Published 1906 )
SINCE the world began, how many forms of work have been invented, and how few modes of play ! How many poems have been made, and how few games ! The game is as truly a work of art as a poem, and what poem, even of the masters, has done as much good-in the world as a good game ? Yet laurels for the poet's brow, while the game-inventor sleeps in an unknown grave!
Not that there are not in the aggregate many noble games ; but in proportion to his activity in other and less important directions, man has left this line of effort with strangely little attention. The patent office turns out every year hundreds of new games which al-lure our children with gaudy colors and at-tractive names ; but what poor trash they are ! Even the fun-loving, easily-pleased children soon weary of them, and no wonder. Most of them are the emptiest of imitations. Nearly all the card games are merely " Authors" disguised. The board games are nearly all made upon one and the same principle. " Pigs in Clover " appears, and at once becomes the ancestor of whole litters of puzzles. Crokinole introduces a bright new method, and straight-way the circular disk becomes the basis of a swarm of games, with a most suspicious family resemblance. There is an evident lack of originality in this field of game-invention.
And why ? Because we do not try to invent games. The children do. Every child is his own game-inventor; and asks no favors from the patent office. A box of spools is dumped upon the floor, and lo, a fascinating game ! A pile of clothespins is discovered on the grass, and behold game number two ! The child looks at things with originality and with fun-loving eyes, and those two factors always bring forth games.
It was thus, I fancy, that all good games were invented. A friend of mine was fond of letter games. He and his wife laid their letters down, taking turns, upon a chess board, and thus spelled words, and the delightful game of Klova was born. A man was snap-ping buttons with his little girl, and straight-way Tiddledy-winks was thought of. Another man was reading about the cowboys, and there sprung into his game-ready mind that excellent sport, all-too-short-lived—Lassola. I myself am fond of inventing games, some of which have proved their worth by getting themselves paid for ; and the rule is, always start with whatever comes to hand, with whatever your eye or your mind lights upon, and then—play with it. That is the way the children do.
There are many gains from this habit—for it is a habit—of game-inventing. The chief advantage is that it lifts you to the level of the child ; you become bright enough to play with children !
Another gain is that you yourself, if no one else, will get vast enjoyment from these games of yours. They may be poor games, but ah, they are your own !
And for a third gain, why not patent them If they are worth playing, we will all buy them, never fear ; and we won't grudge you a cent of your profits.