Games for your mind

Game and toy history: the cultural roots of gaming.

Posted on: May 14, 2009

old_train_toyToys are cultural products  with a long history, they survived to all cultural changes of our society and to the aggressive newcomers in the leisure industry, such as video games, Internet, board games etc.
But if is true, like Friedrich Schiller sad that: “Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays; learning, remembering and analyzing toy’s history, let us appreciate the culture and the daily lifestyles of past families”.

In all historical age, toys had always a precise function:
For young boys some toys exalted the winner role of certain action and position synonymous of virility;  for girls some toys were developed to teach young females to family life, to began  good wives and mothers.
But in the past few families could afford to buy toys for their sons, and kids had to work with their fantasy and invent toys and games with few simple material, such as wood, nails, paper and  fabric.

From those children’s fantasies start the first incredible playing ideas and great toys inventions, like the first miniature railway made in Sweden in 1916 with matches, nails and wood.

With the Enlightenment and positivism even toys and childhood games began to be influenced by science:
John Locke, English philosopher and pedagogue, underlined in his studies the vital importance of the child to learn how to face his life with games and toys, Rousseau see the game as a way to better understand the children. In this period toys began commercial products, and the new toys market  start to move his first step in the new Europe.

old_doll_toyGermany was one of the first nation to develop a modern toys craftsmanship;  in 1973 Besterlmeier merchants of Nuremberg traded their toys in all Europe. In that period Nuremberg was the world capital of toys, especially for dolls, in the toys’ shop catalogue a customer could find more than 10.000 products.

In 1850 is the toy golden age, because these objects are now considered not only as children amusement object, but as pedagogic and educational products, and the consecration of this new conceptions is the opening of the first “children museum” in Brooklyn in1899:
In the first years on 1900 in England, France and Germany, the toy already was a cultural mass product, for all social classes and families, toys are synonymous of modernity and of the manifestation of the real “Esprit du Temp”. Fashion and mechanical invention made the new toys more and more objects of desire for children all over the world, in this period new projects and designers, made great products such as planes, toy trains, puzzles, car miniatures.

In the 20th century the two world wars stopped this positive trend in toys industry and factory instead of toys produced weapons and
military equipments.

After the 1950, with the discover of new materials, like plastic, toys started to follow the success of comic books, movies and sports: everything famous character has a toy version to celebrate his success, in this period toys like Spider man, Superman, car pilots, and sport players miniatures appeared on the world stage.

Toy will always be part of our life, because as McLuhan sad: “world children confraternity is the only wild tribe with no signs of extinction”.

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