Playing most games once required leaving the house. You skipped rope outdoors, played tag, kicked the can and shot marbles - none of which was permitted inside your home. You played ball outdoors, ran on outdoor turf and flew kites. If you were a sports spectator, you went to the field or even to an enclosed arena, but at one time you had to leave the house to watch a game. Playing with dolls, midget cars, Legos, Tinker Toys and board games were the only exception to playing indoors.
On sunny, warm days, however, we were all sent "out to play." Playing outside often involved going to a friend's backyard. We weren't supervised, but we knew when to come home for meals because our parents always shouted out our names - or even blew a whistle to summon us.
Today, we all play games everywhere, at home, outdoors, waiting at bus and train stations and, yes, in the office, where we can not only play games on company time but we can also shop online and log onto Facebook, where we can play more games as well as communicate with others. We play on computers and on complicated digital devices competing with unseen and often personally unknown players. We play solitaire online as well as poker, blackjack and a gazillion games offered free on our computer. We can even do a jigsaw puzzle on our digital device. An Xbox is not an unmarked carton. It's an electronic game of skill. Words with Friends pits "friend" against "friend," even those who have never actually seen or spoken to one another. Virtually every form of casino games can be easily found and played online. We don't need others to play. They are always available, though. Just join a "virtual" table.
Maybe all this easy access to laid-back, electronic, non-vocal "playing" is the reason why so many parents rely on "play dates," so their children can have an opportunity to actually socialize face-to-face, not just through social media. But often when the kids do get together, they're playing simulated, computer-generated games. Nintendo has given us Wii so we can bowl or play golf without a bit of physical effort beyond a simple swing of the arm holding a small, almost weightless control. Wii isn't just for youngsters. It's also the way residents of retirement complexes "play" together.
Memorial Day is days away. It's time to get outdoors and enjoy some downtime fun. Until Nintendo figures out how we can swim without actually getting into a pool or the ocean, we may have to play inside air-conditioned houses, plugged in to a world of games.
Does anyone wonder why the obesity factor is growing so fast?