Friday, 21 July 2017
Floor Games (1911)
This slim volume, together with its 1913 companion piece Little Wars, grew from Wells's game-playing with his two sons, George Philip ‘Gip’ Wells (1901-1985) and Frank Richard Wells (1903-1982), who appear in the book under their initials. The book is illustrated with photographs and drawings, and sketches a number of games that can be played on what Wells calls ‘well lit and airy floors’. The needful? Toy soldiers wooden bricks, boards and planks, and electric railway rolling stock and rails. Off you go!
Floor Games and its companion have an important place in the history of gaming, a pastime which has become very culturally significant. I'm not sure this book in itself has much to say about what gaming was to become, although there is certainly something interesting in all this about the way Wells's imagination worked in a fundamentally modular fashion. I don't say do to denigrate it. On the contrary: he was able to develop hugely complex and intricate models in his writing, and the non-modular or impressionist mode of, say, Henry James or Proust wouldn't not have suited him, any more than they would have enjoyed something as gloriously silly and yet strangely resonant as constructing a Temple Whose Portals Are Guarded By Grotesque Plasticine Monsters.
I'm not much of a gamer, if I'm honest: although when I was a little kid I used to play a game with my two younger sisters that involved building townfuls of houses out of wooden bricks and lego and then moving playpeople in and out, interacting in (howsoever I ransack my memory) now incomprehensible ways. We called this game ‘People’ and it went on for hours. One thing I do remember: my Mum and Nan sitting at a table drinking tea and looking down upon the three of us as another interminable game of ‘People’ was underway. I remember Nan saying ‘why do they like this game so much, do you think?’ and I remember my Mum answering with one word: ‘power’. It wasn't the kind of answer that made any great sense to a ten-year-old, but hindsight tells me: she wasn't wrong.