The fundamental question that is driving this thesis is: what is it that constitutes the nature of children’s toys today? What motives this question, for me, is the fact that today, we live in a world which is very fast paced and full of constantly changing stimuli. This means that there is important scientific and philosophical issue concerning the kinds of skills children need to learntoday in order to be successful adults. This in turn raises the further question of what kind of people (or “subjects” to put in more philosophical terms) and world we are aiming to cultivate today. It is this question — i.e. what kind of world do we wish to live in? — that will determine what kinds of skills people need to develop in order to maintain whatever types of societies we live in.
Hence my interest in games. How can (and do) games play a role in the development of people? In order to answer this question, the first part of the paper is an historical analysis of the development of board games beginning in the 18th century. There are two reasons for including this historical analysis in my thesis. The first is to understanding how the aims of board games, as well as the techniques by which such aims have been (and are) carried out, have changed over time. Thus, part of my aim in this section will be to show that the purpose of board games (in terms of the skills they aim to cultivate) have changed over the course of the last two centuries.
In order to answer this question, the first part of my thesis is a historical analysis of the development of games beginning in the 18th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries, board games were introduced into the home in order to inspire scientific/experimental curiosity in children with the hope that they would grow to become scientists and engineers who would help western industrialization. During the 18th century, the idea of family started to influence the human condition. Family started to create its own sphere within society stabilizing the boundary between public and private life.
This new tendency toward self-reflective consciousness appeared together with the growing interest in the intimacy of private life, both of which found their spatial expression in the design of the separation of spaces within the household, articulated either by new types of rooms or other architectural elements, such as halls, stairs, corridors, etc. At the same time, a new conception of childhood started to gradually gain importance. Until 16th century children were depicted as men on a smaller scale. It was only in the 19th century that family life is centered around around the child. And this was exactly the time when board games enter the house.
Domestic objects for individual comfort and pleasure along with the architectural space contributed to the process of internal subject formation. The idea of subjectivity as an inner space raised a connection between interior space and human interiority.
Firstly, this interiority was expressed in the changes in the building practice, like the new types of distinctions between the rooms and the interior spaces in general. But except for exploring the spatial parameters of the domestic environment, private life had an undeniable expression in the material contents of home. Furniture, clothes, books, religious objects, toys and games reveal developments over the course of the 18th and 19th century.