Thursday, June 27, 2013

Navy Video and Board Game Night: A (Retro)spective

Participants play "Top Gun" and "Super Battleship"
Over one hundred guests attended last week's "You Sank My Battleship: Navy Video and Board Game Night" event.  It was the first of two After Hours History programs sponsored by the Hampton Roads Naval Historical Foundation this year.  Unlike previous After Hours events, last Wednesday's game night was the first advertised as "family friendly."  Video game enthusiasts would say it was rated "E" for everyone.  Soda and popcorn replaced the standard assortment of wine and cheese on a night many will not soon forget.

Playing "1942: Joint Strike"
Video games.  Board Games.  Snacks.  Soda.  Where does the U.S. Navy fit in?

Whether we realized it or not, the U.S. Navy was there all along, hidden underneath the blinking lights and sounds of the games we know and love today.  Video games like "Silent Service" and board games like "Axis and Allies" included subtle hints and references to real event in American naval history.  Part of the event included a seven panel exhibit on the history of the U.S. Navy and video games.  We will post the panels shown during the event on this blog soon.

Who would have thought we were learning about key concepts of naval history and naval combat while mashing our thumbs and fingers on plastic controllers.  How to use sonar ("Silent Service").  Plotting enemy ship movements ("Battleship").  How to lead a target while in aerial combat ("Carrier Aces"). How to land on an aircraft carrier ("Top Gun").  The SNES role-playing game "Pacific Theater of Operations" bordered on real historic simulation.  Could you turn the tide and defeat the Japanese Navy at Pearl Harbor?  Even at the juvenile level, the principles were there.  For many young participants in last week's event, the games provided were their first taste of the Navy.
Mayo proudly shows off his contest-winning prize

Guests played a variety of video and board games from yesterday and today.  Titles from the 8-Bit  generation up to today's next-gen consoles ("Battlestations: Midway") were available to play.  Everybody from staff and volunteers to parents cheered on participants as they battled their way through the sky and seas of the digital Atlantic and Pacific.  The most popular game, however, was a retro-classic: "1942."  Nearly every guest ventured to the AEGIS Theater to try their hand at the high score contest for one of the most celebrated and best-selling franchises in video game history.  A special shout out goes to Mark Prinz and Mayo for achieving high scores on "1942."

HRNM Educators helped create several "Navy-centric" modifications of classic board games for the event.  "Human Battleship," a life-size recreation of the pencil and paper game where kids act as the ships on a 100-square foot game board, was a popular destination.  Staff members and volunteers also played "Civil War Blockade Strategy," a creative spin on the popular "Stratego" series of board games.
"1942" Perler Bead Craft Activity 
The most popular portion of the evening was for the 1942 perler bead craft activity.  Kids used perler beads to create gaming icons, or "sprites" from the popular NES/Arcade game.  A basic understanding of graphs and plotting were required to create a perfect product.  There is always a way to mix a little bit of learning with fun!

It was a treat to see parents watching their children play the same video games they used to play when they were kids.  In fact, one of the most interesting aspects of the event was the generation gap.  Many of the younger participants had a rude awakening when they realized that their controllers were not motion-controlled.  Technology is a great equalizer at times, and this event helped bridge the gap between previous generations to the present one.  

We hope everybody that attended had a wonderful time.  Special thanks go out to all the staff and volunteers who helped make this event possible.  For more information on our current 2013 programs, contact Lee Duckworth, Director of Education, at (757) 322-2992.  

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