A Visit To Bercy's Musée Des Arts Forains Inspires Reminiscing About Games Past & Present
The Notre Dame Cathedral bell towers thankfully can still be seen in the distance from the Bercy district in eastern Paris, where wine from the South of France arrived by rail in Paris 100 years ago. The Cour Saint-Emilion (named after the French wine) and its 42 storehouses are registered on the French Historic Monuments list, and are all that remain of the Bercy storage areas where, for over a century, the largest wine market in the world existed. The architecture combines stone with steel and wood with glass, and has been repurposed as a village for shopping and dining along the railroad line. The tracks still exist!
Near the village is the Musée des Arts Forains (The Fairground Art Museum) dedicated to fairground artifacts, carnival games, theatre, music-hall objects and other curiosities. Only the privileged participated in these “Games of Thrones” with their intricate woodcarvings, colorful images and technical wizardry of the time. There are several carousels housed in the mammoth rooms where wine once was stored including an 1860s carousel (the oldest in the world), which is human powered. It is fitted with bikes that are manned by adults, who power the turning of the carousel by pedaling at a dizzying speed. It wouldn’t be a carnival without some midway games, including a game of skeet-ball with racing horses.
Monopoly was my family’s board game of choice. Amassing fortune and property with a roll of the dice was a great escape for our family with five kids. My goal, besides driving my brothers into bankruptcy, was to own Park Place and Boardwalk. Those properties were the most expensive (more rent from houses and hotels) and sounded fashionably exotic. The game has kept up with inflation and market values. The board looks the same but the locations have been updated. Players now receive $2 million instead of $200 for passing GO; and railroads have been replaced by airports while Internet and cell phone providers are the new utilities.
My beloved Park Place at $400 and Boardwalk at $350 is now Fenway Park at $3.5 million and Times Square at $4 million. Monopoly was derived from The Landlord’s Game, demonstrating that an economy that rewards wealth creation works better than market domination by a single entity.
There were other games in the house that occupied us children (and my parents) including weekly Bridge parties my Mom would host, and my Great Aunt Mary’s obsession with the card game Euchre. She had a card shuffler that was more fun to play with than the game.
A new generation of games has evolved with technology. Pong, one of the earliest video games, was released in 1972, helping to establish the success of the video game industry. In the 80s, video arcades in malls and entertainment centers became part of the pop culture. Names like Atari, Nintendo and PlayStation are synonymous with the ever-changing video gaming business.
Pokémon Go is a mobile game for iOS and Android devices. The purpose is to capture, battle and train virtual Pokémon creatures in real world locations using GPS. So when you see groups of people congregated on a corner of First Street, they are competing with 147 million monthly users chasing over 460 species of Pokémon. By the end of 2018, the game had grossed over $3 billion in revenue worldwide. The game has been a boom to some town economies, a social opportunity and in some cases, a traffic nuisance.
There are games of chance, love, sports, amusement, knowledge and skill. Some games we play by ourselves, with a partner, as a team or as a fan. Some games withstand time while others never make the finish line. The wins and losses of games I played during my lifetime are some of my best memories. You probably won’t see me with the Pokémon Go crowd, but I am ready to pass GO and collect the $2 million.