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Exhibitions Playing Cowboy

Board Games

Archaeology reveals that humans have been playing board games for at least 8000 years, in the Americas for about 2500 years, and probably longer.

Games of chance are universal, usually involving some kind of dice-like pieces or “wheels of fortune.” Spinners on board games became small-scale “wheels of fortune” and became the drivers of board games spawned by television Westerns. Nearly all follow the same spinner/trail template, with dangers and opportunities decided by the spinner. Hundreds of Western board games flooded the United States market in the 1950s and 1960s.

Developed in 1971 to teach school children about life on the Oregon Trail, the early computer game The Oregon Trail was put on the market in 1974 by MECC. Numerous Western computer and digital games followed.

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