Thursday, June 9, 2011

Over Sixty Years of Chutes and Ladders

There's a style of illustration that was common in the 1970s, particularly on greeting cards. It wasn't as cool as the earlier cartoon modern, and, admittedly, it looks pretty dated these days. But when I see a nice example of it, it's refreshing.

Chutes and Ladders box with watercolor kids climbing on ladders and slides
One example is this Chutes and Ladders box (above), which I recently found in my basement. (Click to see it much larger.)

Board from the late 1970s game with red slides
Aside from the art style, you can tell it's from the 1970s because not all of the kids are white.

1940s board with heroic blond boys and girls
Contrasted, of course with this board (above), which I would guess is from the 1940s...

1950s box and board with all white kids
Or this one from the 1950s.

1990s box with funky lettering and pastel-hued art
The kids shown in the 1990s art are even more diverse, but the game seems less engaging.

Late 2000s box with funky type and 3D kids with elongated wide heads
In the most recent version, the kids are rendered with 3D effects and the level of activity promised by the cover illustration is beyond frenetic.

In looking around on the web for these images, I discovered that Chutes and Ladders is actually an ancient game from the Indian subcontinent whose name translates as Snakes and Ladders. Its no-skill, all-chance play is traditionally seen as representing the role of karma.

I was considering getting rid of the version I found downstairs. Maybe, I thought, I could hang the board on a wall as a piece of art. But then I found this example of a hand-made book bound with pieces of the board, and now I feel as though I should keep it for a future project. Or maybe I could donate it to some creative re-user.

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