Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Château Bagatelle

Having survived the onslaught of geeks and gamers this past week with the Leipzig Games Convention 2006 blowing through town (see link on Europe's largest games gathering), I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on the 18th century roots of the 'sport'. Château Bagatelle, or just plain bagatelle as it's better known, originated in the court of Louis XVI, when a billiard table was narrowed and placed on an incline. Players shot ivory balls with pool cues at standing pins, but the pins proved difficult to reset on a slant, so they were soon replaced with holes. Obstacles were later added, the table downsized and a spring handle fixed, creating the better known 19th century version of bagatelle. In the 20th century, the table was electrified and renamed pinball. Then came Pacman and the rest is history. Pictured is a bagatelle game Johann Dieter Wassmann constructed in 1888 to honour his children, Ilsabein and Samuel, titled GUARDIAN ANGEL. It measures 66 x45 x 6 cm. After considerable research and labour by conservation staff (and a little sewing machine oil), the game has returned to fine working order.

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