Games and entertainment on territory of Slovakia before digital era

The games are inseparable part of human culture. Prototypes of that thing what we call a game and toys today we keep finding in the whole history of society; written mentions and tangible evidences (a finding of playing dice from the eighth century, of riddle from the fourteenth century) are the very testimony of this. Character of the game laid not only in the sense of a tool of upbringing of new generations but it served also as a means of religion, traditions and superstitions or of physical training.

The games have a various sense and subject matter, from which they come out, but all are connected by a basic human instinct. Certain purposelessness results, namely, from their nature – according to some comprehensions the game is just an activity, which does not lead to a production of material or intellectual goods – but their sense comes out from agelong preparation for struggle of the man/human being with the world and their purpose is then the most heterogeneous, deeper and unquestionable one. About importance of the games also that thing testifies that their meaning has been withdrawn by various significant philosophers (Plato, Aristoteles, Jean Jacque Rousseau, Herbert Spencer, with us for example Amos Komenský).

The handed-down folklore from the territory of Slovakia provides to us relatively good image about games which the people, particularly, children and youth, used to play. Subject matters come out from the animal world, crafts, knighthood and army but also from inanimate objects and tools and from various other parts of real life. We know also for instance ceremonial games accompanied with singing and dance of which purpose has been making acquaintance of future couples between boys and girls.

Also an overlap of games from an evident means of entertainment into other activities is known; playful and gaming manifestations appear in the didactic and working process or in other demonstrations of culture (as for example in folk poetry, ceremonies, dances).

Certain custom can be an example, to which shepherds resorted in some parts of Eastern Slovakia, at which a chief shepherd offered sheeptenders by scrambled eggs which should be refused by them. This ceremony in shape of a game or of an accepted performance should serve like a magic formula for protection of herd. „So as it is not delicious to you our herd of sheep shall not be delicious even to wild life”, or „Do you not see what I give to you? So in order the bear does not even see our sheep”. Rolling-along the barrels” can be next example of such folk games serving as a positive magic of superstitious folk, i. e. a ritual of fertile crop in potato cultivation. Such games, which keep finding in folk traditions, serve as an illustration of the fact that the games, alone unique ones about themselves, are really overlapping into more social traditions.

This is valid also for the contrary case; the games alone are often accompanied almost with theatrical performances, nursery rhymes, songs. For instance the children´s game Krvavé koleno (Blood knee) (in some regions  „Blood log”) is in fact an ordinary chase, which is firstly preceded by a half-improvised dialogue among children („It is haunted in chamber! We have heard something!” „That only a pot has fallen. “„We saw something!” „That only father´s pants are hanging”), and then a tension building comes on thereby that the children count down the time when the chase begins („First hour struck blood knee is still sleeping. Second hour struck blood knee is still sleeping… Fifth hour struck blood knee has woke up!“).Various next versions of chase games//plays// (the play “On bear and bees”; the play “On water goblin, Lokeš”) testify about the fantasy and multiformity of traditional games.

Particularly children are also bearers of oral tradition of traditional folklore in this case what naturally results from the nature alone of these games but we can consider this for unreliable way of their preservation; fortunately we can watch also attempts for re-enactment of traditional plays which would be probably cease to exist without this effort. The fact that it did not so happened is thanks to people which tried to catch up these disappearing plays of their childhood. Such stylized reconstruction of plays and customs, which cease slowly to exist, is not only a nostalgic looking-around on the things of the past but also an archiving of valuable information for national memory. It also comes out from a feeling that traditional games, to which the generations and generations of our ancestors did devote themselves, are the plays, which are verified by time, and so they have besides a historical value also a guarantee of meaning and function.

At their animation, although only for the purpose of stylized commented photographs, it comes also to a rediscovery of such aspects accompanying them as for instance just physical exactingness is. Such plays served also like a body toning-up and this physical preparation had distinct form in times when already ten years old children got used to be engaged into a work around the house. The movement plays serve today especially like a means to the healthy physical development of children but they constantly bear this function though in other form and intensity.

The fact that we know so much about traditional plays from our territory is then thanks to oral tradition and dissemination and thanks to quantity of authors which have striven these games to catch up, describe and archive. Already from the 19th century it comes to a research of folk games in journals like Tatra eagle, Our children, Almanac of Museum Slovak Company, Tudományos, Gyűjtemény, Hasznos Mulattató, Ethnography, Slovak folk customs, superstitions and plays. From the authors there are for instance: Š. Bačkora (Children´s plays and entertainments), collector F. Bartoš (Our children, 1888), Kliment Ondrejka (Games of Upper Hron children, Traditional plays of children and youth in Slovakia, Youth is playing, Dances, customs and songs of Gemer, Children to children), E. Medvedecká (Children´s plays and dances, 1977), M. Nemcová (I wish to God that he gives the sun, 2011).