I found myself doing something strange as I prepared for a 14 hour flight back to the United States this week: Buying games.
While games have long been my time-waster of choice for the frequent international flights I take, it's usually video games I stock up on. Not so for my Sydney to San Francisco flight. This time around I was hunting for pocket chess, little wooden brain teasers and magnetic backgammon.
With the attempted bombing of a U.S.-bound Christmas Day flight and the heightened security that surrounded it, rumor quickly spread that one of the new rules for international flights bound for the United States might ban the use of all electronics.
The very thought of not being able to access the library of books and video games stored on my iPhone, my DSi, my PSPgo put me in a near panic.
So on the eve of my flight, my wife, son and I headed to an oddity in the Blue Mountains' town of Hazlebrook west of Sydney. Selwood Science & Puzzles is housed in the Selwood House, an 1865 cottage wrapped in a garden of ferns and eucalyptus. The many rooms inside the old home are packed with the sorts of diversions and toys most familiar to children born before the rising popularity of video games and electronics.
One room is dedicated to puzzles of metal and wood, board games big and small and a cornucopia of games featuring bits of plastic, dice, and magnets. There were pocket versions of chess, checkers and backgammon; bent nails nested in devious designs; decks upon decks of cards for games I had grown up playing and some I had never heard of. And not one of the hundreds, thousands of these games required a battery or electrical outlet to play.
Other rooms were packed with science kits and experiments, books of brain teasers, IQ tests and short mysteries.
If electronics, long the opiate for the masses of nervous fliers, find themselves device non grata for the near future, could these non-digital diversions be their replacements? Will flights start to resemble coffee shops with passengers hunkered around chess boards, games of Hearts and Dominoes raging in the back rows?
Probably not, but it's a reminder of how dependent some of us have become on the products of the digital age.
Arriving at Sydney International Airport on Sunday I discovered little had changed in the wake of the latest attempted attack. I was assured, repeatedly, that electronics could be used during the upcoming flight.
Not quite believing the reassurances I ducked into a bookstore to load up on the printed word, in case the digital one wasn't available to me. The lines in the bookstore, the crowds milling through rows of paperbacks, made me think I wasn't the only one fearing a last-minute, in-air electronics ban.
For now I'll keep the paperback and pocket chess at hand, just in case.
Well Played is a weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Feel free to join in the discussion.

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