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A parlour game is a group game played indoors. During the Victorian era in Great Britain and in the United States, these games were extremely popular among the upper and middle classes. They were often played in a parlour, hence the name.
During the 19th century, wealthy men and women had more leisure time than people of previous generations. This led to the creation of a variety of parlour games to allow these gentlemen and ladies to amuse themselves at small parties. Parlour games decreased in popularity in the first half of the 20th century as radio, movies, and later, television captured more of the public's leisure time. Though decreased in popularity, parlour games continue to be played. Some remain nearly identical to their Victorian ancestors; others have been transformed into board games such as Balderdash.
Many parlour games involve logic or word-play. Others are more physical games, but not to the extent of a sport or exercise. Some also involve dramatic skill, such as in charades. Most do not require any equipment beyond what would be available in a typical parlour. Parlour games are usually competitive, but cumulative scores are not usually kept and the only reward for winning a round is the admiration of one's peers. The length and ending time of the game is typically not set; play continues until the players decide to end the game.
Boxed Parlour Games, especially around Christmas, were very popular from around 1920 until into the 1960s when suddenly the companies producing them presumably failed to sell enough and simply stopped producing them. A number of companies have re-established themselves over the last few years, for example D & G Parlour Games, others can be found on the Internet under Games or Christmas Games.
The phrase "parlour game" has entered political dialogue, and is used to accuse opponents of using deliberately nebulous or confusing language when describing a particular position on an issue.
Examples of parlour games include:
- Games involving blindfolds:
- Twenty questions
- Elephant's foot umbrella stand
- Wink Murder
- The Minister's Cat
- Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon
- Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
- The Lost World Battles