Sunday, June 14, 2015

Postmodern Version of Milton Bradley's The Game Now Popular On Today's Campuses

One of my favorite games for a time when young was The Game of Life. Milton Bradley created and sold the famous board game in 1860 just before the outset of the Civil War. When introduced it was originally The Checkered Game of Life. I half wonder if it had been named that to encourage Checkers players to give it a try, or whether it was an early attempt at realism in a fallen world.

A modern version of the game, the one we played as kids, was introduced in 1960. People married, had children and careers, drove around in cars and all the rest. In 1984 Milton Bradley was taken over by Hasbro, who also absorbed Parker Brothers. As games have evolved so has our culture.

The postmodern version of Milton Bradley’s Game of Life is now simply called The Game and it has become the most popular game on campuses from coast to coast. Christmas sales in 2014 exceeded ten million copies.

The game had been updated 1998 as a result of dwindling sales in the once popular Game of Life, a newer version came with a whole new approach and a new set of rules more in keeping with the times. Despite moderately weak acceptance by the public initially, Hasbro persisted in promoting The Game in the belief that it would eventually catch on. It wasn't until the company gave it a post-modern spin in 2005 that sales began to take off. Sales have now exceeded one billion dollars.

The original 1998 version of The Game, a strategy game involving cards and a set of tiles with letters and symbols, was straightforward, logical and rational. Everything meant what it appeared to mean. The letter A was a letter A and the symbol for water was water. The rules were simple and clear, easily grasped and easy to follow.

The postmodern version of The Game is nuanced and ambiguous. The letters and symbols can each have numerous meanings, depending on the order in which they are played as well as context. Combinations of tiles that resulted in one person winning in the earlier version might result in two others winning in the new version. Even when tiles are played in identical formations in two games in a row, the outcomes can be different due to subtle complexities in the rules because tallies end up meaning the opposite of what they appear. “To casual observers the rules appear to be nonsense,” said Hasbro spokesperson Aaron Bennett. “Whereas the earlier Game was for children eight and up, this new version is clearly for older children and young adults, our target audience. Sales of The Game to older demographics have not been particularly brisk.” It is rumored that Parker Brothers is now working on a post-modern version of Monopoly. Avalon Hill is close to introducing a post-modern version of its classic strategy war game Stratego. And two video game manufacturers are in a bidding war to obtain rights to turn the classic war game Risk into an international karaoke challenge.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. If you're going to play, play to win.

EdNote: All trademarked names are the property of their respective owners.

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