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Thread: The shady origins of five popular board games

  1. #1
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    The shady origins of five popular board games

    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/plugg...202719027.html


    (Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images News)

    Quaker extortionists and Monopoly? The Civil War and The Game of Life? We usually associate board gaming with family time, but several of the most popular games out there have some not-so-family-friendly origins. So if you're looking to spark some interesting conversations next time you gather 'round the table for an evening of dice and fake money, here are a few of the lesser known tales of history's biggest board games.
    Monopoly and the Quakers
    You may have heard the legend that an unemployed salesman named Charles Darrow invented the game of Monopoly during the depression, somewhere around 1935. That's not entirely true.

    A Quaker named Lizzie Magie, in fact, first created the game in 1904 to showcase the evils of property ownership (the original title was "The Landlord's Game".) Magie was a supporter of the Quaker tax reformer Henry George, and the game focused on players extorting one another.
    It was a hit in the Quaker community -- a big one. One enthusiastic fan was a hotelier named Charles Todd, who would sometimes play with his guests. One regular visitor was (you guessed it) Charles Darrow, who asked Todd to write up the rules for him.
    Once the game took off, Parker Bros. learned its true origins and had to do some damage control. It bought the rights for $500 from Magie, who believed her original game -- and its anti-property philosophies -- would finally be distributed to the masses. And it was, though only for a couple hundred copies, at least, before it was discontinued. Turns out people had more fun with Darrow's tweaks to the game.
    The Hard Life
    On the surface, Life seems like a pretty happy-go-lucky game. You get a job, have kids and can't wait for payday. Even if things go south, you’ll still find plenty of good events as you inch towards retirement.
    The original game was a lot darker, though. Created by Milton Bradley himself, the game was originally sold under the name of "The Checkered Game of Life" during the Civil War. Less a whimsical journey and more a moralistic lesson, it was meant to teach virtue and principles to children.

    Before there was payday, there were squares that included poverty, disgrace, and gambling to ruin. The game even came with a "Suicide" square -- which, if landed on, marked your last turn. Way to bum us all out, Milton.
    The darker side of Clue
    Anthony E. Pratt was a fire warden during World War II. While walking his beat one day, he thought back to a favorite pre-war game he and his friends used to play called "Murder!"

    "Between the wars," he once said, "all the bright young things would congregate in each other's homes for parties at weekends. We'd play a stupid game called Murder, where guests crept up on each other in corridors and the victim would shriek and fall on the floor."

    He transformed that somewhat morbid real-world distraction into a board game. The original version, though, was a bit harsher than what we play today. In addition to the gun, rope and other murder weapons, it included an axe, syringe, shillelagh, poison, and even a bomb. Not sure that’s the most inconspicuous weapon, but it’s probably effective.

    Scrabble’s Poe past
    If it weren't from his love of master of the macabre Edgar Allen Poe, Alfred Butts might never have developed Scrabble.
    The game, which has been a valuable resource in teaching spelling and vocabulary to kids, was born when creator Butts was reading Poe's "The Gold Bug," a story that involves figuring out a code based on how frequently letters are used. Butts decided to tweak that a bit and sat down to count out how frequently letters appeared in an issue The New York Times, which was quite the undertaking.
    He called the game Lexico and spent more than 16 years waiting for it to take off. It wasn't until 1952, when Jack Strauss, manager of Macy's, played the game on vacation that things exploded. Strauss loved it so much that he demanded to know why it wasn't on Macy's store shelves. An order was placed and a classic finally found its audience.

    Chutes and Ladders (and Murder and Lust)

    If it seems like this immensely popular children’s game has been around forever, there's a reason: it has. The concept has been traced back to an Hindu name called Leela -- a game of self-knowledge -- as well as an Indian game called Daspada.

    Leela was created by Hindu scholars with the intention of teaching moral values. Daspada came about in the second century with a similar purpose, but using ladders to represent virtues and snakes to represent vices (hence the title ‘Snakes and Ladders’ in the U.K.).
    Those vices were serious business, too. Included among them in Daspada were Vulgarity, Drunkenness, Murder and Lust. Yikes.
    One thing's for certain, though. The game's a lot easier than it used to be. As society has become more focused on accentuating the positives for children, the number of ladders (which you use to progress in the game) has increased, while the number of chutes/snakes (which send you back several spaces) has gone down.
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    "Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life that you don't need to escape from." -- Seth Godin

  2. #2
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    Interesting if they are at all true ...
    I've Been Frosted

  3. #3
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    Yahoo News section is where it came from.

    Wikipedia seems to back much of it up.

    Monopoly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History..._game_Monopoly The history of the board game Monopoly can be traced back to the early 20th century. The earliest known design was by the American, Elizabeth Magie, patented in 1904 but existing before that.[1] A series of board games were developed from 1906 through the 1930s that involved the buying and selling of land and the development of that land. By 1934, a board game had been created much like the version of Monopoly sold by Parker Brothers and its parent companies through the rest of the 20th century, and into the 21st. Several people, mostly in the Midwestern United States and near the East Coast, contributed to the game's design and evolution.

    Chutes and Ladders (Snakes and Ladders): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snakes_and_Ladders
    Snakes and Ladders originated in India as part of a family of dice board games, including pachisi (present-day Ludo and Parcheesi). It was known as moksha pAtam or vaikunthapaali or paramapada sopaanam (the ladder to salvation).[3] The game made its way to England and was sold as "Snakes and Ladders", then the basic concept was introduced in the United States as Chutes and Ladders (an "improved new version of England's famous indoor sport"[4]) by game pioneer Milton Bradley in 1943.[3]

    Life:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Game_of_Life
    The game was originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley as The Checkered Game of Life. This was the first game created by Bradley, a successful lithographer, whose major product until that time was a portrait of Abraham Lincoln with a clean-shaven face, which did not do well once the subject grew his famous beard. The game sold 45,000 copies by the end of its first year. Like many games from the 19th century, such as The Mansion of Happiness by S.B. Ives in 1843, it had a strong moral message.[4]

    Scrabble: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrabble#History
    In 1938, American architect Alfred Mosher Butts created the game as a variation on an earlier word game he invented called Lexiko. The two games had the same set of letter tiles, whose distributions and point values Butts worked out by performing a frequency analysis of letters from various sources including The New York Times. The new game, which he called "Criss-Crosswords," added the 15×15 gameboard and the crossword-style game play. He manufactured a few sets himself, but was not successful in selling the game to any major game manufacturers of the day.[5]

    Clue: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cluedo
    In 1944, Anthony E. Pratt, an English solicitor's clerk, filed for a patent of his invention of a murder/mystery-themed game, originally named "Murder!" The game was originally invented as a new game to play during sometimes lengthy air raid drills in underground bunkers. Shortly thereafter, Pratt and his wife presented the game to Waddingtons's executive, Norman Watson, who immediately purchased the game and provided its trademark name of "Cluedo" (a play on "clue" and "Ludo"; ludo is Latin for I play). Though the patent was granted in 1947, due to post-war shortages, the game was not officially launched until 1949, when the game was simultaneously licensed to Parker Brothers in the United States for publication, where it was renamed "Clue" along with other minor changes.


    "Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life that you don't need to escape from." -- Seth Godin

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Catty1 View Post
    Yahoo News section is where it came from.

    Wikipedia seems to back much of it up.

    Monopoly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History..._game_Monopoly The history of the board game Monopoly can be traced back to the early 20th century. The earliest known design was by the American, Elizabeth Magie, patented in 1904 but existing before that.[1] A series of board games were developed from 1906 through the 1930s that involved the buying and selling of land and the development of that land. By 1934, a board game had been created much like the version of Monopoly sold by Parker Brothers and its parent companies through the rest of the 20th century, and into the 21st. Several people, mostly in the Midwestern United States and near the East Coast, contributed to the game's design and evolution.

    Chutes and Ladders (Snakes and Ladders): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snakes_and_Ladders
    Snakes and Ladders originated in India as part of a family of dice board games, including pachisi (present-day Ludo and Parcheesi). It was known as moksha pAtam or vaikunthapaali or paramapada sopaanam (the ladder to salvation).[3] The game made its way to England and was sold as "Snakes and Ladders", then the basic concept was introduced in the United States as Chutes and Ladders (an "improved new version of England's famous indoor sport"[4]) by game pioneer Milton Bradley in 1943.[3]

    Life:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Game_of_Life
    The game was originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley as The Checkered Game of Life. This was the first game created by Bradley, a successful lithographer, whose major product until that time was a portrait of Abraham Lincoln with a clean-shaven face, which did not do well once the subject grew his famous beard. The game sold 45,000 copies by the end of its first year. Like many games from the 19th century, such as The Mansion of Happiness by S.B. Ives in 1843, it had a strong moral message.[4]

    Scrabble: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrabble#History
    In 1938, American architect Alfred Mosher Butts created the game as a variation on an earlier word game he invented called Lexiko. The two games had the same set of letter tiles, whose distributions and point values Butts worked out by performing a frequency analysis of letters from various sources including The New York Times. The new game, which he called "Criss-Crosswords," added the 15×15 gameboard and the crossword-style game play. He manufactured a few sets himself, but was not successful in selling the game to any major game manufacturers of the day.[5]

    Clue: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cluedo
    In 1944, Anthony E. Pratt, an English solicitor's clerk, filed for a patent of his invention of a murder/mystery-themed game, originally named "Murder!" The game was originally invented as a new game to play during sometimes lengthy air raid drills in underground bunkers. Shortly thereafter, Pratt and his wife presented the game to Waddingtons's executive, Norman Watson, who immediately purchased the game and provided its trademark name of "Cluedo" (a play on "clue" and "Ludo"; ludo is Latin for I play). Though the patent was granted in 1947, due to post-war shortages, the game was not officially launched until 1949, when the game was simultaneously licensed to Parker Brothers in the United States for publication, where it was renamed "Clue" along with other minor changes.


    Wow. Great post! I am planning to buy these board games for my kids. I don;t want them to depend on gadgets and electronic games. I want them to experience playing board games. Thanks for the post!

  5. #5
    richard0403 Guest
    I just love playing board games. But nowadays my wife and I do not really have time to play, so my kids are the ones messing around with the boards them we have. We also bought them board games for kids. For their age, snakes and ladders is certainly their favorite. But they are now learning to love monopoly as well.

  6. #6
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    My grand-niece and -nephew are discovering the joys of board games. I usually get them a new one for Christmas every year! I remember countless games of Scrabble, Monopoly and Life, especially on snow days when we got too cold from playing outside.
    I've been finally defrosted by cassiesmom!
    "Spay or neuter your pols!" Sneaky Pie, in Sneaky Pie for President

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