In 1935 Parker Brothers bought the rights to Monopoly from the ‘inventor’, Charles Darrow. Monopoly is a board game named after the capitalist economic concept of owning everything and the domination of a market by a single entity. It is said to be the most popular board game in the World and it is estimated that since the game was created, more than one billion people have played it and Games Magazine has included Monopoly into its Hall of Fame.
When I was young we used to play Monopoly quite often but I quickly learned what a tedious and pointless game it is. Sometimes a game could go on for hours without anyone ever winning as it became a mind numbing procession of Scottie dogs and racing cars around and around the board with the only real excitement being when a piece started to approach Mayfair and Park Lane (depending on whether you owned it or not) which after three or four hours would have a couple of red hotels sitting on it and a slavering landlord waiting to demand an extotionate rental charge.
Dad always looked after his possessions so even in the 1960s we were still using his own school boy edition which had real wooden houses and the eight classic pieces to move around the board; a Scottie dog, an iron, racing car, thimble, wheelbarrow, top hat, a train engine and a boot. I have never begun to understand what sort of a mind would have come up with that rather absurd selection of items and I doubt if anyone could ever satisfactorily explain the randomness of it. My favourite was the train, my sister liked the Scottie dog and we always gave mum the old boot but I don’t think she ever grasped the significance of this.
Games would generally start with a great deal of enthusiasm but after an hour or so without any real progress the horse trading used to start with the selling and swapping of real estate. When everyone had a piece of the action and had assembled a land portfolio then there would be a flurry of property purchasing activity and little green houses would start to spring up all around the board. Someone would start accumulating a pile of money, someone else would begin to run short and start to rely on passing go as often as possible and someone would just get tired of the whole thing, go deliberately bankrupt and simply give up.
Sometimes we had the sense to put a time limit on the game and just see who had the most money after say, three days, and then declare them the winner. Curiously the banker more often than not seemed to win and I think this was because as everyone around the board slipped into a coma then it was possible to sneak a note or two from the bank into their own personal account! I know I did! In fact the only time these games became anywhere near exciting was if someone got really pissed off and trashed the board in the middle of the game but usually it just petered out, no one really cared who won or lost because they were just glad that the whole thing had come to an end.
We used to play other games as well, when I was old enough dad taught me how to play chess but I could never beat him and years later I taught my own son how to play and now I can’t beat him either. A game of chess could take a while as well sometimes but draughts was alright because that could be over quite quickly. When I was really young snakes and ladders was always good fun and so was ludo before it was modernised and spoilt with the pop-o-matic dice in the perspex bubble. Later we liked to play Cluedo and then I remember becoming obsessed with Scrabble and later Trivial Pursuits. These days we don’t play many board games anymore because most people seem to prefer a games console or a Wii board.