Page 2

1964_04_11--026_SP [Pass Go and Retire]

the earnings of criminals. Another game turned down had spaces marked Martini, Manhattan, Bourbon on the Rocks and so on, the players drinking up accordingly; the last player still upright at the table wins. Parker is currently shipping sets of a game called Politics, which sells well every election year but is ignored the rest of the time. For years a Texan has been trying to sell Parker an oil-well game by telegrams. "Send me one million dollars, and I'll sell you my game," he wires, or "Last chance at a million, next week it will be a million and a half." So far the firm has managed to resist. Parker used to make a Tadpole game where a tadpole went through all the stages of becoming a frog; it has a Walt Disney game now in which kids have to bark like a dog when they draw a Pluto card. Edward Parker says that children over six can learn any game, and the firm never specifies age limits on its games. "It is maddening to children to be bracketed in this manner," says President Barton. But an expert notes that at 14 years of age children "discover each other and forget about table games." Happily, it isn't very long before they're married and playing games again. One enthusiast wrote to the company, "My cousin got married and went to Germany for her honeymoon, and she said they played Monopoly every night for enjoyment." The inventors of successful board games are invariably amateurs, and not one has ever struck it rich more than once. Edward Parker has no explanation for this, but he thinks the public has a richer store of experience to put into a new game than the professional. Parker says that getting an inventor to create a new game is a mysterious business. "It's like inducing an artist to paint the Mona Lisa. You don't order it, but wait around hopefully." Inventors get a standard five percent royalty on the sale priccee of their games, which must sell 25.- 000 before they're considered successful. Parker put its largest single-game investment at the time, $100,000, into Careers, invented by a Florida college professor. It sold over half a million sets. The Da Vinci of game inventors is Charles B. Darrow, now 74, who in 1933 developed Monopoly from a 1924 game called Landlord, which had been created by Elizabeth M. Phillips, a Virginia propagandist for the single tax. Darrow, then an unemployed heating engineer in Philadelphia, made up the first Monopoly sets with a round oilcloth playing board. "We had a round diningroom table at the time," says Mrs. Darrow. When the game was submitted to Parker Brothers, they turned it down because it was too cumbersome, went on too long and broke 50 other rules for successful board games. Darrow began producing the game himself. Two years later, when Darrow was selling 20,000 sets a year, Parker finally accepted the game. At the height of the Monopoly craze in the 1930's, Parker Brothers got so many telegraphed orders they had to file them in laundry baskets. The paradox of Monopoly is that it boomed during the Depression and it continues to do so during periods of affluence. A feeling of wealth "During the Depression people did not have enough money to go out to shows," says Edward Parker, "so they stayed home and played Monopoly. It also gave them a feeling of wealth. But what kept it going is the chance for individual gain. It appeals to the competitive nature of people. The player can always say to himself, 'I'm going to get the better of the other guy.' People also can play Monopoly without it being the end of the world. Sort of a release from the tensions of everyday life." Since 1930 Charles Darrow has spent his life trying to invent another Monopoly— with no luck. He contents himself with depositing royalty checks and raising orchids on his farm in Bucks County, Pa. Darrow named the properties in Monopoly after Atlantic City streets, because he used to go there on vacation; five years ago Atlantic City Mayor Joseph S. Altman named an intersection Monopoly Square—it's where the real Boardwalk and the real Park Place meet. Darrow's own favorite game is contract bridge. In Spain, instead of Boardwalk and Park Place it's Paseo del Prado and Puerta del Sol. In England it's not Boardwalk but Mayfair, and in France, of course, it's the Champs-Elysees. One of the French tokens is a chamber pot. Submariners played Monopoly in the Nautilus under the polar icecap, and English highjackers played it with real money while waiting to pull off a £2.5 million train robbery in Cheddington, Bucks, last August. The longest game on record lasted a week. It went on at the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house at the University of Pittsburgh a couple of years ago; halfway through it the frazzled players wired Parker Brothers: CAN'T END GAME STOP BANK OWES 140,000 STOP HOW DO WE END GAME President Robert Barton promptly replied: REFUSE TO LET BANK FAIL STOP RUSHING ONE MILLION MONOPOLY DOLLARS TO YOU BY AIRMAIL CARRY ON. The money was delivered from the airport by armored car, and the game continued until it was removed to the senior prom; in the ballroom, company vice president Randolph Barton, who had flown to Pittsburgh for the occasion, ended the marathon with a final arbitrary throw of the dice. Edward Parker says people are always calling or writing with sticklers. A Brooklynite who signs himself the Iron Duke asked whether he should play Monopoly according to New York state real-estate laws. To such trick questions the standard Parker reply goes, "The solution is definitely not spelled out in the published Monopoly rules, but off the record I concur with your findings entirely." The Iron Duke was not mollified. He wrote back, "Do you idiots know how to play this game, or are you trying to disrupt homes and destroy families with your damn rules?" The Monopoly-money press in Salem printed 328 million bills in 1963, using 113 tons of paper. The Parkers had long, dreamy thoughts about their play-money presses after an incident during the depression. The day after the Government closed all the banks, the company paid off its employees with scrip printed in the factory. It was accepted everywhere in Salem. When the banks reopened, the scrip was redeemed with real money. Salem, Mass., is where Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter and where, in 1692, twenty citizens were hanged for witchcraft. (The Parkers published Ye Witchcraft Game "in emulation of the good old spirit of 1692," but they withdrew it when local citizens protested.) The first American gamemaker, W. & S. B. Ives, was founded in Salem in 1830. George S. Parker started business in 1883 at the age of 16, and later brought in his brothers Edward and Charles. Eventually Parker took over some of the earlier Ives games. Not long ago a friend asked Edward Parker why he thinks people play games. "People just like to clobber the next guy," he said, rolling a sample of the latest Parker fad, Scoots—they are those little steel balls in the plastic cones that executives and cats like to play with— across his desk. "Greatest thing since Queeg balls," he comments. Rolling another Scoot toward Parker, the friend asked him this question: "What do you people in the firm do of an evening at home, for amusement?" Edward Parker grinned. "Drink," he replied. THE END 27


1964_04_11--026_SP [Pass Go and Retire]
To see the actual publication please follow the link above