Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Monopoly: The World's Most Famous Game by Philip E. Orbanes

Why I read it: Why not? Played the game all my life, wanted to know how it became what it did.

Summary: The rest of the subtitle is "& How it Got That Way," so you can divine the rest.

My Thoughts: It should have been more obvious to me as a student of history that Monopoly wasn't simply drafted in some focus group-driven testing center. I knew from playing that it had the old-time Atlantic City story, but beyond that, I was pretty hazy.

Orbanes is more than just your run-of-the-mill historian. He's been in the board game industry for years, and has been tied directly to Monopoly along the way. If you've ever watched the Monopoly world tournament finals on ESPN (okay, you won't find them there, but they do exist) then you've seen him as a judge. The man knows the game inside and out.

As such, his book is about as deep as you need to get to know the story. He traces the game back to the time before the game, when other landlord and property tax-based board games were seen as instructional, controversial and even too politically-charged to stake a company's reputation on. The roots reach into the late 1800s, and today the game branches out across continents and genres. Along the way there have been winners, losers, false inventors, international champion players and now obsessed collectors.

I wish I could say that the book changed the way I will look at the board, but the fact is that I don't play, and probably won't for many, many years. The author claims that a properly played game takes 90 minutes. Well, then I've done something wrong for my entire life. I don't ever remember a Monopoly game that didn't wear me out. But, alas, I have a 3 year-old and a 6 day-old, and the day will come when I'm forced to play the game that I forced my parents to play. And so it will continue.

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