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Subject: Newspaper article: "Where are boardgames for biz types?" rss

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Tim K.
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[Not sure if it's kosher to post this in its entirety, but with papers requiring registration to read articles I figured I'd make it easy. If an admin has a problem with this, feel free to remove the quoted text.]

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
Where are board games for biz types?
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/virgin/281219_virgin15.html

Quote:
Where are board games for biz types?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

By BILL VIRGIN
P-I COLUMNIST

Name a movie or TV show, a sport, in fact almost any sort of human endeavor, and it's likely someone has come up with a board game to match.

Or several. Perusal of a collectors guide to board games reveals that, for every Monopoly or Clue that could be found in at least a few houses on your block, there were hundreds more based on the slightest or marginal of subjects (there was, for example, an actual board game based on the infamous "Where's the beef?" Wendy's commercial).

For all the advances in computer, video and hand- held-electronic games, board games are holding their own in popularity (in some cases incorporating new technologies, such as DVDs).

Movies and TV shows are still sources of inspiration for new games -- you can, not surprisingly, find games based on "CSI" and the Harry Potter books/movies. The Seattle area has had a sort of cottage industry of game development, such as Cranium and Front Porch Classics.

There's even a game for sale that ties into the current interest in the Lewis and Clark expedition -- and aren't those two sorry now that they didn't think 200 years ago to lock up the licensing rights to their excursion.

But here's what's striking about the board games of yesteryear, and what's on the shelves of toy and specialty games stores today -- how few there are dealing with business or with a finance-related theme.

The shelves are positively groaning with fantasy role- playing games, games based on trivia, word play and pop culture, as well as the classics ranging from Candy Land to Sorry.

But games related to the world of business? Not such a hot topic.

Monopoly, of course, is the exception that proves the rule; with all its line extensions and variations, it's virtually a category unto itself. You can also find the game Pit, which mimics the frenzy of commodity trading.

And although the days of railroad robber barons' wheeling and dealing are no more than a footnote in history books, there is a surprising number of games based on the concept of building railroad empires -- in fact, one of them is called Empire Builder.

If that seems like a lot, it's not. Consider this partial listing of business, finance and money games from the 1940s through the 1970s, as compiled in "Board Games," a collectors' guide by Desi Scarpone:

Controlling Interest, Management, Fortune 500, Junior Executive, Go For Broke (in which the object is to lose all your money), Game of Boom or Bust, Finance and Fortune, Easy Money, Arbitrage, Stock Market Game, Ticker Tape, Speculation, Transaction, In the Chips, Money! Money! Money!, Big Business, Texas Millionaire, Big Board, The Diners' Club Credit Card Game, Billionaire, Big Time Operator, Tycoon, Square Mile, Prize Property, Yankee Trader, Park and Shop and Foreign Exchange.

And that list doesn't include The Game of Life, which the book includes in another section; it was a popular game in which players got to mimic all the exciting stages of life such as buying life insurance.

So why aren't there more business-related games?

"Board games are a reflection of what's happening in society at the moment," says Heather Snavely, head of corporate communications at Seattle-based Cranium. Monopoly was a child and product of the Depression; people may not have had much money, but they could play with piles of money, "own" real estate and pretend to be moguls through a board game.

Pop culture dominates board games today, Snavely adds, because "our society today is so into pop culture." (Cranium doesn't intend to get left behind; it plans to introduce a pop-culture game, Pop Five, this fall.)

Board games, particularly those sold through mass merchandise channels, also tend to get limited by three factors, says Brian Maggio, vice president of sales at Front Porch Classics: Does it have a license to some movie or TV character? Is it already a hit? Is it likely to be supported by a large advertising campaign? Those game manufacturers not backed by a Hasbro or Mattel have to rely on word of mouth, their own marketing efforts and niche sales channels such as specialty games stores to get their products noticed.

But it seems someone in the board-game industry is missing a bet. In the era of the celebrity CEO, it's surprising that more haven't tried to extend their personal brand by licensing their names and faces to a game developer (here's a shock: One who did so was Donald Trump).

The "boom, bust, maybe another boom and if so likely another bust" cycle of the technology industry would be ripe for parody and imitation with a board game (two local entrepreneurs did launch a card game based on the dot-com bust called Burn Rate). Or how about the overhyped housing markets (no one would want to draw the dreaded Housing Bubble Bursts! card and lose a turn -- as well as all their equity). Energy, too, seems a promising subject; as Scarpone's book chronicles, there have been such games as Uranium Rush, King Oil and Gusher; maybe someone out there can design The OPEC Game.

But that suggests one reason why business, money and high finance aren't popular subjects for board games these days. Games are supposed to offer relaxation and escapism. A lot of Americans may feel they've been involuntary players in games like The Global Economy and The Stock Market whose outcomes are as arbitrary as those that result from spinning a pointer or rolling dice, but whose consequences last long after the board has been folded and the little green plastic houses have been returned to the box.

P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or billvirgin@seattlepi.com. His column appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.

© 1998-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
 
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Bill Eldard
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Too bad the author didn't do more research. Among my own games, there's

Industrial Waste --- manage your own production, efficiency, innovation, and labor force, but don't forget to manage your waste disposal. Playes in 1-1.5 hours.

Age of Steam --- Martin Wallace's great RR game, where one must manage and balance stock sales (and dividend payments), equipment upgrades, and rail-network expansion to grow the business. Plays in 2-3 hours.

1870 --- even more 'business'-oriented (and more complex) than Age of Steam. Takes several hours to play.

Square Mile --- an innovative little real estate development game from Milton Bradley, circa 1962. Players buy (through auction) and sell plots of real estate, build roads and subdivisions, and construct buildings in accordance with zoning requirements. Wheeling and dealing between players is allowed. No pawns moving around a track, and no dice, event cards, or other tools of randomness. Like today's games (e.g. Settlers of Catan), the board can be reconfigured through tiles, giving players a new board each time. Plays in less than an hour.

And in the more abstract realm there's the classic Acquire, and Shark!
 
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Randy Cox
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I think Square Mile was in the list from the article, but the list is awfully spotty. I also found it interesting that he honed in on "Empire Builder" to represent the age of railroad robber barons, but didn't uncover 1830: Railroads and Robber Barons.

Then again, if he'd come to BGG rather than talking to someone in his local town at Cranium Inc, he'd have lost his whole story when he saw a more complete list of business/economic games that were published from 1940-1980 (and why didn't he mention those published since then?).
 
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Tim K.
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Yeah, and isn't Acquire a financial game? And what about Power Grid?

Feel free to email the author of the article (email address at end of article).
 
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Rachel Wolfe
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I would think Puerto Rico's building, staffing, producing, warehousing, shipping, etc. might be of interest to business types...
 
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Tim K.
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Rachel42 wrote:
I would think Puerto Rico's building, staffing, producing, warehousing, shipping, etc. might be of interest to business types...
Yeah. I emailed the author the browse of economic games here (PR is #1):
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/browser.php?itemtype=game&sortb...
 
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Quote:
I would think Puerto Rico's building, staffing, producing, warehousing, shipping, etc. might be of interest to business types...
Indeed. This shallow article doesn't consider it a business game unless it has a guy in a suit on the front holding up a wad of money. The themes are different but business and economic mechanisms can be seen in dozens of Euros. I think he does get it right that people are sick of the strict capitalism theme though. My biggest problem getting people to try Acquire is the cover art.

 
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Mark Crocker
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Yeah, the article author apparently did "one stop shopping" as far as searching the web. He certainly didn't hit this site. Shoddy research led him to bogus conclusions. Heck...I even consider "Wallenstein" an economic/business game (the business you are in, just happens to be that of a mercenary army general).

edit. And it dawns on me that , excluding pure wargames, at least 20 or 25 percent of games have something to do with accumulating wealth and managing resources. The author must have had a deadline, so he just hacked out his article. Wotta chump.
 
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The Real and Only
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I wish they could take the computer game Capitalism II and make it into a boardgame.

I love that game.
 
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Drew1365 wrote:
Journalists doing shoddy research?! I can't believe that could possibly happen!

(When the priority of journalism is meeting deadlines rather than information, this kind of reporting is common.))
Normally you would have to read the New York Times to get such journalistic integrity!
 
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The author focuses more on theme than substance. I'm about to graduate from an MBA program, and the games that I find are most tied in to business aren't those with a stock market theme or such, but those that teach strategy, trading and negotiation, teamwork, non-verbal communication, and such. The Settlers of Catan is worth a hundred Monopolies as far as understanding alliances, trades, negotiation, and supply and demand.

I'm actually doing something similar to this as my graduating thesis - analyzing and testing games in a business context to show how they can be valuable to companies. I think that playing a game together can be an amazing way to get a new, diverse team to learn to cooperate and coexist. Of course, we'll see how my data backs that up, but I'd like nothing more than to see a game like Ra become a part of the American business world.
 
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Quote:
(When the priority of journalism is meeting deadlines rather than information, this kind of reporting is common.))
This is obviously a features article--you (& I, for that matter) took the article much more seriously than he did.

Here is a geeklist based on a recent FOrbes Magazine Article on best business games:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/13558
 
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Rachel Wolfe
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I'll be curious to hear the response from that Seattle P-I writer, if he deigns to respond at all...

beri wrote:
...I'd like nothing more than to see a game like Ra become a part of the American business world.
I can totally picture an episode of The Office where they're all in the conference room yelling "Ra! Ra! Ra!"...
 
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Bill Eldard
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Quote:
Square Mile was listed above. You skimmed, didn't you?
Doh! Yep. shake
 
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Mark Taraba
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EDIT: Oh, now I see. He's claiming that there USED to be some business games from 1940-1970s, but now there aren't that many on the shelf of Walmart and Toys'R'Us (or whatever other store he poked his head in to doing his "research"). Which basically boils down to "Hasbro doesn't make a lot of boardgames with business themes" since no one else is really in these stores.
 
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Mark Crocker
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(15 minutes later..a second revelation). Maybe the guy wasn't so far off, after all. We people that frequent this site, and post, and exchange information about our hobby (games), are privledged to much more information and exchange, than 99% of the rest of the people...whose entire knowledge about games comes from what is on the shelf at Walmart, Kmart, Target, and Toys 'r' Us. We all forget that despite our passion for games, almost everyone else is totally disinterested. Most people really don't think they have time for games, where as you and I MAKE time for our pastime. They find it a waste, whereas we find our pastime theraputic. So what is on the shelves for almost everyone? Children's games, party games, and the old standbys.
 
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pwn3d wrote:
Bearcat89 wrote:
Drew1365 wrote:
Journalists doing shoddy research?! I can't believe that could possibly happen!

(When the priority of journalism is meeting deadlines rather than information, this kind of reporting is common.))
Normally you would have to read the New York Times to get such journalistic integrity!
or Fox News
Sorry...I didn't realize that Jayson Blair and Tyler Hicks had been hired by Fox.
 
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I emailed him.
He replied basically that we're wrong & he's right.
 
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josh giesbrecht
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Poleconomy sounds like exactly what this journalist would be looking for (if they had been Canadian). It had business acquisition, varying interest rates, a hint of politics, etc.

I haven't seen that game for years, but I grew up playing it repeatedly with my grandfather and family.
 
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davedanger wrote:
I emailed him.
He replied basically that we're wrong & he's right.
The article author replied this? We're handing him a half-written follow-up story on a platter and he craps on it? What a jack@$$.
 
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While there are alot of games with business type themes set in the past (Puerto Rico, the railroad games, etc...) there aren't too many today. Other than Vegas Showdown, which appears to deal with hotel building in Las Vegas (I haven't played it) are there any?

Ken
 
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I wrote to him too with links to BGG lists and various suggestions. He replied:
"I've seen the site; but I'll stick with my original assertion that for the broad consumer market (and I'm aware that serious gamers dismiss games aimed at that market as "toys") there are far fewer offerings than there once were. Thanks for the note. Bill Virgin"

Fair enough, I think he knows who he was aiming his article at. He did check BGG but thinks our interest is too specialised. He was talking mass market Hasbro, so really he only missed Acquire. He's probably reading this thread right now. Frankly, I appreciate the fact that he replied, the first journo that's bothered to reply to me.
 
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Crockerdile wrote:
(15 minutes later..a second revelation). Maybe the guy wasn't so far off, after all. We people that frequent this site, and post, and exchange information about our hobby (games), are privledged to much more information and exchange, than 99% of the rest of the people...whose entire knowledge about games comes from what is on the shelf at Walmart, Kmart, Target, and Toys 'r' Us. We all forget that despite our passion for games, almost everyone else is totally disinterested. Most people really don't think they have time for games, where as you and I MAKE time for our pastime. They find it a waste, whereas we find our pastime theraputic. So what is on the shelves for almost everyone? Children's games, party games, and the old standbys.
True, but even WalMart.com had Railroad Tycoon at Christmas, and if that's not an economic game I'll eat my copy of Indonesia!
 
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The article is merely written from the journalists perspective "I want to make a thinly veiled attack on corporate america and I'll use boardgaming as a barometer of popular opinion, here's a few selected quotes and facts to support my argument".
 
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well, I "email`d" HIM also, while someone else 'replied' to such that HE was taken away forcibly and screaming!
"my EYES! zee 'Goggles', zhey 'do' NUTHINK!"
end of story and HIS 'career' eh?
googoo
 
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