Digitizing classic games doesn’t always work

Some things were just meant to be analog SLIDE SHOW

Topics: slideshow, games, Parenthood, Childhood, Parenting, Toys, Consumerism, ,

Last Wednesday, toymaker Hasbro announced it would be retiring one of the game pieces in the classic board game Monopoly, asking fans to vote on Facebook for which one of the game’s classic tokens — the hat, the wheelbarrow, the scotty dog, the race car, the thimble, the battleship or the shoe — they’d like to see replaced with a new game piece. The options for the new token, including a toy robot, a helicopter and a guitar, are intended to be “more representative of today’s Monopoly players” than the old pieces, Hasbro vice president Eric Nyman told CNN.



Although news of the revamp might come as a shock to Monopoly purists who grew up battling their siblings over who got dibs on the race car, Hasbro’s  marketing is far from the first time that a favorite board game has undergone a millennial makeover. Aside from digital versions of classic games, such as Words With Friends and the Hungry Hungry Hippos app (yes, really), toy companies have released a number of “modernized” updates of previously analog games. The results haven’t always thrilled. Here’s a rundown:

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    (Credit: Etsy.com)

    Monopoly retiring one of its game tokens

    Though initially conceived as an old-school, paper-and-pencil game, "Battleship" was unceremoniously thrust into the computer age in 1977, when Milton Bradley released an electronic version (followed by "Electronic Talking Battleship" in 1989). Players entered their opponents' coordinates into a computer, flashing a red light or emitting a whistling noise if they hit or missed their targets. The new "Battleship" spawned a series of memorable commercials -- not to mention a now-ubiquitous catchphrase. Yet the electronic version fell short of the original by announcing a player's loss or victory for them, thus robbing the game of one of its biggest draws: doing a jig and screaming triumphantly at your opponent after you've sunk his or her battleship. If nothing else, "Electronic Talking Battleship" proved that having a computer humiliate your friends for you is a lot less fun than doing it yourself.

    (Credit: Hasbro/AP)

    Monopoly retiring one of its game tokens

    Also, just a reminder that this totally happened.

    (Credit: via thebiggamehunter.com)

    Monopoly retiring one of its game tokens

    In 1944, a member of the British Civil Service invented the game "Cluedo" to introduce the concept of premeditated murder to budding sociopaths aged 8 and up. From these auspicious beginnings, the American version of the game, Clue, was born.

    (Credit: Hasbro)

    Monopoly retiring one of its game tokens

    In 2008, Hasbro executives, deeming the game too old-fashioned, released a new version, Cludeo: Discover the Secrets, featuring new weapons (an ax, a dumbbell and a baseball bat) and new rooms (including a spa, a swimming pool and a movie theater). The box cover also featured a sultry photo of a Catherine Zeta-Jones look-alike as Miss Scarlet. Despite Hasbro's best efforts, Cluedo: Discover the Secrets was heavily criticized by Clue aficionados, and it is no longer available on the company's website.

    (Credit: AP)

    Monopoly retiring one of its game tokens

    Before its trademark aesthetic was co-opted by Katy Perry and hip Japanese teenagers, Candyland was, according to a December 2005 Forbes poll, the most popular American toy of the 1940s. The game is huge among preschool-age children, probably because the only discernible rule of play is to remember to make whimsical, whooshing noises while sliding through the Candy Cane Forest.

    (Credit: Popnology)

    Monopoly retiring one of its game tokens

    In 2010, Hasbro, which acquired Candyland in 1984, released a new version of the game, Candy Land: The World of Sweets. Many of the original characters, such as the Peppermint Forest woodsman Mr. Mint, were removed from the game. Designers also slimmed down King Kandy and made the character Princess Frostine (left, in 2002, and right, in 2010) more blond and buxom, so now she looks less like a dainty fairy princess and more like Shakira circa 2010. Some of the changes to the game, however, were undeniably positive: For instance, Hasbro redesigned the Candyland Children to appear more racially diverse.

    (Credit: Flickr (username: unloveablesteve), under creative commons license)

    Monopoly retiring one of its game tokens

    Because it took about nine hours to set up and three minutes to play, Ideal Toy Co.'s Mouse Trap wasn't a board game as much as it was a litmus test for whether you'd get into engineering school when you grew up. Nonetheless, after it was released in 1963 the Rube Goldberg-inspired game was an instant classic, spawning a UK children's TV show and even a life-size version.

    (Credit: Hasbro)

    Monopoly retiring one of its game tokens

    In 2006, Hasbro, which now holds the rights to Mouse Trap, released a new and improved version of the game in the United Kingdom (U.S. version pictured above). The new Mouse Trap boasted a revamped design, including a toilet that triggers the mechanisms of the three mouse traps. After its release, British Mousetrap fans took to Amazon to voice their disapproval, blasting the new version for its shoddy, inefficient design. "Great (old) idea, lousy (modern) execution," one Amazon user sniffed in a review titled "Mousecrap."

    (Credit: Hasbro)

    Monopoly retiring one of its game tokens

    Although Guess Who? can prove challenging for small children and people with severe facial recognition disorder, it's generally pretty easy for grown-ups -- especially if someone draws a female character. That's because the original (and most popular) version of the British game, which was introduced to the United States in 1982, included 19 male characters and only five females.

    (Credit: Hasbro)

    Monopoly retiring one of its game tokens

    Although Hasbro had been receiving complaints about Guess Who? for years, the game’s gender bias made the news in November 2012, when a 6-year-old Irish girl wrote a letter complaining about the paucity of female characters. Hasbro’s response, a tone-deaf explanation of the game’s mathematical basis, immediately went viral, and parents took to Twitter to gripe about the game’s gender and ethnic bias. It seems, however, that Hasbro might’ve taken the complaints seriously: In one of the few instances of a classic game revamp working in its favor, an electronic Guess Who? extra features an additional four women, as well as a more racially diverse selection of characters. The lesson: Sometimes change isn't necessarily a bad thing.

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