October 3, 2006
News & Opinion: Fun and Games
This really is a great season for business books. Over the next few days I will tout some of my favorites. What appeals to me so much about the current range of offerings is the wonderful variety of new managerial reads. To wit: Im loving Monopoly: The Worlds Most Famous GameAnd How It Got That Way by Philip Orbanes, a former VP with Parker Brothers.
One of the most charming elements about this book comes from the authors passion for the subject: Orbanes is a lifelong game enthusiast who worked for Parker Brothers and even today serves as the chief judge at the U.S. and World Monopoly Championships. So dont expect a searing expose of the monde du Monopoly, folks.
Instead, you can look forward to a great history of how this cultural phenomenon evolved. Conceived by a woman who earned the first patent ever for a board game (the first to use a continuous path rather than a start and finish line), the game survived for years as several economics teachers made their own versions for use in classes at the Wharton School and then Columbia University. It took several decades before anyone formally wrote down the rules of play.
Over time the game obviously caught on, yet prior to becoming the Monopoly we know today it had a fascinating past, as different characters adapted the game to their own likingalmost like home-brewed personal computers before patents and standards forced out the little guys. Conceived at a time when the notion of monopolistic behavior was proving a mixed blessing, the game had a strong didactic purpose during its infancy. Yet Parker Brothers created a smash hit with the game, which today is much more about the game than about any critique of land ownership or concentration of wealth.
Later chapters share great details about how the game evolved through different eras, and shares really enjoyable material about the individuals who, like the author, share a consuming passion for Monopoly. Highly recommended as an engaging history of a great business success.