Boomer Blog: Game-Changers


By Shirley Scott



In these unsettled times, small changes in small corners of our lives just seem to add to the confusion. Case in point: last week Crayola announced the retirement of the color dandelion.

I was unaware that dandelion was a crayon color. But just like that, the shade of yellow named after the bane of lawn purists joins chartreuse fluorescent and psychedelic purple on the trash heap of discontinued hues.

As if a revamp of Crayola’s palette were not enough, the people at MONOPOLY announced the replacement of several of its iconic tokens. The boot, the wheelbarrow, and my personal favorite, the thimble, have been retired in favor of three “newbies” determined by online voting: a penguin, a rubber duck, and a T. rex dinosaur.

Changes occur as updates or, more likely, marketing ploys. Whatever the reason, MONOPOLY tokens have been coming and going for years. The original battleship, Scottie dog, race car, and top hat remain; but the lantern, the rocking horse, the purse, and the iron have been gone for quite some time.

I have not played MONOPOLY for years; but when my sisters and I used to play, our interest usually ran out well before the game ended. Although enamored by all that money, we were too young to really understand the game. The hotels confused us, and we got mad when we had to go to jail. And keeping all the fake currency, buildings, and Chance/Community Chest cards neatly stowed inside the box was almost impossible – much to my mother’s irritation.

BATTLESHIP has even more pieces, what with boats and oodles of tiny pegs. The red and blue “carrying cases” provide compartments for everything; and if everything is in its place, the lids do close. Still, it was never unusual in the Scott household to find a stray BATTLESHIP peg lying all alone on a windowsill somewhere or under the kitchen table.

There have been other versions of BATTLESHIP in addition to those cases. I remember a paper-and-pencil form of the quasi-military game: gridded pages bound together in notepad form. And a friend tells me the electronic version is quite enjoyable.

We never played CLUE at home; but my students introduced the game to me, and I learned to enjoy, “It was Professor Plum in the Conservatory with the Lead Pipe.” My advanced students translated character names, locations, and weapons and then played the murder-mystery game in German.

CLUE has also experienced several changes over the years. Nurse White became Mrs. White, and Colonel Yellow morphed into Colonel Mustard. And some of the original murder weapons were fascinating, too: the fireplace poker, the axe, and poison.

It is one thing to hear about changes in childhood playthings, but quite another to see alterations to traditional games. So it was with COOTIE.

As a kid, I did not even realize COOTIE was a game, with its own collection of small plastic pieces: antennae, eyes, legs, and those curly little mouths. I am sure the dice were long gone, so we spent our time just building bugs.

Imagine my surprise when I played the new-and-improved COOTIE game with my nephews. The formerly-menacing insects with the Christmas-bulb-shaped bodies from my childhood had received a facelift complete with nicely-rounded heads sporting adorable smiles and jaunty feelers.

I did some poking around about another game I played with any number of little people on two continents. The game of CANDY LAND requires no strategy or choices, only simple direction-following.

CANDY LAND has been reworked several times since the original design in 1948 by a recovering polio victim. Online pictures show the early game board featuring a duo resembling Dick and Jane plus lots of locations like Gum Drop Mountain and Molasses Swamp.

In the 1980’s – when I could still get down on the floor with my nephews and back up again – we played the game with plastic gingerbread men instead of the original wooden pieces on a board covered with colorful ice cream bars and lollipops. And there was always that dreaded candy cane card that could send a three-year-old, or his aunt, clear back to the beginning.

Now CANDY LAND contains all kinds of characters following various story lines. The rules are unchanged, but little figures looking for all the world like Disney princesses and amorphous creatures named Plumpy and Gloppy populate the Land of Sweets.

Updates and product development are part of any business, and the giants of game manufacturing – Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley, Mattel, among others – are no different. Ongoing are the periodic freshening of fonts and graphics and the replacement of original materials with more modern ones.

Trips to brick-and-mortar or online stores reveal an array of special editions for many long-time favorites: the collector edition, the classic edition, the deluxe edition, the anniversary edition, the junior edition. There are also themed versions: M & M’s MONOPOLY, Harry Potter CLUE, Minnie Mouse CANDY LAND.

And current times call for current technology, with video, online, electronic, and 3-D versions of many popular games – and even the occasional TV show.

This former girl who played BINGO with her sisters using dried corn kernels as markers grew up to be seriously addicted to online SOLITAIRE. But I still like my cooties ugly; I do not mind sinking battleships with a pencil; and I will really miss the thimble – the next time I play MONOPOLY.

By Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.

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