It must have been a crushing blow. It was 1934, the depths of the Great Depression. Charles Darrow was jobless. But, he had an idea. In fact, he had a board game. He liked the board game and felt it was his ticket to financial success and from the desperation of the depression. Darrow had taken his game to the famous Parker Brothers game company to publish and help him market.
The Parker Brothers had agreed to take a look at the board game for Darrow. They weren’t impressed. Founded in 1883, by 16-year-old George Parker, the game publishing firm was making and selling games and puzzles for 51 years. During that time they’d seen success and failure. Parker Brothers knew the game business. They knew what worked and what did not. They understood what sold and what didn’t. Representatives of the giant game business found 59 reasons why they did not think Darrow’s game could be successful.
Charles Darrow simply didn’t agree. He believed. He chose to publish Monopoly himself and promote it through department stores. He had 5,000 copies of the board game printed.
Hope was scarce during that harsh Christmas of 1934. Money was even scarcer. Nearly all 5,000 copies of the board game sold. It was the most popular game in the united states by 1936.
Monopoly is now published in 89 languages and over 200 million copies of the board game have been sold. More than 500 million people have played the game. In addition, it has been adapted as a digital game. Monopoly is firmly entrenched as the most popular board game of all time.
Monopoly is a relative upstart compared to other popular board games.
The earliest known board game is known as”The Royal Game of Ur” or the”Game of 20 Squares”. This game was discovered at a 4,500-year-old tomb in southern Iraq. This game has been played throughout the Middle East for perhaps 1,000 years or more. In actuality, the rules of the game have been found in cuneiform tablets. Game aficionados can play this ancient game yet today, even though it has long ago faded from popularity.
Perhaps the oldest board game still popular now is chess, which first appeared in India from the sixth century A.D. By the year 1,000 it had been played throughout the Middle East and in Europe. The rules and game board design have evolved somewhat over the centuries, but the game is still very much the same as the ancient Indians played it. They could hardly have dreamed, however, of the world-class chess match play or the digital versions of this game we enjoy today.
Another very old, yet exceptionally popular board game is checkers, also known as draughts. A kind of checkers was being played by the Egyptian Pharaohs as early as 1600 B.C.. This game has also evolved over the centuries. Four hundred years later the rules involving catch were added, producing essentially the exact same game we play today.
There’s simply no way to tell how many copies of chess or checkers are sold or how many people have played these games. If the numbers were known, they would need to be really staggering.
Other top selling board games include Yahtzee, Scrabble, Mahjong, Trivial Pursuit, Battleship and the Risk game. The majority of these games have been developed throughout the 20th century and all are still big sellers and tremendously popular.
Most of them involve specific strategies of play. When these approaches are used successfully, the games are fun, challenging and intensely rewarding as players try to capture portions of the board or every other. Another common element in most of those board games is chance, or fortune. Luck is introduced usually by drawing cards or rolling dice. The element of opportunity opens up possibilities for much more strategies of play. A final important trait of these games is that in one way or another they reflect the lessons of life. They instruct competition and sportsmanship. They teach approach and the lesson of not giving up.
Perhaps that’s why Charles Darrow was so attracted to Monopoly. He believed that success comes by employing sound strategies to following a dream and never giving up. We’re glad that Darrow didn’t give up. We’re glad he did not throw the board game with 59 things wrong in the garbage bin as he left the Parker Brothers plant in 1934.