The history, evolution and global impact of one of the world’s most popular board games.
Going directly to jail may not rank high on most people’s lists of favorite things to do, but in the context of a board game invented in the early 1900s, it is an essential part of what has become a worldwide sensation. Orbanes (The Monopoly Companion, 1988) is chief judge in a Monopoly competition that has existed since 1979 and has held the lofty position of Senior Vice President of Research and Development at Parker Brothers, the company that continues to produce the game; as such, he is perfectly placed to produce this fascinating history of a phenomenon that continues to attract legions of fans. Orbanes begins by sketching out the origins of the property-trading game, originally called The Landlord’s Game. Lizzie Magie patented this incarnation of Monopoly in 1904, and the rules were finely honed over the years until George Parker bought the rights in 1935 and finalized the rules, turning it into the game that is still played today. The subsequent popularity of Monopoly across the globe is carefully pored over by the author, while interesting snippets of information, such as the lamentable destruction of almost all of the 1939 editions of The Landlord’s Game and Mussolini’s objection to the game being produced in Italy, help enliven the text. Orbanes also plots Monopoly’s rocky evolution, pointing out that the game hasn’t always been an unequivocal success, while also charting its glorious rise. He writes enthusiastically about the tournament over which he presides, detailing how the prize money has escalated over the years, and notes that Jay Walker—founder of Priceline—was once a contestant. Various versions of the game are listed alongside a reminder of the rules and photographs of vintage editions of the game.
The author’s clear love of the game is infectious, making for an enjoyable and entertaining read.