Book Review: The Game Makers

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The Game Makers

by Philip E. Orbanes

Harvard Business School Press ©2004

245 pages

Inside the Tiddledy Winks And Monopoly Business

Philip Orbanes knows games. His colorful career as a game expert has included roles as president of a specialty game company, author of books about games, Monopoly championship judge, senior vice president of research and development at Parker Brothers, and inventor of many board and card games. Orbanes has expanded his knowledge of games by investigating the deepest details of the Parker Brothers game company and compiling his research into a complete company history. While journeying into the Parker Brothers’ archives and interviewing key players in the company’s saga, Orbanes found a plethora of colorful stories that center around the games the world has fallen in love with for 120 years.

A Teenage Genius

When George Swinnerton Parker was only 16 years old, he urged his two older brothers, Charles and Edward, to help him form Parker Brothers Inc. These visionary brothers and subsequent generations of the family would lead the firm to bring the world such classic games as Tiddledy Winks, Rook, Mah-Jonng, Ping-Pong, Monopoly, Clue, the modern jigsaw puzzle, and even the Nerf ball. Over the years, the company’s 2,000 products would both shape and reflect the values of a country that embraced its games through the Great Depression, two World Wars, and innumerable cultural changes.

George Parker was a gifted inventor who believed in the importance of rules in achieving success. Orbanes describes in detail the histories of many of the games that made the company famous as well as the underlying principles that George Parker used to guide his company to success and keep it alive through many hard times.

The company began in 1884 when George Parker tired of playing a popular game at the time, called The Mansion of Happiness, and decided to create a more interesting game that was based on earning lots of money instead of learning moral lessons. He was so convinced that the new game he had created, Banking, would be a hit that he used $50 he made selling currants picked from an orchard his father planted to print 500 copies of his game. Parker quickly learned he had a knack for publishing and selling games, and traveled to several nearby cities to sell his new creation. Soon, he had sold his inventory and cleared a profit of $80. By 1885, he had added more titles to his catalog and secured a deal with a New York wholesaler who agreed to sell his games throughout New England.

Play by the Rules

After many more winning business decisions and deals, and five years of success for his company, Parker and his family were on their way to becoming the best game company in the nation. As his business experience grew, he formulated 12 principles for business success. These principles are:

1. Know your goal and reach for it.

2. Find “winning moves.”

3. Play by the rules but capitalize on them.

4. Learn from failure; build upon success.

5. When faced with a choice, make the move with the most potential benefit versus risk.

6. When luck runs against you, hold emotion in check and set up for your next advance.

7. Never hesitate and give your opponents a second chance.

8. Seek help if the game threatens to overwhelm you.

9. Bet heavily when the odds are in your favor.

10. If opportunity narrows, focus on your strengths.

11. Be a gracious winner or loser. Don’t be petty. Share what you learn.

12. Ignore principles 1 to 11 at your peril! ~

Why We Like ThIS Book

The Game Makers tells a fascinating story of one man’s vision and the vast impact it could have on future generations. Orbanes’ account of the Parker Brothers’ saga goes beyond a simple business story and highlights the rich history of the company and games that have provided millions of people with common memories and experiences. ~

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