Miss Flame in the Bedroom with the Shoe: 4 Board Games that Changed With The Culture

Plenty of board games have debuted special editions, integrated electronics (who wants to roll dice anymore, anyways?), and upgraded to fancy carved pieces. But here are four classic games that had to change their rules just to stay relevant in the culture around them.

1. The Game of Life

Photo by user c.a. muller

Unsurprisingly, the quintessential American culture game has gone through quite a few changes to keep up with American culture. From the first printing of the modern version in 1960, the dollar amounts have gone up in each new edition to keep track with inflation (it just wouldn't make sense to keep paying $40,000 for a mansion). In keeping with the rising cost of education, the game's college debt has increased from $40,000 in the 1992 edition to $100,000 today. The game has also added do-gooder spaces and replaced the original "poor farm" ending with a retirement option. Even the game piece has changed -- in 1980, the vehicle was switched from a convertible to a mini-van to reflect the cars families were really driving.

2. Scrabble

Scrabble's official dictionaries have seen several changes to adapt to evolving language. New editions have integrated slang words, like a 2011 update to Collins Official Scrabble Words (the official list for British players) that added worlds like "grrl," "thang" and "blingy." In another high-profile incident, complaints from interest groups led to authors of the American counterpart, The Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary to remove nearly 200 offensive words from its 1996 edition, including Jew (defined: "to bargain with"), fatso, fart, gringo and some four-letter curses. Eventually the words were allowed back in for official tournament lists, but were removed in the dictionaries for school and club use.

But nothing will compare to the purist outrage felt in 2010 when Mattel announced that it was updating Scrabble to allow for (gasp!) proper nouns in a bid to expand the game's popularity. The rules were actually for a spinoff game called Scrabble Trickster and Mattel said the original would remain capitalization-free.

3. Monopoly

When the British company Waddingtons took up the American Monopoly, they had to make some obvious changes. The locations were all replaced with London streets and properties and the dollars were swapped out for British pounds. But one of the more interesting changes was also one of the more subtle -- the normal income tax square was replaced with flat tax (in the U.S. version, you can pay either 10 percent of your holdings or a $200 fee) and the luxury tax was replaced with a higher "super tax" to align with actual British tax codes.

Photo by user Tostie14

4. Clue

In its original patented form, Clue, or Cluedo, actually had ten characters, nine weapons and 11 rooms, far more than made the final cut. But international editions have made some unusual changes to the game, including some unusual choices of weapons. The Japanese version, for example, replaces the wrench, candlestick and lead pipe with an iron, a trunk and, most suspiciously, a shoe (check out some of the game cards here). A Spanish version of the game not only changes the host's name from Mr. Boddy to Dr. Lemon, but also switches the rooms in his manor around to include a bedroom, solving the age-old question of where anybody slept. And the character of Miss Scarlet has been renamed in several international editions, largely owing to "scarlet woman" being slang for prostitute. In Greece, she's known as "Ms. Flame" and in a Spanish version she's identified as "Senorita Amapola," or "Ms. Poppy."

"American Mall," Bloomberg
Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]

Live Smarter
Why the Soundtracks to Games Like 'Mario' or 'The Sims' Can Help You Work

When I sat down to write this article, I was feeling a little distracted. My desk salad was calling me. I had new emails in my inbox to read. I had three different articles on my to-do list, and I couldn't decide which to start first. And then, I jumped over to Spotify and hit play on the theme to The Sims. As I listened to the upbeat, fast-paced, wordless music, my writing became faster and more fluid. I felt more “in the zone,” so to speak, than I had all morning. There's a perfectly good explanation: Video games provide the ideal productivity soundtrack. At Popular Science, Sara Chodosh explains why video game music can get you motivated and keep you focused while you work, especially if you're doing relatively menial tasks. It's baked into their composition.

There are several reasons to choose video game music over your favorite pop album. For one, they tend not to have lyrics. A 2012 study of more than 100 people found that playing background music with lyrics tended to distract participants while studying. The research suggested that lyric-less music would be more conducive to attention and performance in the workplace. Another study conducted in open-plan offices in Finland found that people were better at proofreading if there was some kind of continuous, speechless noise going on in the background. Video game music would fit that bill.

Plus, video game music is specifically made not to distract from the task at hand. The songs are meant to be listened to over and over again, fading into the background as you navigate Mario through the Mushroom Kingdom or help Link save Zelda. My friend Josie Brechner, a composer who has scored the music for video games like the recently released Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, says that game music is definitely written with this in mind.

"Basically, successful video game music straddles the balance between being engaging and exciting, but also not wanting to make you tear your ears off after the 10th or 100th listen," Brechner says. Game music often has a lot of repetition, along with variation on musical themes, to keep the player engaged but still focused on what they're playing, "and that translates well to doing other work that requires focus and concentration."

If you're a particularly high-strung worker, you might want to tune into some relaxing classical music or turn on a song specifically designed to calm you. But if you want to finish those expense reports on a Monday morning, you're better off choosing a fast-tempo ditty designed for seemingly pointless activities like making your Sims eat and go to the toilet regularly. (It can help you with more exciting work responsibilities, too: Other research has found that moderate background noise can increase performance on creative tasks.)

These types of songs work so well that there are entire playlists online devoted just to songs from video game soundtracks that work well for studying. One, for instance, includes songs written for The Legend of Zelda, Skyrim, Super Smash Bros., and other popular games.

The effect of certain theme songs on your productivity may, however, depend on your particular preferences. A 2010 study of elementary school students found that while calming music could improve performance on math and memory tests, music perceived as aggressive or unpleasant distracted them. I was distracted by the deep-voiced chanting of the "Dragonborn Theme" from Skyrim, but felt charged up by the theme from Street Fighter II. There's plenty of variety in video game scores—after all, a battle scene doesn't call for the same type of music as a puzzle game. Not all of them are going to work for you, but by their nature, you probably don't need a lot of variation in your work music if you're using video game soundtracks. If you can play a game for days on end, you can surely listen to the same game soundtrack over and over again.

[h/t Popular Science]


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