Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Service of Losing to Win Time: Do Kids Benefit?

Monday, April 23rd, 2018



Five years ago I wrote about toys and board games “light,” called “snack toys” by the industry because they are rigged to take less time for parents to play with their children than traditional Monopoly, Parcheesi and other games. Time continues to be a premium along with patience.

Today some parents cheat so their kids will win quickly or turn to technology to accelerate the process. Greg Bensinger wrote in The Wall Street Journal that parents “are palming cards, strategically adding pieces when the children aren’t looking and sometimes outright lying. Not without irony, some parents have used technology to make games go faster.”

In “Parents Rig Board Games To Lose Faster,” Bensinger reported that “Sales of games and puzzles in the U.S. grew 27% between 2015 and last year, hitting $2.09 billion, according to NPD Group Inc., far outpacing sales growth for all toys.”


Data analyst Ethan Markowitz’s son can’t get enough of Chutes and Ladders. He “says there are nine ladders and 10 chutes, ‘which means a bias toward losing.’ So he programmed a simulation of 10,000 two-player games, which showed the dreariness could last as many as 146 turns. His solution was to tape a new ladder to the board between space 47 and 72. That lowered the longest game to 110 moves.”

Another father, Barry Wise, president of a data analytics company, “suggests eliminating the longest chute, spanning square 87 to 24.” He “ran his own simulations of the popular games 200,000 times.” Wise recommends “avoiding Candy Land, with its 3.4% chance of running longer than 75 moves (compared with 0.76% for Chutes and Ladders), or eliminating the rule of sending pieces backward.”


One mother in the article hesitates to let her daughter win all the time as it doesn’t prepare her for life, though she admits to “miscounting spaces” to her daughter’s advantage to get the game to end sooner. Another told her teenage kids that she’d cheated when they were small, hiding the best cards and giving them to each during the game. She resorted to this because otherwise the “one quick game before bed” lasted endlessly so she felt forced to find a shortcut. Her kids don’t let her forget it.

“Hasbro Inc. plans this June to release a Cheaters Edition of Monopoly….The new edition will reward players who can, say, move a rival’s piece without notice or collect rent for an opponent’s property.” The impetus for this version wrote the reporter: More than half of respondents to a survey admitted to cheating at the game.

According to Bensinger, Candy Land “stands apart as the patron saint of board-game monotony.” Hasbro encourages people to change the rules as they see fit.

When you were a kid, what were your favorite games? Did you play mostly with your parents, siblings or friends? Do you think adults have always cheated to end games faster or to let a child win? Did you cheat when playing with kids? Do you think you should always let a kid win or only sometimes? Are you surprised at the resurgence of popularity of traditional games?


Service of How Much Will You Do to Win a Prize?

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

winning raffle ticket

It’s fun to win a prize which is why raffles are so popular, lucrative for charities and an easy way to gather business cards at events, at retail, restaurants and other businesses. It’s one thing to pull out a card from wallet or handbag and another to work for the prize. The question is, how hard will you try?


coupon 4A friend hoped to receive a $75 coupon from a major retailer. First she posted something about the brand and the offer on Facebook; next she sent it to 15 friends and after doing that, learned she had to share it with groups. She wrote, “That’s when I gave up.”


After a major or minor purchase I’m willing to fill out a survey and several times have stopped after only a few questions, even if there’s promise of a major prize for one of the respondents. I’m happy to share my impressions of a product or service, and to provide additional comments to flesh out why I clicked 10 or one to indicate “great” or “lousy.” SurveyHere’s my limit: I don’t want my personal information flying around the Internet any more than it already does, nor do I want to land in that brand’s metadata pool to receive every advert popup it deems perfect for me. Ask me my income, age, weight and lock me on that question so I can’t move to the next one if I don’t respond, and you’ve lost me.


A grocery store I go to on occasional Saturdays was conducting a Monopoly game. You’d be given tiny pieces to stick on the game board depending on how much you bought. It was easy to match the pieces to the board while watching TV. I never came close to winning any of the many prizes as most of the new pieces duplicated ones I already had. I never bought anything I didn’t need in order to get more pieces so the store and I came out even: neither won. The game–the first I remember playing–was over this week.

Have you received generous coupons for completing tasks or won any of the prizes online surveys tempt you with, or stopped when you didn’t like the personal information survey takers asked for or won a grocery store game? How much will you do to win a prize or do you never bother? Do you think survey takers care less about how you rate their products and really want to know more about their customers?

Acme winning Monopoly game board

Service of Snack Toys for Time-Pressed Kids: Scrabble, Monopoly, Rubik’s Cube

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

kids playing games 5 vintage

I clearly remember game nights with prizes–small favors–that my sister produced for the family. I don’t recall whether we played Parcheesi, canasta or gin rummy, but I loved the time together.

I thought of those events while reading Ann Zimmerman’s article, “Toys for Tight Schedules Why Toy Makers Are Creating Shorter-Playing Toys—and One Monopoly Version Even Jettisoned the Jail,” in The Wall Street Journal. She says that the industry calls the category “snack toys.”

Timer 2One manufacturer noted that essential information parents want to see on packaging, along with the age and number of players, is how long it takes to play the game.

Some examples of snack toys that join quick versions of Uno, Yahtzee, Boggle and Rubik’s Cubes include Scrabble Flash which takes 2+ minutes to play and Monopoly Empire. The idea with Monopoly Empire is to accumulate big brands and it takes 30 minutes. Zimmerman wrote: “There is no longer a ‘jail’ for players to languish in while waiting for a lucky roll.” She quoted Jonathan Berkowitz, vice president of marketing at Hasbro that produces the game:  “Parents and children tell us they want a quick in-and-out, frictionless gaming experience.”

Watching TV and TabletZimmerman reported: “A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that children between the ages of 8 and 18 are filling their free time with more screen-based media consumption, from digital games to TV and video viewing. Between 2004 and 2009, young people increased the amount of media they consumed by more than one hour and a half to almost 7½ a day. The number does not include multi-tasking—children simultaneously watching TV and playing digital games on their smartphone, for example.”

About the traditional games played with magnets she quoted a parent who claimed they built motor skills. But Sandy Schefkind asserted the same about games on tablets. Schefkind, the pediatric coordinator for the American Occupational Therapy Association added that “traditional toys add ‘the social-interactive and social-exchange piece that the tablet doesn’t give.'”

I got lost in the next paragraph because the quote seemed to contradict the statistic that Zimmerman attributed to Matel surveys. They “show that more than 60% of parents would like their children to spend more time with traditional toys. ‘There is tension there,’ says Michael Shore, vice president of global consumer insights at the company, ‘because young parents are spending more of their time on social media, modeling that behavior.'”

That’s why I suspect parents are the primary impetus for the portable, fast versions of games that Zimmerman says are also easier to clean up. [What’s to clean up with a game on a tablet?] Time for play of any kind is not top-of-mind for a child who devotes from 1.5 to 7.5 hours a day on “screen-based media consumption.”

kids playing games monopolyZimmerman admitted “as toy makers strive to make games shorter, the opportunity to develop strategic thinking skills may be lost.”

Can’t blame manufacturers for selling what people want to buy but do you think parents realize that snack toys lose benefits of traditional games such as learning to play face-to-face with others and honing strategic thinking? What about discovering patience? How many challenges are solved at work in from two to 30 minutes? Whom can we depend on in future to perfect the stick-to-it-disposition required to perform cancer research, write thoughtful plays, movie scripts and books to reach a reliable diagnosis when symptoms and tests are inconclusive, to repair or create a mosaic, or to accomplish what you do for a living?

Scientific Research

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