American board games
April 12, 2011
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There are lots of computer games, especially, but by no means only on 16-bit Windows, that are implementations of simple parlor games: board games, dice games, the like. Such games are usually freeware or shareware, and they have been made both by American and by European developers (for the rest of the world, I have too few samples to make a relevant statement), but there’s one big difference.
The American games of this kind very often emulate some game produced by Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers or some other company in this business. In some cases the designers go to great length to come as close to the look and feel of the original as possible. Some favorites are Black Box and Yahtzee. Games that have never been published by a company are significantly less attractive for American developers.
In Europe, the situation is exactly the other way round. Generic concepts are more popular here, pen and paper games that kids play at school often are the inspiration of the developers. Atoms, a concept similar to board games but born on 8-bit computers, seems to have been popular only in Europe. With Battleship, the American implementations stay closer to the Milton Bradley game, while European implementations either sport a pen and paper look or a fanciful artistic interpretation.
There’s a reason for that: designer board games, published by companies, patented or otherwise protected as IP, are an American invention. Milton Bradley was the pioneer, founded in 1860. Parker Brothers came in 1883. In Europe, there have been game publishers too for quite a while, Ravensburger in Germany is as old as Parker Brothers. But even though they may have claimed trademarks on this or that, their games have never been identified with them in the same way. They have always been seen like the manufacturers of playing cards or chess boards, to produce the physical means, but not the games themselves.