Barcelona 2002 Colloquium

--{ Barcelona 2002 }--

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Board Games in Academia V


Bruce Whitehill

Games to Cure a Depression

With the collapse of the stock market in the United States in 1929 came the Great Depression. Businesses failed, and unemployed workers waited on bread lines for food. Two commercial diversions remained within reach because of the low costs involved: going to movies and buying games. Jig-saw puzzles became popular. Backgammon was revived. Table golf games thrived, owing to the new popularity of miniature golf. "NRA" and "TVA" became initials on some gameboards as The National Recovery Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority tried to fight the economic inertia. The Century of Progress, a 1933 international exposition, hinted at economic recovery and offered a new theme for game manufacturers.

The Depression wasn't felt by the game industry until around 1932. Games of high finance became popular, and, in 1934, Parker Bros. brokered a deal to produce a folk game called "Monopoly". Recovery during 1936 and 1937 was substantial.

As the U.S. kept a close watch on a Europe readying itself for war, new game companies emerged and others changed from selling different products to producing games.

This presentation is designed to examine the effect of the Depression on the development, manufacturing, and playing of American board games during the 1930s.

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