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Patti Ritter: Token tally leads to game-on attitude

Although embracing change isn't always easy, I'll have no problem with one change that's coming soon.

I'm ready for Hasbro to bring it on.

If you haven't heard, the game and toy maker recently announced plans to retire one of its classic Monopoly tokens and replace it with a new one, based on votes cast by the public at Facebook.com/Monopoly.

Horrors! Hurrah! Or ho-hum?

Frankly, whichever token goes by the wayside is fine with me, but the same can't be said for everyone. Earlier this month AAA Mid-Atlantic issued a news release urging motorists to "take action now - to save the Monopoly race car player token."

Those who wanted to rally behind the car were encouraged to join in the social media campaign, casting their votes by the Feb. 5 deadline.

Of course if the race car stays, that means either the Scottie dog, wheelbarrow, shoe, top hat, thimble, iron or battleship will reach the end of its tokenhood. Then there's the mystery of which token will instead grace the game: the diamond ring, guitar, toy robot, cat or helicopter.

When Hasbro announces the online poll's democratic outcome, the deleted token will become a bit of gaming trivia and another token will take its place. But I won't be among those voting because, as much as I may be a crusader for causes, I just can't bring myself to care about this manufactured Monopoly matter.

It's only a game, after all, and games aren't important. Or are they?

Even as I was being dismissive of Hasbro's worldwide token tally, I found myself reminiscing about the board games that were once part of my life.

I had played Monopoly often in my childhood, and especially enjoyed marathon sessions with a neighbor during our summer break from school. A friendship was forged over those games.

As a kid, I also happily played other board games with friends and family. I have fond memories of Chutes and Ladders and Uncle Wiggily. They weren't challenging, but they were whimsical and just plain fun.

There was The Game of Life, where I got to have little pink and blue pegs represent children nestled in my tiny plastic car that traveled around the game board, and Clue, a whodunit requiring finesse and attention to detail.

By the time I reached middle school, my favorite board game was Score-A-Word, something akin to Scrabble. I played that game for hours on end with my parents and learned many words - how to spell them as well as what they meant. I grew ever more determined to match my youthful vocabulary against that of grown-ups. I proudly accumulated lots of points with words, words and more words, strategically placed on the board.

I became a junior wordsmith thanks to that game, and my interest in the English language sprouted.

It can even be said my marriage and my career are rooted in Score-A-Word.

According to my husband, my vocabulary was what impressed him most when we first met. Not exactly what a girl longs to hear, I grant you, but thankfully it's an attribute not subject to wrinkling or weight gain.

And having a fair command of words is certainly helpful when working at a newspaper, as I have for more than two decades.

Yet, despite the pleasure and purpose served by board games, nowadays I rarely play them. Being a sci-fi fan, I own a Star Wars version of the Monopoly game, but only bring that out when my godchildren visit from Alabama. My Star Trek Trivia Game is in storage and so is the Scrabble board.

I'm not sure why I've gotten away from board games, other than the busyness and seriousness of adult life. Looking back has helped me realize, however, that I should make time for playing them. If the "mature" self needs an excuse, here are three: They are good for relaxing, building relationships and keeping the mind sharp.

For those, like me, who might want to get back into board games, winter is a great season to rediscover the enjoyment and togetherness they can offer. The church I attend is having Game Night for Families & the Community in February and I'm going to be there, hoping to play some old favorites and maybe even try a new game or two.

I still don't care which classic Monopoly token is eliminated or which is added. They just better not start messing with my Star Wars tokens.

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