Shorter games lack value

becky.korpi and becky.korpi

A few years ago during an intense game of “Scrabble,” my mom put down the word “peone” on a double letter score and beat me by 40 points. As an English major, I like to consider my vocabulary fairly diverse, but playing against a woman who has years of crossword puzzles under her belt makes us evenly matched. The Peone Incident, as I’ve taken to calling it, is the biggest upset of my “Scrabble” career thus far.

It wasn’t until six months later that I discovered she’d pulled a fast one – it’s actually spelled “peony,” and she knew I wouldn’t question her spelling. Despite her shenanigans, I love playing the game with her and making memories we can’t get watching TV.

Which is why I was bothered when I read in a “Wall Street Journal” article last month that Hasbro Inc.– the producer of over 40 board games — is planning on releasing “express” versions of “Scrabble,” “Sorry” and “Monopoly” that can be finished in 20 minutes or less.

I don’t recall being able to even pass Go and collect $200 in that short span of time.

Hasbro came to this decision after communicating with global networks of game inventors, surveying customers online and observing thousands of children and adults playing games at the division’s headquarters, according to the article.

“People don’t have time to play a game for three hours, so we’re asking ourselves how we can leverage brands so they can be played in smaller time frames,” said Jill Hambley, a vice president of marketing at Hasbro in an interview for the “Wall Street Journal.”

For as long as I can remember, Hasbro has had commercials encouraging families to take time out of their hectic schedules to play a game together weekly. Hasbro’s Web site even has a list of recommended board games for families. For the company to do a sudden about-face and create “express” games sends a mixed message — spend time with your family, but go back to your separate lives after 20 minutes.

Families today often spend more time together watching TV than doing an activity that requires them to interact with each other. This cultural shift should be remedied, not condoned; especially by a company that produces board games.

Despite competition with videogames and pop culture television, sales in Hasbro games rose 11 percent last year according to their Web site. I would understand the need for new marketing strategies if Hasbro was experiencing major losses, but the regular games that require at least an hour seem to be selling well.

In a lot of games including “Monopoly,” the instruction manual specifies how to finish the game in a shorter amount of time, but Hasbro is of the belief that this either isn’t enough or that nobody reads the instructions.

To their credit, Hasbro has expressed no interest in ceasing or slowing production of the regular versions of the games, but if this new “express” idea catches on, we might as well continue to eat dinner and watch TV in separate rooms, because you can’t take every last dollar from your friends in “Monopoly” in less than an hour. And when two of your pieces get bumped off the board in “Sorry,” you don’t stand a chance unless you have plenty of time to fight back.

In “Scrabble,” it’s true that it only took my mom a few minutes to find the non-word “peone” in her tiles and devastate me, but if you count the time it took me to conjure up my futile counterattacks and include the minutes I needed to sulk afterwards, it seems like Hasbro has forgotten what it’s like to experience a game, not just play it.