Monday, November 21, 2005

Some young cousins of mine were in town last week, and I was sent on a mission of buying a 'good board game' for them. Thus it was that I entered the toy section of Crossword after several years.
To backtrack just a little, I did enter a toy store in Bangalore a couple of months back - the famouse Landmark, in the Forum multiplex, and was *very* impressed by the range of toys there. Reminded me forcefully of how long ago my 'childhood days' were, and how much things have changed since then. Even saw Sandman Graphic Novels there - humongously priced, but still, available. Perhaps they'll have a clearance sale at lower prices someday ;).
But that day I didn't notice the board games section. In all probability it was better than Crossword. For now I only had Crossword, though.
Let me get the facts out of the way - I ended up buying a game called Reversi, AKA Othello, which you could play online here if you like.
But before I bought it, I read through the blurbs of the games on sale. People who follow such things, or who spent time in the US in the 80s, will find the games familiar : The Game of Life, Mastermind, Battleship, Monopoly, Avalanche, Cluedo, Trivial Pursuit, Funny Pony, Any number of cartoon-character-themed-throw-dice-and-advance games, Guess Who?, Connect 4, Twister, Scotland Yard, Snakes and Ladders, Ludo.
Now here's the funny thing. Except for the last two of that list (which are traditional games here), all of the rest of these games are basically Milton-Bradley and Mattel products, produced under license here in India. None of these are new games produced here, none of them are brainchilds (brainchildren?) of Indians. Yes, there are a few desi games there too : Picnic comes to mind. It's the worst sort of throw-dice-and-advance game. Just by looking at the packaging and concept, a 5-year-old kid could separate the desi games and the phoren games.
There's a further rider to this. Note the name 'Funny Pony' which I slipped in there. Frankly, I hadn't heard of this one before, so I took it out and looked at it carefully. Here's a desi website selling the same thing. The packaging rang a bell, and I came back home and Googled. Here's the relevant result. I got this list of the 'Top 100' games for kids in the 80s in the US from BoingBoing, and on the page above, at number 84, is a game called 'Buckaroo!'. See the resemblance to 'Funny Pony'? Except the packaging of 'Funny Pony' removes all wild west references and turns a plastic mule into a plastic pony. So basically, they're repackaging 2nd-rate games from the 80s and selling them here now. If you go through the complete list of 100 and then stroll over to Crossword, you'll find many more of the games available there.

Why must the stores be full of old 80s board games from the US? Why are we so despicably bad at creating and marketing our own childrens' games? I wouldn't mind the newest games from there being available here - that would mean an open market. But these games - so many of them are outdated and second-rate, it's ridiculous. Even the computer games section in Crossword is more up-to-date, atleast in the mainstream actioners - they have Quake 4, for example.

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