Game Makers

Game Makers

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The Game Makers is the story of George S. Parker and his brother's establishment of one of the biggest gaming empires in the history of gaming. The author, Philip E. Orbanes, examines the history of Parker Brothers throughout the one hundred years of its existence. This book is an educational and informative journey through the life of the Parker Brothers. He provides a quick, but descriptive story that covers everything from their first office in Salem, to the publishing of Monopoly in 1935, then making and losing millions developing and publishing games for the Atari VCS in 1982, to the closing of the Parker Brothers Salem office in 1991, including a slightly awkward period of Orbanes' hiring in 1979 to his resignation in 1990.
What drives The Game Makers as a compelling text is George S. Parker's ability to control company management. He ran the company, continued to contribute to the product line and kept his personal ego for Parker Brothers on track. The best part of the book came when it talks about the mistakes of his successors, how their deviations from George Parker's belief, and their mistakes, would eventually cause the company to fumble and not be the dominating company it once was. This decline occurred due to the downfall of an American institution as a result of pride, ego, and power struggles. The Parker Brothers tried breaking into the market of video games by developing star wars and a version of frogger for the Atari 2600. During this downfall they were completely focused on trying to become a great video game industry. They overworked their department and mismanaged the electronics department. While doing all this they didn't think anything was wrong because they had the name the Parker Brothers and they believed that anyone would enjoy the games they came out with. It's the story of a company that grew too large too fast. They lacked the ability to look at the company and the gaming world rationally and instead rushed into to many projects at once.
George S. Parker had self imposed rules that he followed as he made his company an empire. Even though they were his rules the company should have followed them because they probably would have lasted longer. After reading Mr. Parkers' 12 tenets for running a good business, it was clear that he new how to be a leader and how to manage his company.

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These weren't just principles; these are rules, rules for the game of a corporation. George S. Parker prided himself on the accuracy of his rules in his games, and this is no exception. These rules should have been engraved into the top of his table so his successors would have been forced to read them every day, to realize that their management practices went against not only the ethics of the company, but the rules set out by industry. The presidents that floated through Parker Brothers' final years, those who saw the red ink overflow might have been able to pay attention to principles four and ten. But they didn't, and now Parker Brothers is just another name along the timeline of gaming companies.
George Parker was ahead of his time in the sense that he new how to manage a company of the future. The way George ran his company reminded me of the leadership principles that I have learned about this year throughout my business classes. He was able to encourage his workers by giving them individual bonuses. He would walk around in his office and simply hand out money as bonuses to the people he felt were doing above average work. He also led by example by coming up with the 12 principles he wanted his company to follow. George himself followed these principles and this is why he was such an effective leader. Since George Parker was always coming up with cutting edge games, the people that worked around him were inspired to do there best to impress him. Mr. Parker's ideas were innovative and in many ways he challenged the process at the time he was developing his company. No other game making companies could keep up with the Parker Brothers at the time they game into the industry in the late 1800's. The reason for this was due to the leadership qualities of George S. Parker.

The Game Makers contains a great amount of information and detail about Parker Brothers and its games, from Camelot to Nerf, including a detailed look into Mah-Jongg and Ping-Pong. Many of Parker Brothers' classic games wouldn't exist today if someone hadn't brought them to the company. Orbanes explains in detail the process of many of the more popular and influential games, such as Monopoly. The gaming industry no longer allows ideas to come from amateurs due to the legal issues that may arise. While it may be necessary to not allow amateurs to do this it is hard not to wonder what unpublished games might have been the next "Monopoly" if the industry did not stop allowing the ideas to be brought to them.
Regardless, there's quite a bit for video gamers and any one who plays video or board games to learn from The Game Makers, ranging from a selective history of paper gaming to business and manager technique. Even though the amount of information was great, it is a slightly awkward read because of a number of stories that, to me, fail to bring anything meaningful, but it is a valuable text if for no other reason to learn from the crash and burn of an established company.
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