Dear Mr. Bradley,
My name is also Milton Bradley. For a long time I resented you. As I understand it you started your company as a lithography business in 1860. Do you know what your company has become? It was snatched up by Hasbro in the eighties. I thought I would go through some of the games that have made your name (and regrettably mine) so popular over the years.
“Barrel of Monkeys”:
This game basically involves picking up plastic monkeys by linking their arms together one at a time to create a “hilarious” chain of bright-red monkeys. Yes, this is a game. It is called “Barrel of Monkeys” because the monkey game-pieces are stored in a barrel. The competition as I understand it lies in trying to see how many monkeys you can link together. But you can only get so far before the people playing the game (mostly short children) cannot reach high enough into the air to keep the string alive. So basically the tallest kid always wins. What a way to boost the confidence of the vertically challenged child.
This mystery board game revolves around the solving of a murder. There are various clues and hints you go about finding to solve the mystery. Ultimately to win the game you have to correctly name the murderer, place of the murder, and murder weapon. One of the weapons is a lead pipe… need I say more? About the only thing this game positively teaches kids is how to spell the word Colonel… oh, and how to play “pretend killing” with one child stuck playing the roll of “the corpse” (perhaps alternatively named “dead-man Bradley”).
This game involves placing small ships of various sizes on a grid where your opponent must guess where your ships are and attempt to “sink” them. It positively reinforces naval regimes and downplays the horror of war, exemplified primarily by the winner of the game’s sinking his/her opponent’s battleship, which loser, with a sad face but overall whimsical nature merely exclaims (as the commercial instructs) “You sunk my battleship!” (palm of hands turned upward in “uh-oh” gesture). This game DOES however teach children the important role of the informant in war, exemplified when the child sitting beside you organizes a series of ship-telling signals with your opponent… even though that was CLEARLY cheating (Will Preston and David Mackee)…
In “Yahtzee,” each person must roll dice to create various sequences adding up to the largest total. This game inhumanly discriminates against the mathematically challenged person due to its impossible amount of addition of large numbers. Furthermore it tends to lead to fathers’ telling their sons that they are “disgraced” by their “complete lack of mathematical competence” in front of the boy’s friends.
“Mousetrap” is a game that involves winning various pieces of an elaborate… well, mousetrap. I find that children never actually PLAY the game, they just enjoy constructing the trap and catching the fake mouse over and over. I find this to be an early enforcement of animal abuse, where children are taught to be masochistic toward a defenseless mouse, and additionally as a green light to bully those children that may have mouselike qualities. All a young boy can do at that point is scurry away, really…
This game involves attempting to pick out little pieces of plastic in the shape of bones and major organs without touching the sides of the “incision.” If you DO touch the side, the game makes a loud buzzing noise and you must try again. NOW, I dunno about you, Mr. Bradley, but are YOU comfortable with children receiving mild electric shocks from your game? Because I did. That’s right, as I shakily tried to remove one of the plastic pieces my “scalpel” hit the “incision,” which caused the game to buzz at me until I felt a shock run up my arm and burn me around my metallic medi-alert bracelet (allergic to penicillin). My mother then whacked me in the back of the head with a broom to get me to drop the scalpel. I now have a scar in the design of the snake/staff emblem of medical alert on my wrist.
A similar game of suspense and skill, “Perfection” teaches children how to master the art of organizing pieces of a puzzle before the whole contraption pops up, throwing the pieces everywhere as a swift implication of failure. In short, this game teaches children how to desire the ultimate unachievable goal: perfection. Well, Mr. Bradley, as I was a young chess player who was forced to play team-sports in gym class, I was not exactly PERFECT at anything I was supposed to be PERFECT at. This is why I wet myself every time that DAMN timer went to zero and those pieces flew into my face, taunting my inability to work with my team. For awhile I couldn’t even write the word “perfect” without recoiling in fear and guilt. My therapist, John, has now worked me past that.
“Game of Life”:
In the “Game of Life” you must focus on receiving the following: marriage, children, and money. When I was little my neighbor was always better than me at this game. Today, as this letter exemplifies, I have nothing but time, because unlike my neighbor—who has a wife, a child, and a lot of money—I live by myself with my cat Buster and make very little money writing haikus about winter. But, as my therapist suggests, I must let go of these things in order to join MY game of life once more… but I am not a winner in YOUR game of life, Mr. Bradley, and I refuse to be.
Again I regret to inform you of such a MISUSE of your name on such inappropriate games, as I regret sharing my name with you.
Ben Rice (formerly Milton Bradley)
P.S.—Although this letter seems daunting, I assure you that after recently changing my name and becoming an uncle to my brother’s beautiful new baby girl, I am on my way to recovery.