Few things beat being 12-years-old and staying up all night playing board games with your siblings. But have you ever wondered about the origins of some of your all-time favorite games?
While most of today’s popular board games deal with seemingly tame concepts, a lot of the classics have darker beginnings than you might expect.
1. The original version of Guess Who? seriously lacked diversity.
According to a video from Cracked, the original version of this childhood favorite featured only one black character, Anne, in a sea of white characters.
A few editions later, Anne was redrawn as an older white woman, making every single character in the game white. Hasbro has since redesigned the board to feature a more racially diverse set of people.
2. Surprise! Chinese Checkers also has a racist history.
As it turns out, there is absolutely nothing Chinese — or even Asian — about the popular strategy game. According to HowStuffWorks, the game was first published by a German company, before J. Pressman & Co. brought it to America.
Pressman named it Chinese Checkers as a marketing ploy to tap into America’s fascination with the Asia and the Middle East sparked by the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. The original version of this game featured insensitive and stereotyped depictions of Chinese culture, a design that has since been retired.
3. Chutes and Ladders is a lot heavier than you think.
Before it was marketed in the U.S. as Chutes and Ladders, this game was known as Snakes and Ladders (it is still known by that name in certain parts of the world). According to eHow, the game originated in India, and was meant to teach children the value of good deeds and the negative impacts of bad deeds. Ladders represented sound morality and snakes represented vices and poor judgement. Ponder that next time you’re looking to play a relaxed game of this childhood favorite.
4. Monopoly let Depression-era Americans pretend they were rich.
When Milton Bradley introduced Monopoly to the public in 1935, it gave people a much-desired diversion from economic turmoil. As the Washington Post explains, Depression-era folks enjoyed pretending to be rich and successful for an afternoon. This would explain why the game sold a quarter-million sets by the end of 1935 and 2 million in its first 18 months on the market.
Kind of a bummer, right? But worse than this is the suspicion that Monopoly‘s concept was stolen from an already-patented game called The Landlord’s Game. According to Businessweek, the game, created by Elizabeth Magie about 10 years earlier, also featured property owenership, railroad lines and renting.
5. The original version of LIFE featured suicide.
While today’s version of The Game of Life is generally pretty cheery, its original version featured some pretty dark gameplay options. These included, most notably, suicide.
According to the Roy Rozenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, the game — originally titled The Checkered Game of Life — was invented during the Civil War and became immensely popular. This is despite the fact that the original board featured a suicide square, which meant an immediate loss for the unlucky player.