A look at New England’s long history of games and toys – CBS Boston
SALEM (CBS) – When everyone’s ripping and tearing these presents under the Christmas tree, there’s a good chance some of these toys were made right here in New England. Transformers. Nerve. GI Joe, Monopoly, and Game of Life all started right outside your door.
The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem has a game exhibit featuring the story of George S. Parker. He founded Parker Brothers in Salem in 1883.
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Parker Brothers created some of the most popular games we still play today.
âThey have a lot of really successful games,â says Paula Richter, curator at the Peabody Essex Museum. âThe monopoly is probably the best known. They started with things like Risk. And they also had games like Clue. And they were often games with a certain risk-taking or a little competitive spirit.
Meanwhile, a competitor took off about 100 kilometers from Springfield.
âMilton Bradley is a company that was founded in Massachusetts in 1860,â says James Zahn, editor of The Toy Insider. âThey had games that everyone knows today. The Game of Life, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Battleship and Connect Four.
Charlene DeLoach of The Toy Insider remembers playing The Game of Life.
âWe loved driving around the toy cars, seeing what kind of college education we could get or seeing how many kids we would have by putting those little pegs in the car,â DeLoach said.
And DeLoach says board games have never been more important to kids.
âThey can really improve learning. And you can change the experience so that every family can get what they need out of it, âshe said.
Now brands Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers live just across the border from Attleboro in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the home of Hasbro toys and a famous potato.
âThe first Mr. Potato Head product actually started off as spare parts,â says Eric Nyman, COO of Hasbro. âThe kid would take it home in the 1950s and put the parts in a real potato. It evolved over time into a boxed product made from plastic and all the parts could be personalized in different ways.
In the 1960s, Hasbro was ready to compete with Barbie, and GI Joe got his call of duty.
âThe ’60s had your 12 inch Joes,â says Chad Julian of That’s Entertainment in Worcester. “Dolls, or what a lot of guys don’t like to call them dolls, they’re action figures!” “
This line was a big hit, but decades later the kids were ready for something new.
â(GI Joe) was relaunched in the ’80s in a whole different way,â says Nyman. âGI Joe vs. Cobra, and good and bad. “
The figures were now much smaller, measuring 3.75 inches to rival Star Wars figures, and were a huge hit with wide appeal.
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âIt was one of the first toy lines that really offered a variety of characters for kids to play with,â Zah said. âThere were men. There were women. There were different ethnicities involved. It was something that no one else was really doing at the time.
For more than a decade, Hasbro has created some of the most memorable toys of all time.
âI think 1986 was when they brought out the USS Flagg, which was a 6-foot aircraft carrier,â says Julian. âIt was probably GI Joe’s biggest toy. You could put 100 Joes and a full-size plane on the carrier.
And the parade of good times of the 1980s didn’t end there.
Transformers entered the scene in 1984 and Hasbro was on a roll.
âThe story of transformers in the 1980s is phenomenal,â says Nyman. âIt was truly an amazing introduction to the world of disguised robots. And literally every car that passes you on the road, every truck that rolls on the freeway, could be an Autobot or a Decepticon.
The Shifting Robots had dozens of unforgettable characters and were often imitated, but never replicated.
âThey had the Go Bots, which were actually a forerunner of Tonka. But, they just weren’t that cool, âJulian says. “They didn’t have such complex moving parts.”
And Nyman reassured that the Transformers brand has a bright future.
âWe just announced a partnership with Paramount whose film will launch in June 2023,â said Nyman. “On the animated side, they’re also working closely with Paramount to create a whole new version of the animated storytelling that will launch in the years to come.”
This partnership with Paramount, owned by WBZ-TV’s parent company, Viacom CBS, also saw success with the recent movie “Snake Eyes”.
âI think we’re going to continue to see Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow continue to fight for years to come,â Nyman said.
And toy experts believe Hasbro will be in the hearts of children and adults for years to come.
âHasbro is something you might be introduced to when you’re a kid,â says DeLoach. “But it’s something that is part of your life for a lifetime.”
And Nyman says Hasbro might be an international company, but the company will also be remembered for its New England roots.
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“I think ultimately all roads lead back to Rhode Island when it comes to the soul of Hasbro and who we are.”