I went online recently to buy my favourite board game: Othello. Or should I say re-buy? My grandmother still has the set on which I learned to play, stacked on a high shelf with Candyland and Hungry Ant, bingo, a baby animal memory game, and the little-known word-game Probe.
My family’s smaller travel set, a hinged green plastic box that flipped open, has been lost. Sold, perhaps, with our minivan, along with action figures stuck beneath the floor mats. Othello, with its baize gridded board, black-and-white pieces, Helvetica logo, and roll-top storage slots would seem to have timeless design. Mass-market yet elegant, each element had a purpose and all of these came together in a tidy package nice enough to leave out on the coffee table.
Of course, they’d messed it up. New Othello has a blue plastic board with curved, muscular edges, as if Old Othello had started drinking protein shakes. New Othello has shrunken chips and a board that flexes as you play. New Othello abandons the old, ominous-yet-exciting tagline “A minute to learn… a lifetime to master” for “Simple, fast-flipping fun!” New Othello sees itself in competition with sports. Old Othello didn’t have to beg for your attention.