Bankers are among the most widely-adored and noble people in Western society. Graciously celebrated for their generous and selfless acts of charity, these underpaid superstars of the City are the real heroes of civilisation in the minds of millions.
Little boys and girls across the world idly daydream about the care-free but cautious world of commodity prices, futures markets and derivatives.
Thank God then, that they can capture the spirit of those fearless financial services workers in the 1986 board game Strike it Rich.
Offering a micro-glimpse into the beating heart of financial markets, Strike it Rich pits players aginst each other and against the volatility of FTSE as they gamble fortunes on the whims of UK economics.
Modern players can rejoice at the failed enterprises of yesteryear, gleefully plunging their fortunes into companies that they know would someday go bankrupt. Part of the fun is just recognising and smiling at the dated brands that have since been amalgamated or updated somehow.
The game itself is actually quite ruthless, using real-world data in a reference book combined with a dash of random chance to simulate the experience of fluctuating share prices amidst semi-fictional personal and global events.
This, of course, makes being successful at the game just as difficult as it is to invest wealth in real life, meaning vast sums of money can be won and lost in the blink of an eye, even at the hands of the most strategic and informed investors.
It also makes the game rather complicated to follow, as it throws all sorts of complex data points at players, expecting that they’ll have the insight to correlate, say, the current price of gold with the future price of sterling or the Bank of England’s interest rate.
There is also a strangely unhealthy obsession with the cost of parenthood, as investors will face a number of costly fees relating to the rearing of their otherwise irrelevant children.
Perhaps the creator was shafted after a few risky bets on the stock markets, losing everything he had in the process. Maybe the ensuing arguments with his wife put increasing pressure on the marriage, eventually resulting in divorce and expensive child maintenance obligations. He’d have to sell the house; find somewhere smaller. It wasn’t meant to turn out like this.
Sat on the stained, tattered sofa in his one-bed studio apartment, he throws back yet another glass of cheap whiskey. The small, monochrome TV in front of him shows the grainy image of American oil drama Dallas, reminding him of the lavish lifestyle he was once in tantalisingly close to touching.
Why did it happen to me? I could have just played it safe. It was unfair. Why did she have to leave? She took everything. That bitch. They’re my kids too. How fucking dare she, who does she fucking think she is anyway?
God I miss her. What I wouldn’t give for just one more night. One more embrace. The scent of her neck, the look in her … but no. It’s unhealthy to think like this. Not again, Phil. Remember what Dr Murdoch said. Turn the TV off. One last whiskey and then to bed. Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow will be better.
And tomorrow was different. In his bitter reaction to give up the drink and make something of himself he would make a board game, maybe finally something his kids would be proud of. Perhaps even something they could play together? Yes. That way they’d grow up knowing it wasn’t daddy’s fault, and that the markets are inherently cruel, opaque and unforgiving. Merciless, even.
Enter Strike it Rich, the game that recreates that experience. It comes complete with indulgent luxuries available to players with no real consequence to the gameplay, and an overwhelming array of seemingly unconnected information for budding investors. Try and beat the system and the system will only beat you.
There are even ways to meet the other sorrowful, burned victims of the City. The box includes invitations to the grand 1987 Strike It Rich tournament and the nationwide Strike It Rich Membership club, presumably both places that players can seek solace and comfort from other broken men chewed up and spat out by the banks. A broker divorcees support group.
Meanwhile the markets power on, unrelenting in their unsentimental pursuit of wealth and power. Even the calculator included in the game somehow still works, a faded but chilling symbol that you can can’t shut them down. Not even 2008, when it all came apart. Nothing really changed. They’re all still alive. They’ll find a way. The only person to truly lose out is you. The market will always be there, mocking you.
Strike it Rich. Buy it in stores thirty years ago.