Quarantine has silver-lining for longtime good-clean-fun provider Slam the Door!
Americans of a certain age all have classic board games that they love: Scrabble and Othello and Monopoly, of course, but also Parcheesi and Risk, Life and Clue, Stratego and the rest.
As the country comes to terms with coronavirus and new protocols for staying inside, all of those games have been beneficiaries.
But no game has enjoyed a stronger comeback than Slam the Door! Originally invented in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania in the 1930s by an enterprising hardware store owner named Howard Farrier, Slam the Door started life as a way for Farrier to entertain his children and grandchildren.
“My father was his grandson,” said Betty Satterfield, an Ann Arbor-based educator. “He used to tell me about playing and how much fun it was, and then he would try to get our whole family to play. When I was a kid, I didn’t completely understand the rules, what a brick was and what a paper clip was, and how you could get from one lake to another by way of Red Bridge or Blue Bridge, but if you backed up one space, you lost all your pemmican. Even so, it was fun.”
Farrier became obsessed with building out the rules of the game, so much so that he closed up his hardware store. His risk paid off. Three years later, he sold Slam the Door! to national game publisher Laurentis and Teller. It instantly became a national sensation, marketed as “The Game That Calls Your Name.”
Slam the Door! enjoyed two decades of popularity and then waned in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when television began to dominate the imagination of young Americans. “Kids didn’t play games as much,” said Seymour Bolingbroke, a game analyst with RedYellow. “They watched TV more. Television took up more of their time, and board games less. There was a movement in habits toward television and away from board games.”
Now, though, the game is being revived. “We had decided to bring it back even before coronavirus,” said Satterfield. “We were even tinkering with a digital edition. But people need board games now more than ever.”
Satterfield shopped it around and eventually partnered with Aptifax, a Chicago-based board game manufacturer that has had hits with Gadzooks, Monkey Brain Banana Time, WoundHealer, and Perhaps. “This was like a cross between Gadzooks and Dog Policeman,” said Aptifax’s CEO, Rigby Duke. “It was a no-brainer.”
Since returning to retailers in March—there are three versions available, including a basic, a vintage recreation of the original, and the futuristic Slam The Space Door! Edition—Slam the Door! has consistently topped board game charts.
Aptifax has already revealed plans for action figures based on the popular game pieces (Stove, Clover, and Margarine will be among the first released) and there is even talk of a feature film that would star long-time fan John Lithgow as Green Field Meadows.
Satterfield attributes the enduring popularity of her great-grandfather’s game to its mix of high-speed game-play and teamwork. “If you’ve ever been in a tar pit, waiting to grab on to a passing crowbar, and another player drops a penny in the well just before you have a chance to tie your shoes in front of Town Hall, then you know what I’m talking about,” she said.