Thursday, 20 January 2011

Queueing. Pity it Came Too Late for Christmas

A new  board game inspired by  Monopoly is being launched, developed by the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), a Warsaw-based research institute that commemorates the suffering of the Polish people during the Nazi and Communist eras. (Der Spiegel reports).  In  'Queueing' the idea is to obtain the  basics - food, clothing and furniture - under realised socialism.

"... you send your family out to get items on a shopping list and they find that the five shops are sold out or that there hasn't been a delivery that day,"  said the IPN's Karol Madaj.   Some rules allow  players to jump the queue and get the last whatever it is,   others force players to give up their place in the queue.

The game was tested on 100 people during  development  and approved as an authentic  experience  of undertaking mundane chores in Communist times.  The oldest tester  (84) said that,  just as in the game, the longest queues were always at the furniture stores. There is a "colleague in the government" card, the equivalent of   "get out of jail free", enabling players to secretly find out when the next deliveries will arrive in the shops. 

To cheer up a game about queueing for scarce goods  it comes with a book of jokes from the Communist era,  archive photographs of real people queueing, and a booklet providing a historical overview! 

1 comment:

Caronte said...

Shortages and queues, with associated re-trading of scarce goods at higher than official prices in black markets, were endemic and growing in Soviet-type systems, especially in the late 1980s. They were not part of the socialist blueprint, but only a tragic misunderstanding, the unintended consequence of holding down prices administratively for fear of inflation. But inflation was not eliminated, only repressed.

"Do you often have queues?" "No, not very often. Only when there are goods in the shops". Countless jokes, but it was no joke.

The consequence was the failure of all attempts to reform the system by activating markets and giving autonomy to state enterprises, for markets did not clear and prices did not act as production incentives. Ultimately repressed inflation was one of the main factors that brought down the system.

I have already order my copy of the boardgame.