A Game, a Gadget and an App: Tom Standage finds a 10-minute version of the property game. Plus a personal trainer on your wrist…

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, July/August 2012

GAME Monopoly deal
Playing Monopoly is tedious. Hours of crawling around the board, amassing houses and cash, in anticipation of a dramatic showdown that may never come—how many games are paused, never to be resumed? Monopoly Deal, by contrast, takes the best elements of Monopoly and turns them into a pacey card game. There’s no rolling dice and passing Go, no making change, no board and no jail. Instead there are sudden reversals, surprise moves and plenty of scope for deception. Special cards let you steal and swap properties, demand outlandish rents or (best of all) “Just say no” to neutralise an opponent’s move, but the whole thing still feels familiar. Crucially, each game lasts only 10-15 minutes, so you end up playing several rounds and exacting revenge on those who bankrupted you last time. On a rainy weekend this game will have everyone ditching their electronic gizmos for one more round – it’s that good. Clever design allows children and adults to play as equals. But be warned: you may be shocked at how devious your children can be.
Monopoly Deal by Hasbro, about £10

GADGET Nike FuelBand
The FuelBand feels as if it has fallen out of the future. A black, rubbery wristband, it contains motion detectors that track its wearer’s activity around the clock. Press its single button and a magical embedded display comes to life, showing the time, steps taken, calories burned and Nike’s proprietary “Fuel” score. The idea is that you set a target score for each day and then try to beat it, turning exercise into a game. To raise the stakes, the FuelBand syncs with a smartphone app and a website, so you can see how you compare against other users. Unlike Nike’s previous glorified pedometers, it’s not just aimed at sporty types. By turning the daily trudge to the station into a fitness game, it will appeal to a far wider audience of people who worry that they ought to be doing more exercise—and who will find themselves getting off the train a stop early to boost their score. Very clever, Nike.
Nike FuelBand £139

APP Frankenstein
Is it a book, a game or an elaborate updating of the “choose your own adventure” genre? This retelling by Dave Morris of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” combines all three, and more artfully than the title might suggest. Text scrolls up the screen, with the story gently pushed along by your choices and responses, quickly drawing you in. Like the original, the tale is told from several perspectives, though it has been relocated to revolution-era France. The typography and illustrations, presented as if on sliding sheets of old paper, are gorgeous, especially on the pin-sharp display of the latest iPad. As authors, publishers and readers grapple with the possibilities presented by tablet computers, “Frankenstein” is an impressive and entirely new kind of e-book.
Frankenstein (Profile) for iPad and iPhone, £2.99/$4.99

Tom Standage is digital editor of The Economist and author of “An Edible History of Humanity”