Media board game is launched

Want to pretend you're Rupert Murdoch? Then Media Mogul is just the thing - the new board game that intends to put the likes of Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble in the shade. Jon Salisbury talks to is creator
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The Independent Online

Whether we work in the media or just take an interest in how it works, few of us have not dwelt occasionally on what it must feel like to stand in the shoes of a media mogul such as Rupert Murdoch, Richard Desmond or Marjorie Scardino.

This Christmas it will be possible to experience the adrenalin surge of owning our own media empires and we won't need a team of investors behind us. Being in charge of a media operation is often glibly referred to as "owning the train set", but it is an old-fashioned board game that now offers all-comers the chance to make like Rupert.

Media Mogul is the idea of Susannah Lees, a former television scheduler and commissions co-ordinator. She has been determined to get the game right and give it a credibility that will be respected by media workers. She says that the game has gone through many prototypes - 15 in all - to arrive at its current format and has been described as "media poker" by some of those who have had the chance to try it.

This pleases her no end as she was trying to create a decision-based game - as unlike a Monopoly-type concept as possible. Players have the chance to bid for the rights to TV and radio shows and to take ownership of entire broadcasting companies as well as newspaper and magazine empires. Other players can counter-bid and the aim is to take control of one or more of the board's six zones each encapsulating a particular sector of the media landscape with names such as Culture Vulture, Star Spotter and Fashion Diva. Each of these zones on the board has been branded with logos familiar to the player, such as MTV and Hello!. Lees says: "You win when you own all of the assets in one of the six markets."

The board game business thrives on invention and enthusiasm but such is the dominance of the big brands that it is never easy to get a new game off the ground. Come the mad Christmas rush, the average punter who is in the market for a new game usually has far more trivial pursuits on his mind, every pun intended. It is a simple fact that the risk-averse retailers such as Argos, Toys R Us, Woolworths and WH Smith who rule the roost in the games market tend to stick with what they know and that means the likes of Scrabble, Cluedo, Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit, with little room for newcomers.

Lees says it has been a hard battle to get Media Mogul on the market and she has been disappointed at the reluctance of some retailers to stock the game this close to Christmas. "It has not been as easy as I thought it would be," she says. Undeterred, though, she booked London's famous media networking joint, the Groucho Club, to launch the game, and Hamley's has become the first retailer to put Media Mogul on its shelves.

Lees has worked in the media for the Sci Fi channel, the BBC and Channel 4, and used her knowledge of the media world to persuade the likes of MTV, Hello!, GQ, Vogue, Marie Claire, Xfm, Capital Gold, TalkSPORT and others to feature their logos and endorse the game.

But ahead of the launch there was one more slight hurdle to overcome. Last year, another game called Media Mogul was released by a small games company called JKLM Games that was very similar although it focused more on the global media aspirations of players. Lees has the name trademarked but the JKLM version was first to market - although it failed to register on the radar of toy buyers, the people who control this market.

Lucky, then, that Lees has an alternative career path if her product fails to ignite the game playing public. "I am qualified to train as criminal lawyer," she says, and that might prove to be a more stable career path to pursue if Media Mogul doesn't make a games mogul out of her.

Trivial pursuits: put your TV knowledge to the test


First released when the TV show was at its peak in the heady days of the Vic in 1988, players could take the part of the Square's most famous residents such as pub landlord and landlady Angie and Dirty Den, Kath and Pete, and even a few who have stood the test of time such as Pauline, Dot, Ian and Sharon.


"The Ambridge game of action, answering and acting," the box boasts. You have to act as one of the Archers' characters, talking in their voice. While doing this you have to visit assorted locations around the village and answer questions (in character) to collect the cards you need to win.


The official game of the multimillion circulation magazine that asks such critical questions as "Where is the residence dubbed 'Beckingham Palace' located?" Other gems include "Which royal is understood to be Eddie Izzard's biggest fan?" and "Which Baywatch star was a former Miss Las Vegas?"


Short of a household spider crawling into the box, it is doubtful that this game can replicate the tension and excitement of the Bushtucker Trials as it purports to do, as players compete to become king or queen of the jungle. You get the chance to go off on a mission to find the celebrity chest to gain the votes and win the game.


Players have 20 seconds to scrutinise a series of photos and then remember stuff about classic and modern TV images as they hop around the board through the four (!) TV channels towards the "off" switch in a game that harks back to a pre-digital era.


The Corrie board game came and went pretty quickly in the 1980s. But there is now a Trivial Pursuit DVD game version available featuring actual clips from the world's longest-running TV show which, when you think about it, is far more logical than a static board game.