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From Monopoly To G.I. Joe To Transformers: A Look At New England's Long History Of Games And Toys

SALEM (CBS) -- When everyone is ripping and tearing those presents under the Christmas tree, chances are some of those toys were made right here in New England. Transformers. Nerf. G.I. Joe, Monopoly, and the Game of Life all got their start right outside your door.

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem has a gaming display featuring the story of George S. Parker. He founded Parker Brothers in Salem in 1883.

Parker Brothers has created some of the most popular games we still play today.

"They have a lot of very successful games," says Paula Richter, curator at the Peabody Essex Museum. "Monopoly is probably the best known. They started out with things like Risk. And they also had games like Clue. And they were often games that had a degree of risk-taking or a bit of a spirit of competition."

Meanwhile, a competitor got its start about a hundred miles away in Springfield.

"Milton Bradley is a company that was formed in Massachusetts in 1860," says James Zahn, the Senior Editor of The Toy Insider. "They had games that everybody knows today. The Game of Life, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Battleship, and Connect Four."

Charlene DeLoach of The Toy Insider recalls playing The Game of Life.

"We loved to drive around the little cars, see what kind of college education we could get, or see how many kids we would get as we put those little pegs in the car," DeLoach said.

And DeLoach says board games have never been more important for kids.

"They can really enhance learning. And you can change the experience so every family can get what they need out of it," she said.

Now, both Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers brands live just across the border from Attleboro in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the home of Hasbro toys and a famous spud.

"The first Mr. Potato Head product actually started out as parts," Chief Operating Officer Eric Nyman of Hasbro says. "The child would bring it home back in the 1950s and put the parts into an actual potato. It evolved over time to a boxed product that was made out of plastic and all the parts could be customized in different ways."

By the 1960s, Hasbro was ready to compete with Barbie, and G.I. Joe got his call of duty.

"The 60s had your 12-inch Joes," says Chad Julian of That's Entertainment in Worcester. "The dolls, or though a lot of the guys don't like to call them dolls, they're action figures!"

That line saw great success, but decades later, kids were ready for something new.

"(G.I. Joe) was relaunched in the 80s in a totally different way," says Nyman. "G.I. Joe vs Cobra, and Good and evil."

The figures were much smaller now, 3.75-inch size to compete with Star Wars figures, and were a huge hit with broad appeal.

"This was one of the first toy lines that really had a diverse cast of characters for kids to play with," Zah said. "There were men. There were women. There were different ethnicities at play. That was something no one else was really doing at the time."

For more than a decade, Hasbro created some of the most memorable toys of all-time.

"I think 1986 was when they released the USS Flagg, which was a 6-foot aircraft carrier," says Julian. "It was probably the biggest toy ever for G.I. Joe. You could put 100 Joes and a full-sized plane on the aircraft carrier."

And the parade of good times in the 1980s did not end there.

Transformers hit the scene in 1984, and Hasbro was on a roll.

"The transformers story in the 80s is a phenomenal one," says Nyman. "That was really an incredible introduction to the world of robots in disguise. And literally every car that passes you on the road, every truck that rumbles down the highway, could be an Autobot or a Decepticon."

The changeable robots had dozens of unforgettable characters and was often imitated, but never replicated.

"They had the Go Bots, which were actually a pre-cursor from Tonka. But, they just weren't nearly as cool," says Julian. "They didn't have such intricate moving parts."

And Nyman reassured that the Transformers brand has a bright future.

"We just announced a partnership with Paramount that the film will be launching in June of 2023," Nyman said. "On the animated side, they are working very closely with Paramount as well to create a whole new version of the animated storytelling that will launch in the upcoming years."

That partnership with Paramount, owned by WBZ-TV's parent company, Viacom CBS, also saw success with the recent "Snake Eyes" movie.

"I think we're going to continue to see Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow continuing to battle in future years," says Nyman.

And toy experts believe Hasbro will be in the hearts of kids and adults for years to come.

"Hasbro is something that you might be introduced when you're a child," says DeLoach. "But it's something that's part of your life for a lifetime."

And Nyman says Hasbro may be an international company, but the company will also remember its roots in New England.

"I do think ultimately all roads lead back to Rhode Island when it comes to the soul of Hasbro and who we are."

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