Hasbro's Promise For More Realistic "Monopoly" Backfires
It's been eighty-five years since the Parker brothers published their legendary game, Monopoly. Their vision for the game was to present the concept that an economy that rewards wealth creation is better than one where monopolists work under few constraints…a sentence that I copied and pasted from Wikipedia.
As children, we're taught sayings such as "money is the root of all evil," or "money doesn't buy happiness," etc., making the point that enough money will ultimately corrupt even the most disciplined man. In a way, the game of Monopoly is a 250:1 scale embodiment of those quotes. But even with only fake money involved, it's not uncommon for human nature's dark side to surface during gameplay.
Despite Monopoly turning families and friends against each other, the game has stood the test of time, proving itself year after year as one of America's most popular board games. And while it's remained nearly identical for almost a century, Hasbro has, at times, changed things up as a way to increase sales. That thought process drove their latest decision - before this upcoming holiday season - with the release of it's newest edition: "Monopoly: This Is America."
With so much buzz surrounding the release, I decided to preorder one for myself. Upon opening the package, I was hard-pressed to find what had actually changed about the game. Besides the addition of a credit card, everything looked interchangeable with past versions. I immediately started reading to find what new rules were added. It was then that I realized this game was about to make some waves.
Per the rulebook, I invited over a cast of friends representative of what America really looks like. The room consisted of my friend Jamal, his girlfriend Kai Jiang, and myself. After unfolding the board, I handed out the character pieces: I would be the money bag; Kai the car - which I highly advised against; and Jamal the boot. Next, I gave each player their $500 cash and a credit card: Mine the red and Kai the blue. Sadly, Jamal's application for a card was denied; Again, per the rule book.
With the game ready to begin, I handed the dice to Kai:
A six, bringing her to Oriental Avenue. She agreed to buy the property at the set price of $100.
The dice then went to Jamal to roll second:
Yet another six. Unfortunately, upon approaching Reading Railroad, Jamal was required to turn back. A new rule barred his character piece from crossing the train tracks, forcing him to turnaround and land on the income tax spot. After the $200 fee, he was now down to $300.
I could feel Jamal staring laser beams into the side of my head, but there was no time to debate the rule book. I picked up the die and took my turn:
A forty-one. After circling the entire map once and collecting my $200 paycheck, I agreed to buy Mediterranean Avenue for $60. To be perfectly clear, I would never live in a neighborhood like Mediterranean Avenue. In my eyes, it was nothing more than a tremendous investment opportunity to earn some extra cash.
The next set of turns would prove to be mostly uneventful: Kai rolled a one placing her on the Chance spot. The card explained that she had crashed her car, forcing her to miss her next three turns. We were only two turns in, and I was already shocked by how realistic this new version was proving to be.
Jamal’s second roll showed up a two; It didn't take long for him to shamelessly dip his hand into the community chest. I didn’t say anything, but it felt pretty on-brand that Jamal would take the first free handout. “Congrats,” the card stated, “your government-issued check came in. Collect $50.” His net worth increased to $350. I'm sure he was real proud of all the hard work he put in for that money...
My next roll turned up an eighty-two, landing me on Baltic Avenue whilst collecting 400 more dollars. Again, I agreed to purchase the property for a total of $60. After two long turns, my hard work was finally coming to fruition.
With Kai’s vehicle still in repair for the next three rolls, the dice went back to Jamal. A four placed him on the Luxury Tax spot. He coughed up nearly 1/3 of his net worth for what I can only assume was some flashy, oversized chain. He was now down to $250.
The die returned to me. Before rolling, I invested and built four beautiful homes. With both Baltic and Mediterranean properties now in my possession, I was able to start my large scale renovation project, revitalizing the long-time distressed area.
Construction underway, I rolled a forty-four, leading me to the "Chance" spot. To my disappointment, I would be forced to pay $50.
Kai's second turn was, again, skipped, leaving Jamal to roll. A measly one landed him on Park Place. With only $250 and no credit, Jamal didn't have the purchasing power to acquire the magnificent estate. He offered to pay me heavy interest during a future turn if I would loan him the money. Although tempting, I knew Park Place and Boardwalk were key properties in the game of Monopoly. My strategy to redline those areas before starting the game left me with no choice but to deny my dear friend a loan.
Perhaps this could be used as a learning experience for Jamal and teach him some fiscal responsibility. Besides, with his travel options being limited between the two railroads, he would be passing GO any turn now, allowing him to collect yet another free $200 handout.
It was my turn: a twenty-three. I could see Jamal's face light up with joy when he saw what spot I was headed to: Go To Jail. Clearly, there was a big misunderstanding. People like myself don't go to jail. What Jamal didn't know, though, is that I was born with a "Get out of jail free" card, figuratively. As for the game, the rule book started me with a literal "Get out of jail free" card.
Now, at this point, I thought the game was going pretty well. Although Jamal had some clear anger issues, I had a good feeling we were going to make it through the rest of the match. What happened next didn't exactly help...
Another snake eye placed Jamal on the Chance spot. His face turned a shade of red that I didn’t think was possible...for him. Out of irritation, he handed me the card to read...
I tried to neutralize the situation, but Jamal was too far gone. He started to argue furiously, yelling obscenities - that shall not be repeated in this article - directly to my face. I tried explaining that it was nothing more than a string of bad luck and overall bad money management on his side. How was it that I bought two properties, four houses, and still had $730 while he was quickly going broke?
My question only caused him to fuss and grow more furious. Jamal screamed, "YOU STARTED WITH AN ADVANTAGE! YOU'RE ROLLING WITH 10 DICE AND PASSED "GO" FOUR TIMES IN THREE TURNS! HOW DO YOU NOT SEE THAT?!"
I quipped back, "Die, Jamal. The plural tense of dice is die. Besides, maybe if you pulled yourself up by your boot...." I couldn't even finish my very well thought out point before things turned physical. While attempting to move his piece to jail, he aggressively grabbed my arm. In a panic, I yelled, "Stop resisting," and hit him with the taser included with the game. With Jamal face-first in my carpet, I transferred his piece to jail.
It wasn't long before Kai returned from the bathroom and began crying hysterically. It was at this moment that I began to worry we weren't going to finish the game. Kai picked Jamal up and walked him to their car to leave. I explained that if they left, I would consider this a victory for me, but even that didn't deter them. I still haven't talked to them since that day. It's really sad they were such sore losers.
As for the game, the foresight to include the taser was undeniably impressive. What was most remarkable about the game, though, was the fact that Hasbro not only brought in new, extremely realistic aspects to the game, but they also managed to maintain that old school feeling of hating each other's guts when it was all said and done.
Overall, I give Monopoly: This Is America an 8.5/10, losing 1.5 points for bringing race into the game a little too much for my tastes. I didn't get why they had to include that "black business coffee table" chance card. Seemed mildly inappropriate. With that said, I'd highly recommend it for any get together this holiday season. It's truly a can't lose purchase...if you're white.