It was one of my favorite board games growing up, the game of Monopoly. The box containing the game featured a man with a white moustache, black suit and black top hat, holding a silver tipped walking stick in his left hand and extending his right hand for a handshake. The object of the game was to become that guy by making all of your opponents bankrupt.
My brother was six years younger than I was. My sister was four years younger. My father was thirty-five years older. We all had fun playing the game together. My sister didn’t seem to enjoy playing Monopoly as much as the three males in the family. My mother wasn’t interested in playing at all. More on their relationship to the game later.
Wikipedia describes the game like this: “Players move around the game board buying or trading properties, developing their properties with houses and hotels, and collecting rent from their opponents, with the goal being to drive them all into bankruptcy leaving one monopolist in control of the entire economy.”
My family wasn’t the only one liking this game. Again, according to Wikipedia, “Since the board game was first commercially sold in 1903, it has become part of world culture, having been locally licensed in more than 103 countries and printed in more than thirty-seven languages.”
I have played many board games a few times. Monopoly I have played over one hundred times. In my family, I was pretty good at wearing the black top hat when it was all over.
One of the rather unique things about Monopoly is that it was a game that ended at a different time for each player. Once you were broke, you were out. In my house, this usually meant you went off to pay more attention to the television set than you had been while playing.
Family togetherness falling off was just the nature of the game play. Broke former players could reconnect to the fun of it by checking back to root for the person who looked about busted to hang in there. The most exciting games resulted when somebody who looked too poor to make another trip around the game board did so, by luck of the dice—and then went on to win.
The game was competitive for a large age range, mainly because of the luck involved with moving around the board based on a throw of two dice. If you had the same number of dots on both dice, you got an extra turn. This was good if you were flush with Monopoly money and risky if you were not.
The skill of the game was mainly related to how good you were at trading properties and how good you were at managing cash flow. Coaching opponents on the advisability of trades they were contemplating and how they were managing cash flow was considered fair game at my house. I learned somethings about how money can work in the real world that way.
The basic strategy of Monopoly was to obtain groups of properties. If you owned a group of properties you could develop these properties. The more developed the property, the more an opponent had to pay if a dice roll landed them there.
One thing that “Monopoly” teaches is that if somebody is the only one around selling something that is needed or wanted badly, that person can charge much more for it, than if there were competition.
Every time you make it around the game board, a player is given $200. Much like getting a salary in real life. And just like in real life this is “chump change” compared to what you can get from controlling properties.
Some of the most intense excitement generated by playing this game, is seeing the interaction between luck and cash flow decisions towards staying solvent.
I remember that my sister didn’t laugh as loud as did the male players when an opponent landed on a pricey game board square. Sometimes, she seemed upset when collecting money from someone unlucky enough to land on one of her high rent district properties. In those days, girls didn’t have as much training in how to delight in the misfortune of others who would profit you as they do today.
My mom never said why she did’t like to play. I think it might have had something to do with her knowing what going to bed very hungry feels like. She struggled with that a good deal during the Great Depression in the United States. The game’s popularity probably grew at this time, as families had less to spend on recreational trips, but could afford throwing dice to determine how far a token could go on a game board.
My mother went hungry because her wealthy family went broke when the bottom fell out of the real estate market. Her grandfather wore a top hat to dinner parties, her father managed a trailer park to try and make a living due to lack of an inheritance.
I went on to use the “I hope by some good luck I am able to pay my rent next month” Monopoly-playing-honed-cash-flow-management skills a great deal in my life. I never even tried to corner the market on anything because I didn’t know how to translate making “Monopoly” money skills into breaking free from being a wage slave.
I started recalling my days as a Monopoly game tycoon when I read about At&T acquiring Time Warner. USA economic history can be told in terms of the build up and break up of monopolies. There are now more top hat wearing billionaires than ever before and so many more losers.
There is a class of people that hoot and laugh when the losers of the world lose more. They often pretend to care about all sorts of social problems, that they actually find funny and in their best interest to foster and even create. To them getting off on a real life game of concentrating power is very very real and very entertaining to play.
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