Entertaining Board Game? Or Dagger in the Heart of Society?

You might have your Yahtzee, your Sorry; a game of Risk now and then. Maybe even a Scrabble, if that's the kind of house you grew up in. You have played and enjoyed them, somewhat. Made the best of your time. But in your heart, you know the truth. They are fluff. Occasionals. Ancillaries. Extras.

Far back under every bed, on a not-too-high shelf of every closet, you will find the summit of family-oriented indoor multi-generational hypercompetitive activities. Monopoly.

If you are an American, you grew up with it. You played it as a child with your parents. You played it with friends in high school. Your college dormitory had it on hand as you created drinking games around it, comping hotel nights with your highs, foreclosing on your girlfriend during your terrible, terrible lows. It is part of you. Someday, you may play it with your own children.

I beg you not to do this.

The lessons learned during childhood Monopoly playing can be among the most difficult and destructive encountered in all of life. The game, at its very core, is highly corrupt. Just look at its nature and history.

Origin Point: Rubbing Your Face in It

It's 1934. The Great Depression is in full swing. Swing is still ten years away. So there's no money, and no happy dance music to take your mind off the fact that somewhere, a disgruntled Austrian housepainter is making BIG plans for the future.

And then Charles B. Darrow decides it would be a good idea to let people live out their broken dreams of financial success with play-money and dice. And what is the goal of this 'family game'? Nothing short of the malicious bankrupting of your loved ones, enacted by questionable business practices, alliances, betrayals, and other things commonly found in the real-life, adult world of corporate business affairs.

But times were desperate, and to a nation screaming for escape and revenge, it becomes an immediate success. By 1935 it is the best-selling game in America, picked up by Parker Brothers and unleashed upon the entire world.

Sower of Discord

It starts with the pieces. There is an established hierarchy, in terms (especially) of male play. At the top is the car. The car is the first piece to go, unless it is deliberately avoided. In certain situations, 'family rules' organically develop that lead to each player having a 'usual piece.' This, it is theorized, will reduce squabbling over who gets the car. Typically, the car, if not taken by the Father, will go to the eldest son, leaving younger players with uncool options such as:

And in some versions:

The piece assignment ritual thereby immediately creates not only a pecking order, but potentially an order of parental preference. It also asserts the importance of having a really cool car. The typical male fascination with cars during adolescence that sometimes lasts a lifetime may in fact have its origins in this game. Additional grant money will be necessary to conduct further research.

Game Play: Your Parents Aren't Who You Think They Are

Paternal, and to a lesser extent, maternal, instincts are abandoned. They can become just as ruthless and greedy as they would normally be. The notion that you may not be entirely able to trust your parents becomes frightfully clear. In addition, children can be given an unsettling window into what their parents think of them. For example, if a parent consistently gives the job of banker to one child because the others are terrible at math, the bad-math-children will pick up on it, and experience the parent's lack of confidence. Meanwhile, the good kid--parents do have these categories, despite their protestations to the contrary--will develop a superiority complex and pride over his intelligence that will see him shoved into many a locker during middle school.

Trust and love have no place in Monopoly. There's no room for sentiment in big business. As intelligent players, family members and friends have no choice but to buy Kentucky Avenue when you already have the other two reds and no other chance for survival, thus 'breaking' your monopoly. Some will do this apologetically. Others will not. Either way, you are left facing some other bastard who got both the greens and the yellows, creating a 'death corner'. Your only hopes become the Community Chest, the Water Works, or Jail.

Did you hear that? Monopoly makes you want to go to Jail. Directly to jail. Without passing Go, and without collecting two hundred dollars. Is that the sort of attitude that should be reinforced in children?

The game is potential poison to the happiness and future of its players. I offer the following short lists of things to watch out for.

The Top Five Causes of Familial Unit Dissolution

  1. The glint in the eye of someone about to buy Boardwalk

  2. The ownership of three or more railroads by one person

  3. The ownership of both utilities by one person

  4. Putting up of hotels on any property

  5. Mortgaging of property by any player

The Top Ten Most Irritating Things to Do While Playing

  1. 'Break' Monopolies

  2. Trade in groups of hundreds for 500s

  3. Consistenlty land on Free Parking

  4. Consistently avoid landing on other people's properties

  5. Say 'that's mine' or 'and I own that' when someone lands on your property

  6. 'Mint' additional monies from paper because the game did't come with enough

  7. Make little engine and tire-screeching sounds for the car

  8. Actually compute the income tax

  9. Lose

  10. Win

The potential for this list to extend to infinity--much like game play itself--does exist. The longest game officially recorded lasted for 70 straight days. Remarkably, there were no casualties.

The Road Ahead

If you decide to do the right thing, and banish Monopoly to the nether regions of your rainy afteroons, you will find yourself challenged. The market penetration of the game rivals the most grotesque of fast food or coffee emporiums. Many of you will already be familiar with the teamwork of Monopoly and McDonald's, and the million dollar prize. Two hundred million copies have been sold worldwide. Their are junior versions, dinosaur versions, on-line versions, and world tournaments. The game comes in a number of different themes and cities, from Star Wars to Disney, Chicago to Paris. It is sold in eighty countries and printed in twenty-six languages.

So please, be careful. And beware. The Chance cards ares stacked against you. But for the sake of your family, resist. Give you children the opportunity to grow up knowing they can rely on you to protect them, to nourish them. Don't show them what it is to have their assets liquidated during their formative years. Go out and buy a Boggle game. They'll thank you for it later.

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