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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why Monopoly Is A Lousy Game

Let's be honest.  Monopoly is like a rite of passage for young Americans.  Our bright little eyes light up at the sight of the fake money.  We scramble to choose the best game token (the boot, obviously, and I don't care what you car-lovers say) and are eager to buy up properties and start raking in the dough.

The problem is, Monopoly is actually a truly terrible game.  While I applaud Hasbro's efforts to teach children basic math, I shudder to think what children may glean about how economics works from this game.  It's titled "Monopoly," for God's sake.  There are laws in place to prevent monopolies, and for good reason.  Yet the goal of this game is to own absolutely everything, and charge everyone an arm and a leg for the privilege of residing in your city-state.  I find that appalling.

Further, there is the concept that simply purchasing some real estate will provide you with income, which (as anyone who has rented or bought real estate knows) is simply not the case. 

On top of which, there's the whole money system that lets you buy entire hotel chains for a few thousand dollars.  Huh?  It takes thousands of dollars a day to keep a good hotel running!

Then there's the fact that everyone is apparently just roaming around Monopolyville with stacks of cash and no place to live.  They just keep crashing at people's houses or paying for a hotel.  Do they not have anything better to do with their lives than walking (or driving, if you're into the car) around, buying and selling deeds and rarely if ever staying at the properties they own?

And then there are the cheap franchise Monopoly games, like Star Wars Monopoly and The Office Monopoly.  As if giving an awful game a fresh coat of paint will fix anything.  Sure, the die-hard Simpsons or Frasier fans will impulsively pick copies of their respective franchise Monopoly games, but what do they really get out of them?  Cheap pewter figures that barely resemble their namesakes, and a game board that may be pretty, but makes even less sense than the streets of the original Monopoly game.

Kudos to whoever thought to make A Nightmare Before Christmas Monopoly, though.  I'd totally buy that.

The worst part about the game though:  It never ends!  I have met perhaps two people in my entire life that have actually played a Monopoly game all the way through to the end.  SANE people just play for an hour or two and predict who is going to win.  (Hint:  It's the one with all the money and most of the properties.)  Which is just another way of saying that normal people play until they get bored.  A good game ought to hold players' interests all the way to the end of the game.  Monopoly just doesn't do that.

If you already own a copy of Monopoly, I can't fault you for that.  It's such a prevalent game that it's hard to avoid.  It's like the Bible--people just expect you to own it.  However, if you have yet to acquire a copy of your own, I say don't bother.  Spend your money on a game worth playing.  Or on cupcakes.  Cupcakes are good, too.


  1. Most of your objections to Monopoly seem to be its lack of being truly representative of real life. But that, my friend, is the point of playing games. If you constructed a board game based on real economics and the mechanics of buying/owning/renting property, no one would play it because it would be wrist-slittingly dull. As far as I can tell, Monopoly makes no claims to be true to reality. Yet people continue to play it because it strips away the boring aspects of business and wraps them in a simplistic, multi-colored, easy-to-understand package.

    You play a game like Killer Bunnies, but when was the last time you saw a bunny rabbit massacre another bunny rabbit with a laser or a nuke? Why is it OK for Killer Bunnies to bend reality but not Monopoly?

  2. I feel like Monopoly, such as it is, is already wrist-slittingly dull. At this point in my life, I think I'd rather have a game that teaches me how to buy and sell property for real. It would probably be more interesting than the current Monopoly game, as well as instill me with more useful skills than rudimentary addition and subtraction.

    I feel like the lack of realism is secondary to the fact that Monopoly as it is now is a terrifically boring game. If you're going to strip away reality to create a children's game, I think it should at least be fun. It's not. It's not fun at all and it never ever ends.