Monopoly and Its Anti-Capitalist Origins

Some kid from Cincinnati thinks I should blog about this…
(not that this is a pic of his town. its actually Atlantic City by nite)

According to the BBC

A massive multi-player version of the popular property game Monopoly has been launched online. Monopoly City Streets, developed by toymaker Hasbro, will go live on 9 September for four months. The free game uses Google Maps or the open source Open Street Map as the playing board. The toymaker claims it will be “the biggest game of Monopoly of all time” and will allow players to purchase almost “any street in the world”. The goal of the game, like the real-world version, is to earn money on real estate and become the richest property magnate.

New players are given three million Monopoly dollars to build their virtual empire.
Every street in the world is, in theory, available for purchase. Once a player has taken control of a street, they are able to charge rent and build new virtual properties. Streets can also be traded and sold with other players. The game makers have introduced chance cards, which allow players to sabotage neighbouring rivals by building rubbish dumps, prisons or wind farms on their property to reduce the rent value of their neighbours. Players can only remove a hazard by bulldozing it off their property, again through the use of chance cards. The game will close on the 31 January 2010.


Yay playing at capitalist dispossession!

BFD. I was always more into the olde skool trivia- this being one of the oldest board games in my relatively young country. Like how, on the one hand I was probably half-way to college by time I’d learned that the properties were all based on streets in Atlantic City, New Jersey (Hence a bunch of streets that aren’t in New York for some reason, and the Boardwalk being the big payload). In fact, the little orange link below has some interesting clarifications on where exactly these names come from geographically (its not all actually streets), including which trains really ran in Atlantic City 100 years ago and so on, and what-have-you.

What really struck me, on the other hand, was the moment when my partner (who is quaker), told me about how Monopoly was created by a Quaker who wanted to make a game that taught people how effed up capitalism was, and how it makes everybody go broke (except for that one jerk who wins by exploiting everybody else). I was skeptical but wanted so badly to believe the rumor. After all, it totally made sense. So I did what most high schoolers, and too damn many undergraduates would consider “research”. Thus, according to wikipedia:

The history of Monopoly can be traced back to 1904, when a Quaker woman named Elizabeth (Lizzie) J. Magie Phillips created a game through which she hoped to be able to explain the single tax theory of Henry George (it was intended to illustrate the negative aspects of concentrating land in private monopolies). Her game, The Landlord’s Game, was commercially published a few years later. Other interested game players redeveloped the game and some made their own sets. Lizzie herself patented a revised edition of the game in 1904, and similar games were published commercially.

By 1935 a board game named Monopoly was created much like the version of Monopoly sold by Parker Brothers and its parent companies throughout the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st. The Parker Brothers’ version was created by Charles Todd but sold to them by Charles Darrow. Several people, mostly in the U.S. Midwest and near the U.S. East Coast, contributed to the game’s design and evolution.

So all this got me to thinking about how the Monopoly board, for all its iconography is also a bizarre slice of urban history in its representation of Atlantic City. For example, Illinois Ave (the real one for which one of the “red” properties just past free parking was named), has been Martin Luther King Jr Blvd since sometime in the 80s. Weird huh? I bet a lot of folks would be much more excited about a version with that guy’s name on it instead of the state that in recent history made Rod Blagojevich (he and some other political, movement-leading black guy) famous.

That, and apparently there was some online vote a year and half ago where “the world” decided that these were the cities that should be included on a ludicrous 2008 “World Monopoly” game edition. This may make you cry:

In case you can’t see it well enough to be depressed about it, the only two countries to have more than one city pimped out on the board are Canada (Vancouver, Toronto, and Montréal), and China (Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai). This is supposed to be World Monopoly. There are no cities in Latin America represented, folks! And none in India! WTeffers?! Riga (the capital of Lativa) is the 2nd most sought-after property in the world?! People!! Join me, please, in reading down this roster of utter disappointment. Going clock-wise from “GO”:


Light Blue (celeste)


istanbul was constantinople

istanbul was constantinople


New York

Hong Kong

Cape Town

Riga (pictured above)

In classic form, now that I’ve brought you down, I’ll leave you on a posi note. By introducing you to Riskopoly!!! Behold:

Instructions are as follows

As explained on the map, all of the trains connect. “Attack Jail” is a one way attack to the opposite corner. “Go” can attack any corner. All Chance spaces (question marks) are connected to the deck of Chance cards, and likewise all War Chest spaces (shields) connect to that deck (spaces can attack the deck and the deck can attack the spaces). The Chance/Chest spaces are part of their color’s continent, and the decks are part of the orange and yellow continents.

The utilities (Electric Co. and Water Works) can attack their deed cards laying in the lower left corner of the board. These two deed cards can also attack each other. The bills are also territories connected to each space they touch, and the bills are part of their color’s continent.

This is NOT a one directional board, attacks can go in either directions (except for the special corners as described above). There are 48 territories all together.

This is made entirely with original art, built from scratch. There is no copyrighted material on the map. The names of the spaces are all street names found in Atlantic City. The Parker Bros. patent for Monopoly expired in 1985.

I plan to add some more decoration (some dice and maybe a drink on a coaster…), but will wait until any further structural or game play issues are worked out.

Ideas floating around that could be discussed: make it one way, use Risk country names instead of the street names, no bonus for “free army” space, no penalty for tax space, more money around edge of board, make it a deck of “risk” cards instead of “chance” cards, put “just visiting” back in, etc.

I’ll leave all of that undigested. This may trump (ha ha, get it, atlantic city?!), Simpsons Monopoly as my here to fore favoritest version of the anti-capitalist classic.

À Bientôt!
Sunshine Superboy

Put your makeup on, Fix your hair up pretty
and meet me tonight in Atlanitc City:


One Response to “Monopoly and Its Anti-Capitalist Origins”

  1. Meta: how about the fact that a game originally designed by many to make people realize how stupid capitalism is essentially became a best-seller that contributed to making one man and one company super rich by touting capitalism ? AMERICA, YOU RULE.

    Additionally, Atlantic City, the city on which the original game is based, is also completely absent from the “World Monopoly” addition. JERSEY!

    Finally, how many stupid editions of Monopoly can they come up with? Do cats need their own Monopoly? Do sports teams? Do M+Ms? COME ON.

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