The news that Monopoly is now consulting on social justice revamps of its Community Chest cards has been greeted by many with raised eyebrows, and no wonder.
It’s been many years since I played Monopoly, and so it’s possible that the game has changed beyond all recognition since the classic British edition that my family bought in the 1970s – certainly, the box is less austere (1970s Monopoly did not look like a game that was making any concessions towards fun) and there are God knows how many novelty variants in existence, so perhaps it is no longer a game based on ruthless capitalism, where the winner is the person who bankrupts everyone else through eye-watering property taxes and ruthless hoovering up of entire communities for profit. If ever there was a board game that appealed to our selfishness and greed, this is it – less a fun distraction for all the family and more like a painful lesson that life isn’t fair.
So the news that Hasbro is now consulting on making touchy-feely changes to the Community Chest cards is something that even the most Woke might raise an eyebrow at and recognise as a cynical attempt to curry favour and get some press coverage for a game that – let’s face it – is a rather old-fashioned form of entertainment. Yet that is what is now planned. Perhaps stung by the possibility that the game no longer speaks to the intersectional community, plans are underway to make it altogether less ruthless.
“Since Monopoly became a household name more than 85 years ago, the world has changed and embraced a new sense of community — particularly after the unprecedented year of 2020. With community being more important than ever before, this year is the perfect time to give fans across the country the chance to show what community means to them through voting on the new set of Community Chest cards.” So says Hasbro marketing director Anne Leonhardi. If you collected $200 every time you used the word ‘community’, she’d certainly be on her way to Monopoly success. But this is a game classically based entirely on a ‘me me me’ attitude, and without that, what’s the point of it? Surely if you are inherently opposed to the capitalist system even in board game form, then Monopoly is not going to be your choice of an evening’s entertainment anyway.
The new consultation aims at replacing such Community Chest stalwarts as ‘bank error in your favour’ or tax refunds with things like rewards for ‘giving blood’ or ‘being a good neighbour’ (perhaps by not collecting that tax when they land on your property). It might be all very public-spirited, but damn, it sounds dull. Perhaps they should just drop the whole idea of buying property, collecting money, outwitting other players or even winning the game entirely and instead just have players aimlessly go around the board for a few hours until they get tired and agree to split the money equally or donate it to a good cause.
There is already a Monopoly Millennial edition, which comes with the tag-line “forget real estate – you can’t afford it anyway”, and instead offers ‘experience points’ like going to a vegan Bistro or a music festival. I suspect that socially conscious board gamers who don’t mind being thoroughly condescended to and reduced to a collection of stereotypes will be going for this version anyway. Or, more likely, one of the assorted editions tied to popular movie franchises or other variations that Hasbro has used – in true capitalist style – to grind every last penny out of the concept with. Is it too much to ask that they just leave the classic version alone?
Of course, this is just a publicity scam at the end of it, hoping to get both supportive and angry retweets – like Marvel Comics and others, Hasbro knows how to exploit the culture wars to its own advantage. In the grand scheme of things, it barely matters. Nevertheless, it all feels rather pathetic and wildly missing the point of the game. If they really hate the culture that Monopoly represents so much, why not make a genuinely daring move and just stop manufacturing the damn game completely?
You can vote for the new Community Chest cards here. Sadly, Hasbro doesn’t appear to have been dumb enough to allow voters to make their own suggestions, which clearly would have been hilarious.
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