We've been playing Monopoly wrong - it's a protest against the rich video

It turns out tears, anger and frustration are intended consequences of our most contentious board game.

Monopoly is one of the most popular board games ever invented, but it originated out of a movement to inspire fear, injustice and ultimately change in the way America's economy worked.

Games expert Tristan Donovan writes about his new book It's All a Game on Vice.

The book dives into the unusual stories behind our most loved board games, including the woman behind the Landlord's Game - or modern day Monopoly.

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The origins of Monopoly come from economist Henry George's book Progress and Poverty.
PAUL HANNA/REUTERS

The origins of Monopoly come from economist Henry George's book Progress and Poverty.

The United States in the mid-1800s was a landlord's world. Workers struggled to feed their families on low pay, long hours and horrid conditions, while land owners such as JP Morgan and John D Rockefeller collected fortunes from owning industries.

A class struggle formed and out of it came economist Henry George's book Progress and Poverty, which called for a single tax on land ownership that would be so big all other taxes could be abolished.

George's book started a single taxers movement, but support for the cause fizzled out when George died.

Early copies of Monopoly were made on a tight budget and the game didn't even come with player tokens.
123rf

Early copies of Monopoly were made on a tight budget and the game didn't even come with player tokens.

Enter Elizabeth Magie, an inventor and strong minded woman who was a staunch supporter of George's theory.

In 1902, Magie invented the Landlord's Game to teach children about the injustices of how landlords get rich.

Players moved around the board buying land, railroads, and utilities and charged rent to anyone else who landed on a square they owned.

When a player completed a round of the board they would pass a corner square that said: 'Labor upon Mother Earth produces wages' and collect $100.

The corner square with the warning: "No trespassing. Go to jail." was owned by a British lord and represented foreign ownership of American land.

Mr Monopoly is meant to represent the first billion-dollar corporation owner, JP Morgan.
123.rf

Mr Monopoly is meant to represent the first billion-dollar corporation owner, JP Morgan.

Other squares required players to pay tax, buy necessities, or take a Chance card.

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The intention of the game wasn't for fun, but was to inspire children to grow up and want to change the tax system. There was also a second set of 'single tax rules' that played out George's ideals.

While Magie failed to get the game picked up by major games companies, copies of the game spread across the US. It was tweaked several times and the single-tax version of the rules was forgotten.

The true message of the Landlord's Game was officially lost when the rules described the game as one that: "parallels the transactions of modern business" and "gives everyone an opportunity to make a fortune".

By the mid-1930s the Parker Brothers got hold of the game and its popularity spread nationwide. The company had to end up striking a deal with Magie for the game's rights. She sold it to Parker Brothers for US$500 and a commitment that the Landlord's Game would be published too.

By the end of 1935, more than 250,000 copies of the game had been sold. The Parker Brothers were true to their word and published the Landlord's Game, but it failed miserably. Stores refused to stock Monopoly if they had to sell the Landlord's Game and most of the 10,000 copies of Magie's original game were destroyed.

Instead, what endured was Monopoly's capitalist message and cut-throat nature.

 - Stuff

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