Why Monopoly is actually a great game!


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A history of Monoply, and why it is actually a fascinating game that arose out of an interesting socio-economic problem. Presented by Danny Day at the Make Games South Africa meet up in Cape Town on 26 June 2013. A video of the presentation can be found here: http://youtu.be/whVoxmySt1s

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Why Monopoly is actually a great game!

  1. 1. Monopoly is a bad game
  2. 2. Most people play it wrong
  3. 3. People keep trying to fix it
  4. 4. Who invented Monopoly?
  5. 5. 1903, Lizzie J. Magie • Patents “The Landlord’s Game” • Fun-filled method of teaching the evils of land monopolism • Virginian, Quaker, Single Taxer • Properties were rented, not purchased "The object of this game is not only to afford amusement to players, but to illustrate to them how, under the present or prevailing system to land tenure, the landlord has an advantage over other enterprisers, and also how the single tax would discourage speculation.“ – Introduction to rules of The Landlord’s Game
  6. 6. WTF is Single Tax? • 1869, Henry George • Economic rent of land and un-earned land value increase profits few rather than many • Single tax – levied on land • Idea was to undermine monopolies and encourage competition • What happens if land is not capital?
  7. 7. 1904-1930, Going Viral • The Landlord’s Game is played at universities and in Quaker single tax enclaves, spreads • Rules slowly changed: – Added auction to buy property – Named places after where they lived – Became “Auction Monopoly”, then “Monopoly” during copying (in crayon on linen)
  8. 8. Random Aside… • 1910, Prof Scott Nearing plays with his brother (a Quaker) introduces game to U Pen Wharton School of Finance • Eventually Nearing was fired from teaching on demand of Andrew Carnegie, over child labor laws • Socialist economist Nearing went on to spearhead the idea of ecology
  9. 9. 1927, Daniel W. Layman, Jr. • Plays Monopoly in a fraternity, moves back to Indianapolis and teaches it to friends • Eventually has brainwave and markets game under the name “Finance” "I understood from various attorney friends of mine that because Monopoly had been used as the name of this exact game, both in Indianapolis and in Reading and in Williamstown, Massachusetts, that it was, therefore, in public domain and that I couldn't protect it in any way. So, I changed the name in order to have some protection." – Daniel W. Layman, Jr. Deposition for Anti- Monopoly lawsuit.
  10. 10. 1931, The Thuns • Taught Layman, credited with adding Community Chest and set completion bonuses • Patent officer offers to front them money • Further research by patent office turns up Magie’s patent: “Patents are for inventors and you didn't invent it” • Copyright their rules instead, sell a few copies, then give up when no chain stores bite
  11. 11. "Statement of General Theory - Monopoly is designed to show the evil resulting from the institution of private property. At the start of the game every player is provided with the same amount of capital and presumably has exactly the same chance of success as every other player. The game ends with one person in possession of all the money. What accounts for the failure of the rest, and what one factor can be singled out to explain the obviously ill- adjusted distributions of the community's wealth which this situation represents? Those who win will answer 'skill.' Those who lose will answer 'luck.' But maybe there will be some, and these, while admitting the elements of skill and luck, will answer with Scott Nearing 'private property'." – Thun- version preface to the rules of Monopoly
  12. 12. 1933, Charles Darrow • Unemployed, living off pregnant wife’s wages (confusing stories of profession) • Introduced to game by friends, asks them for written rules • Begins selling the game in Atlantic City • Eventually sells rights to Parker Brothers in Dec 1934 • Widely hailed as inventor of Monopoly
  13. 13. Random: Marvin Gardens • Monopoly in the US is set in Atlantic City, this is where Charles Darrow lived • The friend whose board he copied, Charles Todd, incorrectly copied “Marven Gardens” as “Marvin Gardens” • Parker Brothers have not fixed the error, which has propagated everywhere – movies, books, maps
  14. 14. 1935, Parker Brothers • Learn that Darrow has defrauded them and that other companies are selling Monopoly and Finance • Have sold nearly 200,000 copies themselves, were nearly bankrupt • Decide to run a campaign to cement Darrow as the game’s creator • Go on to sell over 1M copies of Monopoly
  15. 15. 1935, The $500 buyout • Parker Brothers offer Magie $500 for the rights to The Landlord’s Game • They promise to print copies of it for her • She doesn’t sign off any game rule changes, apparently refuses royalties (is a “rabid single tax evangelist”) • Purely a protective action, geared towards allowing sales of Monopoly to continue
  16. 16. 1935, The $10,000 buyout • Parker Brothers moved to buy rights to Finance • Daniel Layman, bankrupt had sold the game to David W. Knapp • Part of the $10,000 deal included Knapp not mentioning his knowledge of the history of Monopoly
  17. 17. 1936, Protecting Those Rights • Parker Brothers move to sue Texan Rudy Copeland over his Monopoly-like, “Inflation” • Copeland counter-sues on basis that Darrow’s patent is invalid • Parker Brothers pay Copeland $10,000 in an out of court settlement, again with the gag clause • Parker Brothers buy any Monopoly boards they can find, including the Thuns’
  18. 18. 1936, Monopoly Explodes • Monopoly becomes America’s favorite parlor activity, defines the idea of a board game • Sells more than 6M copies • Darrow interviewed over and over again as the inventor of Monopoly, fabricates story of inspiration "Be a hard-hearted landlord. Demand immediate cash payment of rents and assessments.“ – Charles Darrow, Germantown Bulletin, Feb. 13, 1936
  19. 19. 1973, Anti-Monopoly • Ralph Anspach sells Anti-Monopoly game in protest to the monopolization of Monopoly • Sued by Parker Brothers in 1974 • Anspach won on appeals in 1979, term “Monopoly” was too generic • Law has since changed, Parker Brothers still holds trademark
  20. 20. Monopoly Now • Parker Brothers owned by Hasbro • Sells millions of copies a year, currently totaling over 275M units • Distributed all over the world, licensed to many more boardgame makers • Not bad, for a clone
  21. 21. “My challenge to you is as follows. Design a game which is appealing to play, which will go on to be a huge commercial success and yet illustrates through its systems the abject and total horror, the inhumanity, the alienation, the banality, the evil, and the hell-on- earth of a socio-political practise taken to extreme. The game must be named honestly. It must be easy to learn. It must be a game for all the family.” - Martin Hollis, http://hardconsonant.com/2013/05/21/martin-hollis-on-monopoly
  22. 22. What could we (SA) teach? • A game whose set-building harkens back to racial policies? • What if Smallworld was about political parties and how power changes their messages? • What about a game of law enforcement and legal rights in society? • Screw Occupy, where’s our game about sanitation?