Other Voices

Sad to say, the Internet ruined Monopoly

Monopoly celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.
Monopoly celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. NYT

Nov. 5 marks the 80th anniversary of Parker Brothers’ Monopoly board game, an Atlantic City-inspired game of chance.

I did not spend my youth formulating a winning strategy, but I did pass “Go” enough times to embed elements of the game permanently into my memory.

Yet we are at a point in history when traditional board games are being replaced with consoles, tablets and virtual reality.

Our current generation will grow up telling stories of the weight of an iPad, the smell of a neoprene case, or cracked screens, but will any of those stories involve other people?

Despite all technological advancements, simple board games had the ability to captivate a family in the home. It’s a shame that this does not happen more often nowadays.

We should use technology to create more opportunities to surround ourselves with friends and family.

Monopoly is a simple game — a square game board with a single, continuous pathway segmented by various properties and chances. You roll the dice, move your token, buy property, or take chances.

If you run out of money, you lose.

For me, the game is less about fun game play and more about its ability to represent simpler times in my life: rainy days, family gatherings, boredom with endless free time.

Innocence is an idea that will continually be lost due to new information.

The Monopoly game hit that mark when I discovered that Charles Darrow, the man Parker Brothers credits with creating the board game, did not invent it.

He stole the idea from a woman named Elizabeth Magie, who had created a similar game aimed at illustrating the economic consequences of Georgist concepts of economic privilege and land value taxation, titled “The Landlord’s Game.”

Allegedly, Darrow visited Magie at her home where they played “The Landlord’s Game.”

Before leaving, he asked for detailed rules to be written down, and shortly afterward he unveiled Monopoly to the world.

Magie had patented important features of her game, most notably the continuous pathway. A quick review of patent documents of both games reveals the true originator of the Monopoly game is Magie, with some minor differences.

Overall, the design of Magie’s game board is considerably less refined.

It pairs certain elements together, such as jail, coal tax and the text “absolute necessity” that begins her narrative of Georgist ideals.

Another segment pairs the poor house with a public park, and another makes the statement “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages.”

There are railroads, properties, chance cards and a continuous path.

Monopoly is identical to “The Landlord’s Game” except that it does not make you learn anything beyond how to make and lose money.

Darrow’s version of the game is more memorable, iconic and possibly fun. But is it appropriate to support the theft of the idea because the result fostered an industry that produced jobs, hours of enjoyment and permeation into popular culture?

Information has consequences.

The result of reading Monopoly’s true history has now soured a simpler time in life.

Thanks, Internet.

James Walker is a lecturer of design at The University of Texas at Austin.