Friday, February 01, 2008

The Press Won't Shut Up about the World Monopoly Vote

For the last two years whenever Monopoly ran a vote on some new localized Here and Now edition, the affected local presses urged their readers to vote, so as to ensure that their (the press's) area got included in the new edition.

Now, they didn't just simply report the fluff piece of news that Monopoly was creating a new version. They actually urged their readers to go out and vote. To ensure that their area got on the board.


Pride? Do citizens care enough about this, about anything, to act cohesively, even if its just for something as trivial as a spot on a board game? I don't recall (not that I looked too hard) these same newspapers urgently following up a story about the homeless by urging their fellow readers to show some pride by giving to homeless shelters.

In certain cases, this appeal to pride came in the form of a comment about their city having just lost some major sporting event or business deal to some neighboring city; so the least the city residents could do is to beat them varmints at something far more trivial.

Silliness? The newspapers must realize that the entire business of voting for a spot on a board game is plain silly. But maybe the editor insisted on running the story, or it was a slow news day, or the writer really wanted to write about toys and games but couldn't admit it to him or herself. So he or she tossed in an "appeal" to their readers to vote for their town, implying ha ha, we're just kidding, we don't really care but we made you smile.

Economics? Is there economic benefit to having your city's name in print on a Monopoly board? Maybe a few more people will remember your name on the board the next time they want to take a vacation and end up taking it your way. Or maybe the press releases can attract a few extra tourists. You may even get to add a description of your little town to be included with the game. All those people who buy and play the game and read the rules will learn about your town.

That may kind of make some sense if you're a small town, but a big town? Is London going to get more tourists if it lands a spot on England: Here and Now?

Who plays this game, anyway?

People play Monopoly, it's true. Because that's what's lying around. But most Monopoly games are bought and never played. Most of the games are bought by parents or grandparents for their kids who would rather be playing video games, or who already have two or three copies of the game, anyway.

But this one is a themed version, you say. Well, how often did they play non-themed Monopoly until now? Do you think a themed version is going to make them play it more? Even if it did, are they going to choose to play Boston Historical Sites Monopoly over Spongebob Squarepants Monopoly? Sure, it will get played: once when it's bought, and one more time at Christmas, and then it's back to the closet. Then the next edition of Monopoly arrives.

This is partly because today's kids prefer to play video games, and partly because Monopoly is not a particularly good game (long, lucky, player elimination, take-that mechanics, and play that revolves around failing rather than succeeding are some reasons why), and partly because Hasbro owns all the shelves on toy stores around the U.S. and doesn't want you to know that's it's not a good game.

Games of Monopoly are collected, not played. Which is fine, if you realize this. In which case, Monopoly is not a game, it's a craft or an art piece. You buy it to look at it at the box, not to play it.

If so, the only business you're going to drum up with your name on a Monopoly board is within the few weeks you get with the press releases; after that, the only ones who will notice that your name is on the board are the people who live there.

World Monopoly

The press just can't shut up about this. Around the world, the population of the world is being urged by its newspapers to vote to get their city on the board.

If Oshkosh actually makes it to a top spot on the board, Oshkosh may benefit from it with a few weeks of press coverage. But then what? A year from now, a few thousand of these games will actually have been played, and a few tens of people might know more about Oshkosh, and a few ones may stop by on their next vacation.

And Oshkosh can feel proud that it galvanized the precious time and spirit of its community to band together for something trivial, which just shows you what you can do if you try hard enough to do something free, painless, and effortless.

But will Oshkosh succeed? No way. Not unless they rig the vote, like so many others have done before in these Hasbro shindags. The top vote getters are going to be the top populated cities, with a teeny amount of wiggle room one step up or down. And big cities don't need a spot on the board.

So what, exactly, is the point? And why won't the media stop talking about it? I think it's because, when it comes to board games, they simply have nothing better to talk about.

Look Who's Talking

Some of the cities whose press has urged its citizens to get out the vote as of Jan 31:

Cape Town
Great Ocean Road
Hawke's Bay
Kuala Lumpar
New Dheli
San Fransisco
Washington, D.C.



Chris said...

How *dare* you force me to defend Monotony, the most tedious boardgame in the world! X-(

Bad Yehuda - no cookies for you! ;)

"People play Monotony, it's true. Because that's what's lying around. But most Monotony games are bought and never played."

Sorry, but while what you say here is broadly correct, there are a great many people who *love* Monotony, and even (can you believe this?) a World Championship for the game.

Monotony is perhaps the purest logistical boardgame available, and some people love logistical play - plus, it's devilishly easy to learn which makes it accessible to a very wide audience (including very young players, who because of the high luck content can actually beat their parents at this game). That is has no strategic depth is why hobbygamers - such as you and I - detest the damnable monstrosity as much as we do. But it's wrong to assume from our revulsion that the game is not beloved by a significant crowd.

As for getting your place on the board, I think you're right - it's local pride. It means a great deal to a great many people - remember the majority of people never leave the area they grow up, and have tremendous loyalty to their local region. Getting on a Monotony board may not seem like much, but it's recognition of a kind, and that's something many people crave (even tangentially).

Once again - I curse thee for making me write a comment defending Monotony, a game that I would rather eat than play, but I shall forgive you all the same. ;)

Best wishes!

Yehuda Berlinger said...


I said that people played Monopoly, didn't I? But perhaps you're right that I glossed that over too quickly.

Yes, there are Monopoly championships. In fact, every week there's news about some municipality, library, school, or organization somewhere in the world holding a Monopoly tournament as a benefit for something or other, or staging a life-sized Monopoly game as a demonstration for something or other.

Yes, it's still a lingua franca in board games, and possibly one of the best children's board game from before 1980 or so. Since board games dropped out of the news around 1980 or so, that means it's the best children's game that most parents know.

I also acknowledge that part of its appeal is that anyone can beat anyone else, pretty much. Yay, gambling.

As far as easy to learn, that's only because it's always taught orally from one person to another. In fact, it's rather complex for a mass market board game. When was the last time you actually read the tiny rules on the back of the box?


Chris said...

I know what you mean - I find most mass market boardgame players learn to play orally. I'm not sure I've met someone who ever read the rules for Jenga. :D

Have a great weekend!

Gerald McD said...

Yehuda --

Excellent article. I cringe every time I see a reference to Monopoly in print or visual media. Then, a wave of sadness comes over me, thinking of all the fun people around the world are missing, because they think Monopoly is the best boardgame ever invented. And, later, I experience some brief anger at the media for not doing their job of critical reporting. Finally, I shake my head (figuratively, sometimes literally) and resign myself to the fact that Monopoly will never go away, as it should have decades ago. That may sound bitter, but I'm realistic enough to know that, like death and taxes, Monopoly is a sure thing. Thank goodness we have fun boardgames to play, instead.