Thursday, February 16, 2006


It's the game everyone remembers fondly and no one wants to play. With the old-timey tokens and penalty cards that seem to hail from the days of flicker reels and Tammany Hall (What is a "Community Chest," anyway?) Monopoly retains the sepia aura of a Beloved Icon despite the fact that nobody, but nobody, cherishes fond memories of actually playing the game.

The last time I played, the experience was more like this one (cited by Ben of the blog Ben and Alice): "At about the 3 1/2 hour mark, the mood ...was definitely down. Everybody was yawning, and Chad was playing with action figures between turns. I had a novel I was a reading. Not much had changed by four hours, and Jenny, in exasperation, claimed the win because everybody else had abandoned the game."

Still Monopoly's mystique endures, and not just because of its vintage flair. There's also Hasbro's famous claim, backed up by the Guinness Book of World Records, that Monopoly is "the most-played board game in the world" -- a claim that, if some scrappy Wikipedians have their way, will soon and deservedly bite the dust.

"I'm suspicious of the "most played board game" title -- even if the number [of] 500 million [players] is accurate," says one editor. "Go has been around for maybe 4000 years, and it's much more popular in East Asian countries." Other editors cite games like Mancala and Mahjong as almost certainly surpassing Monopoly's popularity worldwide.

They've got to be right. It's not as if modern Western society invented the board game. In a sense, the claim is as dated as Monopoly itself, a relic of a time (Depression-era America) of unthinking cultural imperialism and awestruck reverence for the new mass-produced consumer goods. It would be more accurate to say Monopoly is the most-played commercial board game of all time. It's a monument to capitalism as much as to the game designer's art. Somehow, though, I don't see Hasbro embracing that definition any time soon.

The other day at a friend's house, I was amused to note that she had a stack of board games wherein "Monopoly" was topped by "Class War."
Is "Class War" a real game?'s subversive Monopoly cards are big fun. They're at:
Apparently! I should ask her to bring it down for a round next time I'm over there.
Hi - Here's another Wiki-themed blog you might get a kick out of.

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