Monopoly Rules

Lizzy Magie's original version of Monopoly

What is it that pulls us back from the solipsistic abyss of gamesmanship in life?

By Neil Newman

“When we were children, our mother made the board game Monopoly a little less cutthroat, by setting a house rule that properties could only be exchanged once all the properties had been sold. As there was then a general bargaining session, with the intended result being a more balanced outcome and a strong advantage for the child who would make most of a scene if they lost (my step-father), the game lost much of its potential chaos and randomness.

In the 50s/60s, when Game Theory was born, most board games were based on the battle scenario. The aim was to be the sole survivor. In a highly instructive lesson in self-fulfilling prophesies, the early Game theorists based all of their models (and therefore what they would theorise to test) on this ‘winner-takes-all’ design.

Game theorists based all of their models (and therefore what they would theorise to test) on this winner-takes-all design.

Naturally, (as post-Structuralist theory points out), while they thought they were being objective, their own models prevented this. In the 21st century, building upon late 20th German games, the gaming industry had a literal revolution – one that has had implications for Game Theory

Many years later, playing with my younger cousins at a gathering, I lead a rebellion against the home rule, saying that I had had enough of the ‘Soviet style gameplay’, to the delight of my cousins and the dark rage of the rest of the family playing.

Games have many purposes for those who play them, escapism obviously, but also role-playing, and even understanding basic and advanced life concepts.

Neil Newman

We had a home-modded game that could play up to 12, there were eight in the game. I had to leave the game after one session, but needless to say, the advantage the cooperative start gave them put my younger cousins in first and second place by the time the game ended – perhaps because they were playing the game as the rules were originally intended.

The cheapest property on the Monopoly board

The game Monopoly was originally created by Elizabeth Magie as “The Landlord game”, and was designed to be instructive to players as to the effects of rent upon an economic system. She also created a version based upon a less exploitative system, using the same board, so players could experience in game life the difference.

Needless to say, American financiers were not as supportive of the other model than the more vicious one they promoted.

Playing games teaches us the consequences of actions, without introducing real life consequences. People learn far quicker, and retain information longer, when the experience is wrapped in a game that they can explore by themselves.

What is it that pulls us back from the solipsistic abyss? Compassion.

The crucial point to recall here is that Monopoly is a game. Except for a loss of dopamine, there is no other pain – unless bad losers take to their fists or other revenge.

Sleeping rough in Covent Garden, photo by Mani, Wikimedia Commons

Behavior that is acceptable within a game – driving people into homelessness and penury is difficult to countenance outside the game board.

In real life, people suffer from homelessness, poverty, and despair. Changing rules within a game to make it nicer misses the point, as children know.

a few people regard all of existence as a game

But to end, the sad truth which must be accepted to understand Reality is this: a few people regard all of existence as a game. In fact, all of us have that potential to do so. What is it that pulls us back from the solipsistic abyss? Compassion.

people like to cooperate and few people like mean winners.

Compassion even for those who may only be a figment of our deranged imaginations. Compassion even for those we will never meet, but whom we can imagine being. Compassion even for those who will never help us, and never even know of us. Compassion even for the lowliest ant, or fly, and gratitude for what we have.

Game Theorists nowadays are quite different from their early 50s counterparts.

Game Theorists nowadays are quite different from their early 50s counterparts. New games today also have cooperative elements, and the game industry is booming like it never has before.

Because people like to cooperate and few people like mean winners. You can’t butter and jam a toasted slice of cake”.