SPIR608 Political Simulations and Gaming/2011/Week 1

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Friday 21st January

  • Week 1 Discussion of Charles Darrow and Elizabeth Magie Phillips, Monopoly.
Landlords Game board based on 1924 patent, precursor of Monopoly
Wikiversity Image credit:

* Is the design of the game's mechanics (board, pieces, cards, etc.) fit for purpose?

Information on cards and board;
Can visually see what's going on: Monopoly is a game of perfect information;
Includes lots of luck;
People can conspire with each other;

* Are the rules of the game easy to learn and follow?

Monopoly is easy to play - it had thirty years of development before publication.

* Is the game enjoyable and sociable to play?

It's fun!

* What techniques does the game use to model its chosen subject?

Greed is good - get rich or die trying!
Everyone starts with the same opportunity;
Risk - you get punished if you spend all your money on building hotels;
Encourages consumerism;
If you have to sell, you only get half your money back.

* How does the game combine abstraction and realism in its workings?

Quite realistic: look at how Brooklyn in New York is being developed;
Realism should be judged against how people behave in the game - Monopoly recreates the emotional state of being a capitalist; ::Realism is about how the game affects the players when playing;
Game engages players by getting peiople to trade with each other to build up groups of properties;
Game in three acts:
  1. Getting property;
  2. Trading property;
  3. Deciding who has won.
Its is an innovation from a race game with a beginning and an end, i.e. you go round and round the same track until someone wins.

* How accurately does the game simulate the decision-making processes faced by the real-life protagonists of its chosen subject?

It works on abstraction.

* What political lessons can people learn by playing the game?

Is it a socialist game? It seems like a capitalist game;
It warns people to be careful with their money and avoid bankruptcy;
The lesson is that a free market leads to a monopoly as one capitalist owns everything, and the other players are impoverished;
It was students playing it on leftist economics courses who changed the name to Monopoly;
Why is Monopoly seen as a capitalist game?
It encourages egoism, screw everyone else to win;
People become so involved in game they forget critical message - people identify with impoverishing others;
Message has become hidden by game mechanics;
Elizabeth Magie Phillips airbrushed out of history when it was mass-marketed and became a family game of 1950s Cold War USA;
Anti-Monopoly is a game critique of the game;
Class Struggle tried to be a critical variant, but game does not play very well;
During the Cold War, Monopoly identifed by both Americans and Russians as a capitalist game;

Like Machiavelli's The Prince, Monopoly can be taken at face value rather than realising that it's a critique of capitalism.

* How would you improve the structure and mechanics of the game?

Credit card version;
Versions available for people to use place names from their own locality;
Can we make it that the person with least money wins?
Philosophers could use Monopoly as a way of judging human nature;
We can all identify with bad characters in movies and we can become one when playing Monopoly;
Games suck you into the Huizinga's 'magic circle'. Everyone wants to win, but only one person does;
People want to keep playing even when it is obvious who has won;
You can end up with most of the players no longer involved as two last players slug it out - could have better end game;
Luck is an element of the game. Good to understand probability of two dice. Also lots of luck means that inexperienced players have a chance to win;
Gaming the game:when you understand how the rules work you can manipulate the rules e.g. the strip of properties following the jail, the limit in the number of houses. People focus more on the rules than what they are meant to represent.

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