Monopoly’s ironic past

3 years ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

When faced with an eviction by her landlord, a woman resorted to educating the masses about property speculation, by way of a board game that later became known as Monopoly.

Revolutionary Monopoly

In the early twentieth century, Elizabeth Magie was evicted by her landlord. In reaction to this unfortunate event – and to help teach others of the ills of land ownership and capitalism – she developed a game in which players move around a board buying or trading properties, developing them with houses and hotels, and collecting rent from their opponents; with the goal being to drive them into bankruptcy.

Magie called her creation ‘The Landlord’s Game’, and patented her invention in 1904.

However, in a cruel twist of fate (or an even more emphatic display of capitalism) Magie’s attempts to sell her creation to the then most successful game manufacturers the Parker Brothers were spurned, only for her idea to be copied, repackaged and resold during the Great Depression by unemployed heating engineer Charles Darrow, for a small-to-medium sized fortune.

Despite its controversial and perhaps ironic past, Monopoly, as it later became known, is one of the most successful commercial games in history, with the latest figures suggesting that more than 1 billion people have played it, 275 million copies have been purchased, across 11 countries and 43 languages.

Magie’s experience is still being felt today in this recession time, but whether it has had the desired effect of its originator is to be debated. Arguably, her concept has become a powerful tool in the pro-capitalist socialisation of many a Westerner’s offspring; teaching us the very opposite of which Magie herself would have likely advocated.

photo credit: Monopoly via photopin (license)

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