My fiancé hates playing Monopoly with me. This is because she can’t stand the kind of Monopoly player I am: I am a winner. Give me 1500 monopoly pounds, two dice and a tiny die-cast dog and she would maintain that I will metamorphose from egalitarian, Guardian-reading liberal who’d more than happily buy you your next pint, into a cold, calculating capitalist who wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire. Essentially, she just doesn’t like the fact that I’m one of those people who buys everything he lands on. I’m a monster that way.
I appreciate her ‘rock and a hard place’ dilemma. Normally, come the seasonal moment we unpack the Monopoly board, her only two remaining options are to watch me leer like Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street as I bankrupt yet another loved one, or, to watch my eyes sink in mordant despair as I’m forced to sit through the utterly servile, preening, vacuous dross that is the Downton Abbey Christmas special. Neither is my best face. We usually end up playing Ticket to Ride instead.
But Monopoly has been much on my mind lately; ever since I overheard some parents talking, in all seriousness, about how it’s a great way to introduce their children to the concepts of economics. I’ll start with a disclaimer: they’re probably right. Whilst it’s easy to recoil from any toy openly labelled or marketed as ‘educational’, as a paediatrician I’d have to agree that to play is to learn. And, as such, I can see that Monopoly ticks loads of boxes: counting, reading, strategy, and yep, a bit of day to day economics.
But, this got me thinking. On the Monopoly board, I am a tycoon: in that world, Rupert Murdoch regularly calls me for my opinion; Taylor Swift performs at my birthday party; the Financial Times live-Tweets my every dice roll and Goldman Sachs offer to help manage my accumulating mounds of orange and gold paper. But in real life, this is not the case. Now, this might be because I am wasted on medicine and ought to have pursued a career in the City. It might also be because I didn’t start out in life with enough money to buy Mayfair three times over, with change. Either way, it got me to imagining what a more realistic Monopoly might look like. A Monopoly that really encapsulates life in modern day Britain. And so, ladies and gentleman, I present you with my pending pitch of rule alterations for what I hope will be called; Monopoly, 21st Century UK edition:
- The Boomer Rule: all players who were born between 1946 and 1964 (these players will be known as ‘boomers’) are to complete three whole circuits of the board before any players who were born after this time can commence play. Any players born before 1946 commence play at the same time as the ‘boomers’, but start with twice as much money. And so they should. Those guys had it hard.
- The Property Inflation Rule: Once the last ‘boomer’ to complete three circuits of the board passes ‘Go’, immediately prior to all players born after 1964 commencing play, all property prices increase by a factor of ten.
- The Internship Rule: Players who are less than 25 years old will not collect £200 when they pass ‘Go’ during their first two circuits around the board. These two circuits are known as their ‘internship period’.
- The Minimum Wage Rule: All players over 25 years old will collect £200 every time they complete a circuit of the board. Players who are less than 25 years old are not entitled to the ‘Monopoly minimum wage’, and will therefore collect the smaller sum of £120 each time they pass ‘Go’.
- The Help To Buy Rule: The game sure does seem harder if you’re young, eh? For this reason, if you’re born after 1964, you can purchase your first property more slowly by paying 10% of the asking price each time you complete a circuit of the board. This is the ‘Help to Buy Rule’. However, as soon as one player takes advantage of this rule they invoke the ‘Frankly Ridiculous Ongoing Property Inflation Rule’ (please see below).
- Frankly Ridiculous Ongoing Property Inflation Rule: Once one player has actioned the ‘Help to Buy Rule’ all property prices must increase by 10% each time that player completes a circuit of the board.
Meanwhile, the following additions/ changes have been made to Chance/ Community Chest cards:
- ‘You are assessed for property repairs. Pay £100 for every house and £200 for each hotel you own. Or don’t. Your call. Renters are schmucks. I wouldn’t worry about it. They’ll land on you again.’
- ‘Income Tax. Pay £20. Unless you are playing with the, new, die cast ‘Politician’ token, in which case you don’t pay one sweet penny, my friend. Additionally, if you have elected to play by nominating a Bermudan citizen to play, remotely, on your behalf, you don’t have to pay either. Good shout.’
- ‘Doctors Fees: Pay £100. What’s that I hear you say? The NHS is free. Sure thing, kid. But when we print these games we want them to have longevity. Trust me, by next Christmas, this will be more realistic.’
- ‘Pay University Fees: £27’000. Tough card this one. Pay up… Unless you are a ‘boomer’, in which case, this sum will be paid for you by evenly dividing the figure between all the other players. This, in all likelihood, will end the game for one, if not all of you. Go make a cheese board.’
- ‘Repair Railways. All players who do not own railway stations must contribute £20 to their upkeep. Players who own railway stations don’t have to bother. You’re making money from a necessary public service guys: good on you.’
Finally, and most importantly:
- Monopoly 21st Century edition offers no guidance on whether players landing on ‘Free Parking’ receive all the cash previously taken from other players in fines. This is the kind of Christmas argument that can make or break a family. Like turkey or goose, Eastenders or Corrie, beef dripping or goose fat. We’re not tyrants. Figure it out yourselves.
I’m hoping the makers of Monopoly will that this is the edition to gear young minds up for their future economic decisions.
But I write this satire to make a point. My point is not that baby boomers have had it easy. I’m not interested in some ‘woe is me piece’ by a millennial attempting to blame the current economic situation on their forebears. It’s not their doing. In my version of Monopoly my parents would play as ‘boomers’, as would many of the people I love and respect. I know how hard they’ve all worked, and just how hard they continue to work. I know how much I’ve relied on their support. They didn’t have it easy. And whilst my generation faces particularly tough economic times, I don’t doubt that we live in a better, freer, more open and more global society because of our parents’ generation, and their parents’ generation before them. My father still remembers rationing and the first time he tried a banana. Nowadays, I talk to parents about a varied diet for their children and think nothing of mentioning bananas, mangos and avocados. My children will be able to marry whomsoever they fall in love with and expect to be treated equally whether they are boys or girls. My point is that we have achieved so much as a society: it would be a dreadful shame to ruin it all with a terrible version of Monopoly.