Saturday, 14 August 2010

New 21st-Century Monopoly...

New 21st-Century Monopoly edition missed a few tricks...

Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect €200.

We've all had the sinking feeling of picking up a card and reading those words. These days, however, it's also a fair summary of what most of the country would like to say to the politicians, bankers and developers who've landed us in such a mess.


The Irish edition of Monopoly has just been given a radical makeover for the 21st century -- but even so, it's hard not to feel that they've missed a few tricks.

When Monopoly first appeared in shops exactly 75 years ago, America was in the middle of the Great Depression. Charles Darrow, the man who launched it, had lost his job in the Wall Street Crash and thought that people might enjoy the escapism of a game that allowed people to become property tycoons.

He was as astonished as anyone else when it made him a real-life millionaire.

In modern Ireland, things are a little bit different. We still like the idea of being rich. We're just not sure about a game where you mortgage yourself to the hilt, pay huge taxes, bleed your opponents dry, laugh when they go bankrupt and spend so long trying to win that you're too exhausted at the end to care much one way or the other.

In other words, Monopoly represents capitalism in its purest form -- greedy, selfish and utterly ruthless.

Rich Uncle Pennybags, the smiling old man in a top hat who serves as its mascot, looks suspiciously like one of those snake-oil bankers urging you to bail out his massive property debts.

The new Irish edition is clearly aimed at children who might find the original a bit too old-fashioned. You now keep track of your money on bits of plastic that feel like credit cards, an uncomfortable reminder of how quickly those little devices can empty your bank account.


There are now sound effects for various Chance and Community Chest cards, so that, for example, you can hear the door slam when you're sent off to prison. The square board has become circular, perhaps a subtle reminder that no matter how hard you work, you always end up back where you started.

Unfortunately, the revised property values suggest that the makers haven't paid a trip to any time recently. Part of the original's charm was getting the chance to rent Croke Park for a tenner or buying the Clarence Hotel off Bono for less than a grand. In today's Monopoly world, Shewsbury Road will still set you back a cool €4m -- and at a time when prices are dropping like a stone, that frankly looks like a bit of a rip-off.

There are other ways in which this feels like a relic from that ancient era known as the Celtic Tiger. You're still supposed to win by building houses and hotels, not something that anybody who's seen a ghost estate will be doing for a long time.

If you get into debt you can remortgage your properties without any questions asked, a request it would be advisable to avoid in our bailed-out banks if you don't want to get laughed at.

There is Free Parking (what's that?) and a Get Out Of Jail Free card, highly inappropriate given that none of our crony capitalists is ever likely to be put away in the first place.

Above all, the new Irish Monopoly has forgotten to include a NAMA option -- a toxic bank that buys up all your loans, overlooks your record of dodgy behaviour and screws your opponents as they work themselves to the bone to pay for your mistakes.

Now that's a game we'd all like to play.

Article by Andrew Lynch - Evening Herald

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