Focused on the goal of bankrupting your opponents, as prescribed by the rules, there is nothing to stop one from taking over the board. Nothing, except a series of black dots distributed among the faces of a plastic cube.

Dictating your every move, the dice are a key component to winning a game of Monopoly. At first, these seemingly insignificant members of the game might appear to be arbitrary in their execution of directed movement. Yet, randomness is defined by its dealing from an unknown source group. Though the outcome from casting two die may be numerous, it is nevertheless finite. Dice, therefore, operate by chance not by luck.

Given this element of chance, one wonders if Monopoly would still be classified as a game of skill. According to David Parlett it is, as he states in The Oxford History of Board Games:

…in Monopoly, they [dice] certainly determine our movement at each turn, but that does not prevent it from being one of skill overall. (20)

Once catapulted to the next block, the meaning of the move rests entirely upon the skill and knowledge one employs. The implication is that skill does not determine where one lands but what one does once they hit the ground. Parlett directly correlates this to life matters by asserting:

…they [dice] are elements of reality, since, in everyday life, no outcome of any significance is determined entirely by will and by skill, or is entirely uninfluenced by other 'players' or elements beyond our control. (20)

The presence of dice in Monopoly serves as more than a typical game element. Specifically in the case of Monopoly, the dice act as an element of reality in this utopian sphere of game play. Dice alone do not turn Monopoly from fantasy into actuality. But as figurative of the natural ebb and flow of life, they do resonate within the individual not as a player but as a person.

Those who witnessed the affluence of the 1920s and then the destitution of the 1930s experienced the vicissitudes of life to the extreme. It would seem strange that a game in which the difference between success and failure rests on the roll of the dice would appeal to those tortured by similar arbitrariness.

On the other hand, there is another way to interpret the appeal of this game. One, Monopoly teaches that vast wealth can be had. Granted, such requires bankrupting the other players, an economic state all too familiar among those living in the 1930s. Yet, Monopoly exists primarily in a fantastical realm. In such a world, even the most costly risks and devastating circumstances have no consequence in reality and thus may be enjoyed as wholly imaginary. Two, chance decides one's fate. Responsibility for what happened is thus displaced from the individual to outside forces. True, Monopoly is a game of skill and the dice determine movement, but not outcome. But Monopoly ceases to be a game of skill when the player reacts to the capriciousness of the dice rather than manipulate their movement to suit an overarching game plan.

Escapism will always be an appeal of game play. During the Great Depression, the role of escapism assuaged a particular set of anxieties plaguing the American people. Affected by different circumstances, Americans of the 1930s might have gravitated towards Monopoly for different reasons than their modern day counterparts, hence the surprising popularity of the game during this era. Again, to quote Parlett:

How representational a game is depends on the level at which it is being played and the extent of its player's imagination. (6)

Just as there are two sides to a coin, there are six sides to a die. Each side with its own value. Each value the sum of the whole.







CHANCE

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