OBJECT… The object of the game is to become the wealthiest player through buying, renting and selling property.

Appearing in the game rules included in a standard set of Monopoly, the object states the "plot" of the game. Yet it does not clearly establish the objective of the game. For that, consider this redefinition provided by Alan Axelrod in Everything I Know about Business I Learned from Monopoly:

So here is your #1 rule. Under the heading "Object": "The object of the game is to buy, rent and sell property with sufficiently focused and ruthless skill to bankrupt the other players and thereby force them out of the game." (117)

So defined, the nature and goal of the game are unmistakable: to be the last one standing.

Consider the monopoly giants of the Gilded Age, whose names continue to stand as formidable pillars in the industrial world, Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller. Their domination of steel and oil, respectively, provoked an outcry against laissez-faire practices of the time. These men conquered not by amassing wealth but by being the ones standing on top. As such, it would only seem logical that a game dedicated to the art of monopoly would proclaim the winner as one who solely dominated the board.

Further evidence of the ruthless nature of the game may be discovered in a closer reading of the rules.

Ever wonder why there were only 32 houses and 12 hotels? Well, the answer is provided under the section of frequently asked questions:

To maintain a balance in the game, there have always been exactly 32 houses and 12 hotels in the Monopoly game. If it were possible to improve all the properties, it would be difficult to force opponents into bankruptcy.

Building shortages are not merely a realistic aspect of the game, but also one intended to perpetuate the game's underlying, ruthless nature. A smart player will scramble to develop their properties, hiking up rents, and thus stripping their "opponents" of the capital needed to develop their own color group. Camaraderie among players is further discouraged by the prohibition of favors.

MISCELLANEOUS…Money can be loaned to a player only by the Bank and then only by mortgaging property. No player may borrow from or lend money to another player.

Rather, just the opposite is encouraged.

PAYING RENT…The owner may not collect rent if he/she fails to ask for it before the second player following throws the dice.

In other words, "you snooze you loose." It is the owner's responsibility to demand rent, and thus the renter's prerogative to pay only when asked, eliciting another maxim, "every man for himself."

Defined as a race game by The Oxford History of Board Games, Monopoly is a scramble to firmly grasp the opportunities available, whether it be acquiring all the houses or skipping out on the rent. Once again to reference Axelrod:

Monopoly models the foundation assumption of economics: the principle of scarcity. Every opportunity you act on is an opportunity that is thereby denied to another player. (110)

Heralded as the land of opportunity, America represents a world of boundless possibility to many. A people of plenty, Americans enjoy an abundance of material goods and social liberties. Yet, when confronted with the principle of scarcity, this ideal of plenty exists in relative terms. For one to have much, another must have little. In the world of Monopoly, the acquisition of one is detrimental to the other. Affluence, it would seem, is insatiable as it is selfish.

What may be fact in the game world of Monopoly may not be reality in everyday life. The argument here is not that Monopoly directly parallels the business world. What Monopoly does is encourage competitive and opportunistic practices by replacing consequences with conquest. As merely playing Monopoly glorifies consumption, winning a game necessitates possession.

The irony is, of course, that Monopoly is a zero-sum game. For in the end, regardless of who wins or loses, all players exit this game world empty handed. Thus, the larger significance of Monopoly cannot be attributed to the possessions temporarily acquired, but rather to the beliefs, practices, and ideas appropriated during the game.







PLOT

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