Who said Monopoly had to be about greed? Not my seven year old

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Artwork by Adam De Souza

Monopoly is the kind of board game where greed is good. You earn by hoarding money, ruthlessly buying a property, then building cute little green houses on that property to rent like Airbnbs, only to turn them into massive red hotels ASAP to rent for even more money colored.

As a general rule, as soon as you can afford it, and even when you have to mortgage everything of value to do so, you build. Just like cottage country chic – more is always better. Everything else just delays the inevitable – bankruptcy or just getting by at every turn of the table – the anxiety mounts as you have to try to outrun those expensive hotels and Airbnbs without a visit. Owning pays. Hello Park Place! The risk is rewarded. Rule of property and assets. Not so different from real life.

As a player you get your Gordon Gekko – racing around the board as a silver dog, wheelbarrow, thimble or car, just waiting for someone else to land on your property so you can start dominate the game and them.

My kid’s pandemic birthday party was simple (and more fun for all of us)

I recently played the game with my seven year old daughter for the first time. I taught him a thing or two – how jail isn’t always bad, especially when you can still collect rent from your properties while you’re incarcerated and not incur personal expenses, and how income tax is a real pain here too. She impressed me with her gameplay. She skillfully traded me for my railroads to complete her set, and I always paid her $200 every time I landed on one, which must have been around the board at least once (that’s nice to know you $200 for passing GO).

But what touched me most was something else she did. Seeing that she was wealthy and a winner, she felt bad seeing how little money I had left. So against the rules and the grain of the game, she started sharing and helping me. Fifty dollars here… $100 there. Free rent and as many IOUs as I needed. I stayed alive with his largesse.

In Monopoly, winning means accumulating wealth at the expense of others, and most people when playing become even more ruthless as their net worth increases. Bankrupting all your opponents is the goal of the game. After all, the game gets its name from the economic concept of monopoly – the domination of a particular market by one entity. Normally a “rich” Monopoly player doesn’t share their wealth and instead becomes stronger and more self-love and even more aggressive. Take other people’s money first, then their possessions, then their dignity because the game piece that represents them is completely removed from the game. Money, like power, tends to corrupt.

But not with her. It felt good to help others, but I also think she realized that by winning, others would be eliminated and no longer play with her. She wanted to keep everyone in the game to make it last and keep it fun. I must have played this game thousands of times, but never like this. Her empathy and generosity were traits I had never experienced or even given to others in-game. As she grew richer, she became more compassionate, gentler, and more thoughtful, challenging the stereotypes.

In other games she’s played, she’s learned hard lessons about trust and compassion (she recently lost all her favorite pets in an online “trust exchange” when the other person didn’t not complete his part of the trade), but it did not. Don’t diminish his empathy or reflective nature. It only seemed to have emboldened his sense of what was right and good and made him feel good.

When I managed to come back and rebuild, and she landed on one of my hotel sets, I felt compelled to return the favor and let her stay for free. When you give, you always get it back in one way or another. By being charitable and empathetic, you also realize that you might be the one who needs it one day. But she already knew all that better than me.

As the gap widened between the haves (her) and have-nots (me) in our game, she brought a simple seven-year solution to it, immediately and unprompted, she “felt” the gap and filled him with evening things outside. It was instinctive. Capitalist systems and games usually create inequality, but she showed me that players can always determine the outcome and change the system. By sharing what she had, she helped bridge the gap that game design can create among gamers.

I think we’ve all had this feeling of having more than someone else and never really working to do anything meaningful. When we are with others who have more or less than us, it creates a wealth and lifestyle gap that seems inescapable. Either you or they live a “better” life, and it’s usually felt more deeply by those with less.

All of this made me think of a leveling mechanism (a practice that acts to ensure social equality) that I had once read about in Cultural Anthropology. In some hunter-gatherer communities there is a tradition known as “insulting the meat”. The idea is that when the hunter returns to his group with the animal killed for the meal, the others don’t care much about what he has done, and even do less, to make sure that the hunter does not don’t get a big head: “How can you bring us this little piece of meat?”

The fact that the hunter can bring the meat home makes him neither more nor less than another person. By placing less value on it, members of the community elevate the values ​​of working together and kinship. The way my daughter played Monopoly – even though she was unaware of it – reflected this choice. She chose community and feelings of goodwill, fairness and everyone’s ‘having’, over self-importance and dominance.

Without happiness and abundance for all, we can never truly be happy ourselves, as we are connected to the wider community.

My seven-year-old daughter couldn’t just ride off into the Monopoly sunset with her riches and railroads. I’m not a rich man, but if I was, I like to think I’d play the game like her.

Adam Rodin lives in Winnipeg.

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