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Local Editorials

A game of Monopoly may break up families, but it can be educational

Years ago, at the beginning of the Great Recession, it became very clear to me that I had no idea how economics or business worked. I’d read a book about investment banking, so I recognized some of the names of big players. And I’d read “The Great Gatsby,” so I knew multimillionaires stood a higher-than-average chance for tragedy, such as being shot in a pool over a misunderstanding.

I also learned at some point that the inventor of Monopoly had intended the game to not so much be fun as to show the evils of capitalism.

It was the 1930s; everyone was standing in bread lines except for the president and the Kennedys, so it shouldn’t have been a hard sell. Knowing that is the intended purpose of the game, I’ve played all of my Monopoly games with the intent of somehow affecting the real Dow Jones numbers.

Let me be clear: I do not cheat at Monopoly. It takes away the feeling of sportsmanship and, besides, how can you enjoy a win if you didn’t really earn it?

Also, I don’t need to cheat. At this point in my life, I’ve analyzed and researched and done math – yes, math – to find the best way to play the game. In fact, it’s not even really fun anymore, it’s more like work. Similar to how real estate moguls actually run their own businesses, but without the big payoff at the end for me.

Bragging rights, however, are a currency worth more than gold.

There’s a strategy to the game. Well, several strategies. Red and orange properties will give you the biggest return on investment, but you can never go wrong with owning all four railroads. Of course, owning one railroad to prevent someone else from owning all four is just fun times.

Park Place and Boardwalk are suckers’ bets and overrated. Sure, you could easily bankrupt someone if they landed there and you have hotels, but the odds of that are slim enough to not be worth the trouble.

But with a little luck and some planning, I’ve found I can ruin nearly any family event by sending my siblings into the poorhouse and cackling like a comic book villain the whole way.

Now, ask them, and they will tell you that I cheated. That there was no way I should have that many hundred-dollar bills in my possession so early in the game, that they don’t remember me buying those properties, that I never even landed on them.

But I never cheat. I don’t need to. I do, however, start with some strategies that, while maybe not in the spirit of the game, certainly are not explicitly forbidden by the rules of the game.

Not enough money if you land on New York Avenue? That’s cool; you can just pay me with interest over the next few turns.

Want to make a deal? That’s fine, but you can’t trade with any other player for the rest of this hour.

Is it fun? Absolutely not. It’s miserable. It’s just real life but with extra steps and a tad more misery. But it’s not like we can do anything with our Monopoly money anyway. There’s no option in the game to go on vacation or buy a midlife crisis car. We just have the money to make more money and, if we want to play the game, we keep other players in it.

The end game, of course, involves multiple joint stock corporations that my siblings and other players may be nominal shareholders in. All of the money ultimately is funneled through to my own coffers on my side of the board. I own at least a share of all the properties on the board and don’t even need to roll the dice anymore. I just skip my turns because, let’s face it, counting all of that money is a full-time job in itself.

At that stage, three hours into a game of Monopoly with the entire board’s economy flowing though my thimble, my only need is to sit there and rant about how free parking is just supposed to be a free space, and putting fines and taxes there is really just socialism. Of course, I don’t need any of the other players catching a windfall while we play – one that was funded by my money – because then they might be able to compete with me on some level.

So, for the record, I do not cheat at Monopoly. With a little luck, I don’t need to.

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