Disney World & the White House: Monopoly for the 21st Century

“I don’t think it’s possible to own Disney World and the White House at the same time,” my friend Sarah said during a particularly fierce game of midnight Monopoly pre-ball-dropping on New Year’s Eve.

Except that Asher’s friend held both in her hand.

I am not a fan of today’s version of the board game Monopoly. Aside from the fact that my children have credit cards instead of paper money, you never know how much you have, and they are dealing in millions and hundreds of thousands denoted by M and K rather than countable dollars, the idea of OWNING the White House or Disney World is just so unrelatable.

And both at the same time. Not a wise commercial real estate investment, don’t you think? I mean, yes, for the dividends, but no for the split focus. Totally mixing causes.

When I was a kid, a game of Monopoly involved thinking and counting and strategizing. We knew none of the streets or locations, and we bought railroads rather than airports. It was small town and it could parallel real life: buy enough property, learn the definition of a monopoly, and then daringly build houses one at a time until you have amassed enough ability to put a hotel there.

So many lessons.

Today, it’s living on a cloud. Striving for the big name iconic landmarks, which none of us will ever own. There’s no lesson in how to get there. Disney World grew out of swampland by a creative man with a vision for a dream park. There’s no backstory teaching my children how to start with an idea and see it grow.

It’s all about bling and glitz and gimme-gimme-gimme.

Read the history of the board game. From Wikipedia: 

The history of Monopoly can be traced back to 1903,[2] when an American woman named Elizabeth (Lizzie) J. Magie Phillips created a game through which she hoped to be able to explain the single tax theory of Henry George (it was intended to illustrate the negative aspects of concentrating land in private monopolies). Her game, The Landlord’s Game, was commercially published in 1923.[3] A series of variant board games based on her concept were developed from 1906 through the 1930s that involved the buying and selling of land and the development of that land. By 1934, a board game called Monopoly had been created which formed the basis of the game sold by Parker Brothers and its parent companies through the rest of the 20th century, and into the 21st. Several people, mostly in the Midwestern United States and near the East Coast, contributed to the game’s design and evolution. By the 1970s, the idea that the game had been created solely by Charles Darrow had become popular folklore: it was printed in the game’s instructions and even in the 1974 book The Monopoly Book: Strategy and Tactics of the World’s Most Popular Game by Maxine Brady.

In 1941, the British Secret Intelligence Service had John Waddington Ltd., the licensed manufacturer of the game outside the U.S., create a special edition for World War II prisoners of war held by the Nazis.[4] Hidden inside these games were mapscompasses, real money, and other objects useful for escaping. They were distributed to prisoners by Secret Service-created fake charity groups.[5]

Because of the lengthy court process and appeals, the legal status of Parker Brothers’ trademarks on the game was not settled until the late 1970s. Ralph Anspach won a lawsuit over his game Anti-Monopoly on appeals in 1979, as the 9th District Court determined that the trademark Monopoly was generic, and therefore unenforceable.[6]

In the earliest versions of this game, there was intention and savvy, strategy and thought. Today, it’s a board game without focus or purpose. My kids play it as if they have money to throw around and no rhyme or reason or understanding when they purchase or dominate.

I don’t want them growing up with a goal of “I’ll own Disney World.” It’s unattainable. It’s greed-based. It’s so out of focus with the meaning behind this life.

Ok, I’m ruining the game for all of us, I know. But there was a certain wisdom behind my friend’s comment. 

Reflecting on our night together, waiting for the ball to drop, I’d far rather revert to our games of Rummikub. It’s got its own fascinating history.

From Wikipedia:

Rummikub was invented by Ephraim Hertzano, a Romanian-born Jew, who immigrated to Mandate Palestine in the early 1930s.[1] He hand-made the first sets with his family in the backyard of his home. The game combines elements of rummydominoesmah-jongg andchess.[1] Hertzano sold the first sets door-to-door and on a consignment basis at small shops. Over the years, the family licensed it to other countries and it became Israel’s #1 export game.[1] In 1977, it became a bestselling game in the United States.[2]

Hertzano’s ‘Official Rummikub Book’, published in 1978, describes three different versions of the game: American, Sabra and International. Modern Rummikub sets include only the Sabra version rules, with no mention of the others, and there are variations in the rules between publishers.

The game was first made by Lemada Light Industries Ltd, founded by Hertzano. “Six handed” (a game with 6 colors) is available in Germany. It tends to be more fun for larger parties, but less challenging, as it is much easier to make a set of 3 different colors when there are 6 available.

You have to think, strategize, and figure out how to move numbers around to get rid of your tiles.  You can see the wheels turning inside everyone’s heads. The smile on Asher’s face when he successfully rearranges the table to win is priceless.

And there’s no chasing each other around to grab the electronic calculator and manipulate how much money is on your credit card like the way our Monopoly game devolved.

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