The Sinister Philosophy of Your Favourite Board Game
Capitalism is a game – and the odds are stacked against you. It’s an uneven playing field, but you’re in a pretty good position. Who knows, if you play your cards right, you could become the fat cat in the top hat. A nice thought, but there’s not a lot of room at the top of the pyramid. In fact, there’s only room for one. That’s why they call it Monopoly.
Unleashed on an unsuspecting world in 1935, Monopoly is a microcosmic horror based upon one woman’s grim parody of property taxes – a product of a social order sick with greed. This board game, released to the general public during that nadir of capitalism, the great depression, is a sick parade of the corrupt mentality of a system so obviously and horrifically flawed.
Capitalism fosters mistrust and selfishness. The only way to win the fast dealing property trading game is to completely and irreversibly fuck everybody else over. The only joy to be had in Monopoly is the schadenfreude of watching Grandpa mortgage his family home to pay for the luxury of renting your Old Kent Road ghetto for a night. The ability to take pleasure in others’ suffering is compounded by the fact that most of the time spent playing Monopoly is wasted in the mind-numbing tedium of watching others take their turn, leaving you with nothing to do but simmer in the hotpot of resentment.
To make capitalism a game is to legitimise it. No longer is trampling your sister into the dirt with extortionate rents an atrocity – it’s the only way to win! Anyone who says otherwise is just a sore loser. When you play the game, you are stripped of your agency. You roll the dice and move around the board, always in the same direction, ad infinitum. You are only given one choice to make and the decision has already been made for you: “Should I buy this property/house/hotel?” “Yes”. The players, little more than automatons with wallets, march endlessly around a circle, occasionally thrown in jail for infractions as arbitrary and out of their control as rolling three doubles in a row. Yet the bank that demands tax from the players without offering anything in return is allowed to walk free.
And here we reach the black heart of this sick society–the bank that can never be bankrupt, that owns all property and to which all taxes and fines are paid. A game of Monopoly is an exercise in futility as the bank is already a monopoly before the first die is cast.
So what can be done to prise the iron grip of monopoly-capitalism from our throats?
The final solution to this problem can be found in Germany. The Settlers of Catan is one of the most dynamic, absorbing an entertaining games of all time. A game of Catan can be won in a myriad of ways: road building, trade, city development or military might are all viable strategies. With every new game of Catan comes a new challenge. The board, constructed with hex tiles, is different every time, requiring a constant updating of strategies and approaches. Players are free to trade amongst themselves, and resources, free from the corrupt oversight of a central bank, are only worth what players are willing to pay for them. While a certain element of luck is involved, enterprising players will find their strategising rewarded through Catan’s award-winning game design.
Demand more from your board games. Resist the tentacles of corporate greed and enjoy the utopia that awaits on the island of Catan. ▲