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Do not pass go

17 February 2011 By Robert Cyran

If only real-world finance was as boring as the new Monopoly game. All the fun is gone from the classic game of capitalism and greed. Hasbro’s updated version adds a Big Brother-like infrared tower to keep watch and eliminate dodgy dealings and shadow banking.

Sure, anyone who remembers being trapped in a three-hour game will see the merits of a bit of streamlining. Computerized dice-rolling makes it impossible for an uncle to spend half a minute shaking his hand and yelling come on, snake eyes. And automatic bank balance tracking may be smart given American students’ falling placement in mathematics achievement tests.

Yet giving tax-breaks for turning utilities greener, removing the scope to palm property deeds on the sly, and getting rid of the ability to bypass the bank and slip cash under the table to an impoverished ally aren’t improvements. They sound painfully virtuous for what’s supposed to be a game. And they provide a poor lesson in how modern capitalism works.

If the scope for scheming and actual theft is to be curtailed, at least a clever computer should be able to reflect reality in other ways. For example, it could flood the system with cash when a heavily mortgaged player suffers a liquidity crisis or pay out extra bonuses to the richest players. These features don’t seem to be on Hasbro’s list, though the game’s controller is supposed to add unexpected twists.

Of course, even Big Brother Monopoly won’t crush all individuality. Bright sparks will probably figure out how to hack the all-seeing tower and send their annoying siblings into crushing bankruptcy. Thank goodness for that. It’s in the real world, not the land of make-believe, that high finance needs to be duller.


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