Lessons Lost with the New Monopoly

Have you played Monopoly lately?  If not, you might be amazed – as we were – that the beloved board game has gone cashless: gone are the stacks of $50s, $100s and $500s.

Instead, players use bank cards inserted into a machine that’s a cross between a calculator and a credit-card reader. The “banker” punches in how much to add/subtract from the card’s balance. This is a snazzy new feature, and sure, modernization is part of life. But a cashless Monopoly is a lot more than a new look. It changes what Monopoly teaches us.

Our first gripe:  no cash means kids don’t learn how to handle money – literally. Paper money in the game required kids to count it, provide change and actually see their losses and gains. What a thrill to add up all those $100s in exchange for a few, precious, orange $500s.

Second gripe: the card leaves kids in the dark about their finances. With paper money, they literally see their budget…and feel anxiety when their money pile starts to dwindle. With the card, the only way to know how much money you have is to run it through the reader.  And let’s be honest. Too many real-world players run credit cards through too many readers, never minding how much is actually in their accounts.

While this sounds theoretical, we can report that the reality is not far off. Recently, an LNWM staffer played the new Monopoly at a family reunion. This what she reported: The kiddos (and adults) kept jamming their bank cards into the reader, buying up apartment buildings, hotels and commodities to their heart’s content until….OOPS, many went bankrupt. In the past, these same kids had counted and recounted their money before paying up for estates on Park Ave.

Third gripe: No cash means less chance for creative negotiation. Say you own all but one of the railroads, and your competitor just landed on the last one. You could pay a premium to buy the property from the new owner. But why not get creative? Offer face value for that railroad plus a cut of the proceeds – say $5– every time someone lands on it.  These types of transactions are way easier to think of and implement when you’re dealing in dollars.

So note to Hasbro (owner of Monopoly): Let’s drop the gadgets and keep this old-school.

Cash is king when it comes to Monopoly’s real value.