The game of Monopoly has been a staple in households for over a century. This article will take a look at the history of the game, from its origins to the modern day. We will explore the rules of the game, as well as how the property has been used throughout the years, from video games and mobile apps to live-streamed game shows.
The Landlord’s Game
Winning in Monopoly can’t be any more straightforward than the name itself. We’ll get to the rules a little later, but the gist of victory conditions entails forcing other players into bankruptcy. The last player standing, in essence, will have a “monopoly” over every property on the board.
Amid numerous changes and updates through the decades, the theme remained more or less the same. Its predecessor, the Landlord’s Game, had been more than just a novel idea at the time it was conceived. It was also a reflection of the then-economic situation.
Charles Darrow is widely credited for introducing Monopoly in the 1930s, but the patent for its inspiration had already existed for 30 years under Elizabeth Magie. A fervent Georgist (taxing land based on its usefulness, size, and location), Magie created the Landlord’s Game to educate players about the ill effects of economic monopolism.
The board’s rules scream just that. As players move around the board, they get the opportunity to purchase land. If anyone other than the landowner lands on the property during their turn, they must pay rent to the landowner. Two specific properties are “held out of use,” so a player landing on either is considered a trespasser and will be sent to jail. Players must pay a fine to get out.
As the game caught on, primarily with left-wing intellectuals and later Quakers, custom versions came out with the property names replaced with real-life neighborhood names. After being taught the rules of an Atlantic City variant, Darrow pitched the idea to Parker Brothers, who later developed Monopoly and marketed it as a board game.
By the time toymaking goliath Hasbro acquired Parker Brothers in 1991, Monopoly had sold by the millions worldwide and been translated into 47 languages. The list of variations goes on and on, from tie-ins with popular franchises to unofficial versions inspired by the board game.
It has held the Guinness World Record for the most popular board game since 1999, with around 500 million players globally. In fact, you can look up some quirky world records influenced by the board game, such as the largest Monopoly board or most people playing it simultaneously.
Playing it right
For all its persistent popularity, Monopoly has earned a peculiar reputation for making the game draw out for far too long. While Guinness doesn’t have an official entry, the National Museum of Play once described the longest Monopoly game took two months and ten days. It’s so common that there’s a Longest Game Ever version, where winning means owning every property.
One primary reason for drawn-out Monopoly games is that most games don’t play by the official rules. A press release by Hasbro reported that roughly 70% of Americans admit to not reading the rulebook, and 50% make up their own rules for whatever reason. It’s rather funny that said press release also marketed its House Rules edition, featuring rules based on mistaken beliefs.
You can find the complete official rules in this document here. For this article, however, let’s go over the rules that players often get wrong.
1. Every property must have a buyer
Board game enthusiasts agree that misunderstanding this rule is the prime culprit for making Monopoly games last longer than they should. Standard rules dictate that a property must go to auction if a player chooses not to buy it, and the highest bidder gets it. Every player gets to participate in the bidding war, including the one who refused to purchase it.
The rules also state that bidding can start at any price. Some players trigger this option to get better deals out of a property, keeping them in the game for longer.
2. “Free Parking” does nothing
Most games give out cash to players whenever they land on the Free Parking square. But the official rules mean it literally: Free Parking is just an uneventful square on the board without benefits or penalties.
3. Jail doesn’t prohibit trading properties or collecting rent
Going to jail doesn’t forbid a player from buying or selling properties or collecting rent. The only penalty is that a player can’t move unless they fulfill one of the following:
- Throw doubles (two dice with the same number) within the next three turns
- Spend a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, which a player may have drawn beforehand
- Buying a “Get Out of Jail Free” card from another player and using it
- Pay a $50 fine before rolling the dice
Jail in Monopoly isn’t as bad as it looks. As the player is prohibited from moving, they don’t risk stepping on other players’ properties and paying rent. Essentially, they can watch other players attempt to bankrupt each other while biding their time. However, players can’t stay in jail forever; if they fail to get doubles on the third turn, they must pay the fine.
Monopoly’s various forms
Many enthusiasts agree that Monopoly is a board game, first and foremost. It has been that way since their introduction decades ago and is unlikely to change anytime soon. That doesn’t mean the game can’t benefit from the inevitable progress of technology.
1. Monopoly LIVE
One of the most interesting uses of the Monopoly brand being licensed is with Monopoly LIVE, which transforms the game into a game show streamed live. This game is played on live casinos like Stake, often being live-streamed on platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and Kick as a novelty.
An official collaboration between Hasbro and casino game developer Evolution, Monopoly LIVE is essentially Monopoly in visuals only. No property trading or collecting rent exists. Instead, it’s more akin to roulette, where players wager on a number on the wheel. Each number corresponds to how much a player’s bet will grow.
If the wheel stops on either “2 ROLLS” or “4 ROLLS,” the game enters the 3D Bonus Round. Players who bet on either stand to win additional prizes from whatever the 3D character Mr. Monopoly collects as he goes around the board.
2. Video games
Before its acquisition by Hasbro, Monopoly had a somewhat rocky relationship with its video game versions. This was evident in a report published in Compute! magazine in 1988, where a version made for the Amiga credited Parker Brothers on the title screen. Unfortunately, the game had the unintended impression that the company created it, which wasn’t the case.
Since then, Parker Brothers, and later Hasbro, had tightened their protection of the Monopoly trademark. Eventually, it opened up to video game adaptations, of which 28 currently exist for nearly every gaming platform.
The latest adaptation is Ubisoft’s Monopoly Madness for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch, and Amazon Luna, released in 2021. Destructoid’s Jordan Devore rated the game a seven out of ten, praising the decision-making aspect and “vacuuming” cash.
3. Monopoly World Championship
Believe it or not, there’s such a thing as competitive Monopoly, and it’s been around longer than you may think. Hasbro’s Monopoly World Championship is held once every four to six years in a random city, with the first being held in Liberty, New York, in 1973.
Nicolo Falcone is the current title holder, winning the 2015 championship in Macau. In an interview with The Guardian, he said he aims to become the first player to win back-to-back should the next one come around. The 2022 championship was canceled due to COVID, and there have been no updates about restarting the event.
Interesting side note: The prize money is fixed at USD$20,580. It’s also the total value of the bills inside a classic Monopoly board.
4. Board game variants
Creating a variation of classic Monopoly starts with a question: “What if?” It’s impossible to determine precisely how many variants are in the market today, considering that Hasbro isn’t the only one churning these out. It’s possible to get a rough estimate of the number of official versions based on the world record for the largest Monopoly board game collection, which is 2,249, held by Neil Scallan in the UK.
Overall, the maximum estimate stands at around 7,000 variants. You can’t go wrong playing classic Monopoly, but it also won’t hurt to try the following examples:
- Monopoly Millionaire – the objective is to be the first player to accrue $1,000,000
- Monopoly Electronic Banking – card-based payments replace the classic paper bills, scanned via a provided handheld terminal
- Monopoly Deal – a card-based game where winning involves having three property sets (of the same color group) on your hand
- Monopoly Cheaters Edition – encourages cheaters with lucrative benefits but also penalizes them heavily when caught
While not part of the Monopoly family, Anti-Monopoly deserves an honorable mention. It was created in the 1970s in response to the false impression that Monopoly was inadvertently reinforcing—that monopolism is a good thing. Players can opt to either play by competitor or monopolist rules, though the teams must be equal in number.
Issues and controversies
The more popular something gets, the more open it is to scrutiny, and Monopoly is no exception. The unexpected spawning of video game adaptations and Parker Brothers’ reaction is only the tip of the iceberg.
Let’s start with a rather surprising fact: Monopoly causes more fights among friends and family than Uno. A survey of 2,000 Americans revealed that one in five had experienced disruptions in their game nights due to players being too competitive. Of these disruptions, 44% said they had to ban Monopoly from game night, compared to 37% who banned Uno.
Fortunately, roughly 90% of these incidents don’t get to the point of physical violence. This study affirms the results of an older survey, where nearly half of the 1,000 American adults surveyed said players had disagreements over a game of Monopoly, with Scrabble coming in second at 18% (Uno was at the low end at 2.9%).
From the latter study, a lack of understanding of the official rules caused such incidents 72% of the time. It’s all the more reason to always refer to the rulebook when disputes arise.
Meanwhile, Hasbro treated this as an opportunity. Last year, it partnered with a creative agency based in the Netherlands that put a positive spin on children’s negative feelings when they lose in Monopoly. For a time, it ran posters featuring children’s emotional outbursts with captions such as: “For Learning to Let Go” or “For Learning How to Calm Down.”
As counterintuitive as this may sound, psychologist Dr. Krista Okma said it’s a good opportunity to teach children about regulating emotions. She urged parents to talk to their children about how important winning truly is after a game, be it Monopoly or anything else.
On a related note, Monopoly enthusiasts are divided regarding what it takes to win the game. It poses the same question as solitaire: Is it all luck or pure skill?
Falcone also tackled this in his interview. While he admits that he would win in a game against a casual player, it isn’t always the case when against a fellow pro. Every competitor knows all the tricks, so winning will also require some luck.
A 2020 YouGov survey of more than 1,200 American adults suggests that Monopoly is both luck and skill. While slightly more respondents said it’s all luck, the tiny difference of four percentage points isn’t enough to favor one over the other. The disparity’s more apparent among millennials and Gen Z, with more agreeing that it’s all luck.
Regardless, economists agree that there’s a lot to learn just from playing Monopoly, particularly in investing. To sum it up, the game teaches the importance of planning major financial decisions ahead of time.
Monopoly has stood the test of time, remaining a popular game for over a century. The game’s adaptability and versatility have allowed it to be used in various forms throughout the years, from video games and mobile apps to live-streamed game shows. Monopoly continues to evolve and entertain players of all ages.