The Jaded Gamer

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Why Monopoly always wins - is it our own fault?

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
Lincolnshire
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I've decided to try and examine fully a conjecture I have about why, in any discussion about the future of board gaming, Monopoly remains the main touchstone for those not already inside this community.

This is, of course, following the rather farcical Radio Show on board games featuring an ignorant presenter, a man from Winning Moves and LoB's very own Martin (aka QWERTYUIOP) who was sadly ignored, despite plugging "our games", in favour of Winning Moves' own Monopoly and Top Trumps.

Quote:
Incidentally, I described the experience of listening to the show as "like being punched in the ears with boxing gloves made of mouldy candyfloss." - it was actually much worse than that sounds.
It is my opinion that it is probably the very ubiquity of Monopoly that is the reason for its continued domination of this conversation, and therefore also the reason for its domination of the market.

So why is it ubiquitous? Peter Griffin, the representative of Winning Moves on the show, made it clear that the reason for its ongoing success is, they feel, the way Monopoly keeps changing. Of course, their version of "changing" is renaming the spaces - something that most people reading this blog probably do not believe is a real change to the game - but it clearly works.

I think we also all know that Top Trumps is barely a game by any BGG standard - but it is still a massively selling, hugely popular product nevertheless - and Winning Moves obviously believe that the constant rebranding of decks and new sets of trivia is a factor in the continued domination of this product as well.

For me, the most irritating outcome of their continued domination of the sector is the creation of a feedback loop.

Quote:
Everyone learned to play them ages ago --> so they always play them and only them --> which means new players get introduced to them --> which means that those players always play them and only them
- and so on ad infinitum.
I know from experience that a "BGG type" gamer will probably play many different games, and probably any set of ten of us will use ten different games to introduce new players to alternatives to monopoly - the dreaded "Gateway Game". (Monopolternatives?)

So, after this restating of the issue, here's my conjecture - that it is the lack of a single alternative game that keeps Monopoly on top of the tree.

Some of this feeds back into my pet subject of continual game acquisition - with so many shiny new products being released in a year, there is a massive dilution of the games introduced to lifetime Monopoly players - meaning very little headway is made into turning the Property Trading game world onto the alternatives out there.

It is also a product, in turn, of the greater demands and patience we have regarding gaming - Monopoly is a single rule set that once people learn they are content with, seeing very little reason to expand the horizon or spend time learning an alternative to.

Thirdly, we can be snobs. Seriously, I don't think anyone who has played Monopoly every Christmas for twenty years will be inclined to try your favoured alternative if you insist on insulting their go-to as "rubbish". Nobody likes to be told something they like is "shit", and we must be cautious not to fall into this trap.

So, what is the hypothesis that arises from this conjecture?

Well, simply that the board gaming community could be well served by agreeing on a single game to use as an "in" for all people, and we all join forces to push it towards acceptance.

Now, the nature of such a concept is that it would require compromise, something any fan or hobbyist will find difficult. After all, I am yet to find a game that is universally admired - there's always some smart Alec (heh) who finds something to dislike in everything.

But here, nevertheless, is my suggested criteria

1. A single game rule system, with re-theme potential
2. Simple rules, no more than two sides and zero exceptions to remember
3. A progression of success, i.e. the player should feel they are achieving something visibly lasting with each turn.
4. A family theme
5. No player elimination
6. 2-5 player
7. Nice bits
8. Competitively Priced
9. Ideally, aspects of the whole hobby present, identifying paths for people interested in expanding their gaming experience to explore.
10. Be a more fulfilling experience than Monopoly

Once we had selected the game, the whole hobby could get behind it, meaning that every Monopoly gamer would be presented by the same alternative everywhere they go - which perhaps they would already know / recall the rules for.

Note that it would only have to be more fulfilling for us than Monopoly - it doesn't have to be a perfect game. I'm sure that many of us would love it if every Christmas our families were sitting around the dinner table and asked for a game of Cosmic Encounter (for me) or Twilight Struggle (for BGG), but that is not going to happen - Cosmic is all exceptions and TS is too esoteric and in depth for a family (even if it was more than 2 player).

Could this work? Could BGGers swallow our pride and promote something better than Monopoly even if it wasn't to our exact tastes? Is it even a worthwhile thing to do? I am not sure, but if we ever decide to try and knock Monopoly down a couple of pegs, I am starting to believe it is only through a single champion.

What should that champion be? I am not sure it exists yet - suggestions would be welcomed, though.

You may, of course, disagree with me on this - that is your right, as always
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