Morally bankrupted by Monopoly

OPINION

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February 06, 2013|By Ryan Smith, @ryansmithwriter | For RedEye

The Internet's overwhelming vote for a cat is the least surprising part of this week's news that Hasbro has ditched the classic iron token for a furry feline (I CAN HAZ PARK PLACE?!) for the latest edition of Monopoly.

To me, it's a wonder that we haven't already rid ourselves of a game that indoctrinates its players in the ways of Mr. Monopoly—its super-rich, old white guy of a mascot whose only redeeming quality seems to be his sweet ’stache.

Video games keep earning tongue-lashings these days for their explicit violence, but my money is on this beloved board game as the most morally objectionable.

The object of Monopoly is to pit players against one other in a race to rack up the most cash and bankrupt everybody else. To do so, you try to horde sections of real estate in a fictional version of Atlantic City and invest in improvements and new infrastructure. Eventually your house and hotel purchases allow you to jack up prices, squeeze rent from squatters and earn maximum profits at all costs.

Evil cackles emerge when fellow players land on your property because you're now obscenely wealthy, or you smirk at your privileged luck of obtaining a "get out of jail free" card. In a post-Occupy Wall Street world, Monopoly teaches us how to be the worst of the 1-percenters—vulture capitalists sociopathic enough to make Donald Trump blush.

While we're at it, Monopoly isn't the only family board game with questionable content. Let's look at some of the more popular titles.

The Game of Life

The path to happiness depicted in The Game of Life is paved in 1950s-style, soul-crushing conformity. You spin a wheel and direct your character, represented by a penis-shaped plastic peg, toward a life defined by obtaining a well-paying job, getting married to someone of the opposite sex, having kids, moving out to some McMansion in the ’burbs, suffering a midlife crisis and then having an affair with your 25-year old secretary (OK, I made that last part up). It's an endorsement of the outdated American Dream from the last generation. If they ever make a 2013 update where you could maybe ride a bike, start an ill-advised rap career, gay marry and buy a three-flat in Logan Square, I'm in.

Clue

Six people trapped in a spooky Victorian mansion. A corpse that may have been hanged, stabbed, shot or bludgeoned to death. A mysterious killer who secretly is one of the players. Who decided this was a game for kids again?

Risk

Has there ever been a session of this cutthroat war game of alliance-making and -breaking that hasn't nearly ended in blows between loved ones and family members? If you ever want to prematurely bust up someone's relationship, suggest a game of Risk. Seriously.

Guess Who?

Is it a woman? Does she look angry? Is she black? These are some of the ways that players are asked to profile people based on their physical characteristics and eliminate them in this socially awkward two-player guessing game.

Battleship

OK, OK, I'm mostly putting it in this list because of how bad the Taylor Kitsch "Battleship" movie from last year was.

Candyland

Childhood obesity crisis, anyone?

Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.

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