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Monopolizing My Integrity} ?> It’s not often that you see a boot, a dog, a thimble, and a battleship compete for economic domination. Nor is a car crushing the hopes and dreams of a down-on-its-luck wheelbarrow as it demands $2000 for staying at the luxurious Boardwalk hotel for the night a common occurrence. Unless we’re talking about Monopoly, of course.
Monopoly may be the single greatest board game out there. Here’s why: its gameplay is simple enough to be understood by children, it teaches basic economics (it’s fun and educational!), and while luck plays into it, it’s a largely strategic game.
Will you wheel and deal your way to victory? Or will you crumble under the pressure, hoping to be sent to jail so you can avoid another rent payment? However, house rules generally allow for a different way to avoid paying rent, and here’s how:
You rolled a seven; you knew if you were going to survive another round you needed an eight. But rather than landing neatly on ‘Free Parking’—which would have scored you a sweet $735—you’ve landed on New York Avenue, which incidentally has a hotel on it. You know you don’t have the $1000 to pay rent, but look! The owner is checking their phone! You quickly pass the dice to the next player, abruptly ending your turn, saving yourself from bankruptcy.
Here’s what the game manual says, with our house rule added in brackets:
“When you land on a property that is owned by another player (and that player notices), the owner collects rent from you in accordance with the list printed on its Title Deed card.”
The same house rule can be applied to Settlers of Catan, where players don’t collect their resources unless they notice the dice has rolled a number they have a settlement on. Or to Citadels, where if you forget to destroy someone else’s card while you’re the Warlord, that’s just too bad.
It doesn’t seem like a big deal. What’s the harm in passing the dice quickly to the next player? It’s their fault for not paying attention, right? This house rule also ensures that people remain involved in the game.
But the more I think about this rule, the more it bothers me. What if it’s just an easy rationalization we make so that we can suspend our own integrity? Good, honest competition is just that. It’s good. But at what point does a desire to win, to do well, or to be successful go too far?
Is it possible that Monopoly teaches us a little bit about economics and a little bit about dishonesty? It’s easy to let your turn pass by without reminding another player you owe them rent; it often leads to victorious taunting as you confidently remind them that they should have been paying attention!
Let’s turn this situation around.
You glanced down at your phone for a moment. You have a notification or two to check, so you do, seeing no harm in it. While you get rid of all the notifications you think to yourself about how much you need someone to land on your property. The green properties all have hotels on them and you’ll never be able to afford the rent with the cash you have now.
We very easily allow ourselves to suspend our own integrity when it benefits us, but we’re frustrated when someone else has not acted with integrity. What would it look like if we held ourselves to the standard that we hold others to?
When I play Monopoly, I genuinely hope that if someone lands on my property that they will tell me, whether they owe me $2 or $2000. Just as I hope that when I land on someone’s property that I will tell them.
If I willingly suspend my integrity to save myself fake money, what would I do to save myself real money, time, energy, or reputation? I don’t want to choose the end despite the means. I want the journey to matter.
To borrow a line from Albus Dumbledore, “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” I’m just not so sure it’s only in dark times that we need to make that choice.