It is with a heavy heart that I read of Parker Brothers engaging in a little short sighted opportunism with it’s most memorable game, Monopoly by trading in their Monopoly money for a Debit Visa. All to get a pitiful stack of cash from VISA – who have incidentally pulled of an insanely savvy marketing move here for what probably cost them what amounts to their fee revenue for this morning. (OK, it doesn’t specifically say Visa ponied up some money for their branding to appear, but you know they did…)
Future Monopoly players (if any future players bother taking up playing after this bastardization of the game) will get the exquisite pleasure of, well, swiping their VISA-brand debit card through a VISA-brand card reader. Versus stacking up those big piles of multiple denominations of (non)dollars when you were doing well. Or excitedly leaving them in a jumbled mess when you were doing really well. Or dejectedly watching those stacks getting smaller and smaller, when you weren’t. Or even trying to, oh, let’s say, accidentally grabbing a couple 500s rather than 100s when you passed GO (what, I can’t be the only player ever to have pulled that, am I? ).
What really bothers me is a main lesson learned through playing Monopoly – the pain of paying in cold hard cash – is going away. It hurts to pay $1,500 when you stumble across a hotel on Park Avenue – especially when you only have $1,542 and have to scrounge through all those $5s to pay the bill. What used to be a big stack of bills is now a couple $20s and a couple $1s. Even when you have thousands, it’s painful, because you realize that a few more unlucky rolls, and what was a large bankroll will be gone. Only now, it’s just a smaller number on the VISA-branded card reader.
Monopoly life seems a little less intimate all of a sudden… and that, I think, is a lot of the problem with real life as far as money is concerned. We’ve become disconnected from it – it’s just a number on a piece of paper or up on the screen in front of us, an even greater abstraction than cash of the effort gone into obtaining it. There is no pain involved in spending – swipe and walk away, taking your new shiny doodad with you. It sure makes it awfully easy to spend spend spend. VISA’d appreciate if you did it more, apparently, and would like to ease the transition into good consumers for you young ones…
Oh, sure, there are other lessons to be learned from playing Monopoly, from the importance of location, location, location in business to the randomness of events in life to the… well, that’s about it. Much else about the game, as far as life lessons are concerned, are not lessons I’d like to pass on: Life as a zero sum game. Winning means taking everything belonging to everyone else. Profit comes by taking from others. A little bribe speeds up the legal system. The rich eventually wear everyone else down.
Nevertheless, there is something visceral about playing with real (non)money. Even a numbers geek like myself won’t get too excited by a big (or tiny) number on the ol’ VISA-branded card reader. The ebbs and flows of that pile o’ cash made what is really a fairly boring game into something you could eagerly spend 4 hours on on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
[tags]Monopoly, Hasbro, Parker Brothers, VISA, opportunism, games, profit, money, cash, debit card, RIP[/tags]