Monopoly is an American icon, a tribute to American ingenuity and capitalism. And because a game of Monopoly can also require countless hours of pushing a thimble around a board – time that Monopoly’s maker, Hasbro, assumes people don’t have anymore – they’ve refreshed the game with some high-tech gadgetry. Hasbro previewed the new version, called Monopoly Live, at last week’s Toy Fair in New York.
And while you’d think a Monopoly redesigned to accommodate our growing attention deficit would be a welcome change, especially among the gadget-obsessed, its reception has been chilly, to say the least.
A New York Times article detailed the changes: “In the new version of Monopoly, the game’s classic pastel-colored bills and the designated Banker have been banished, along with other old-fashioned elements, in favor of a computer that runs the game. It is the classic Monopoly board on the outside, with the familiar railroads like the B.& O. and the development of property. But in the center, instead of dice and Chance and Community Chest cards, an infrared tower with a speaker issues instructions, keeps track of money and makes sure players adhere to the rules. The all-knowing tower even watches over advancing the proper number of spaces.” (Watch a video of the new iteration here.)
Hasbro’s hope for the new game is that it will appeal to a generation raised on video games, while retaining the social experience of the traditional board game. But a spate of criticisms, like this one from Amar Toor on Switched, complain that players must, “wait for the computer to generate a random ‘roll,’ replete with fake sounds. Worst of all, the game features pointless events like horse races and auctions, and players can even choose to make their utilities ‘green,’ whatever that means.”
And while Hasbro is emphasizing social interaction (without the ability to fool the see-all, infrared tower by hiding bills under the table), some say that the refresh to make players more honest actually takes out a key social skill. Joey Lee, who studies games as an assistant professor of technology at Columbia University, told the Times, “I wouldn’t necessarily even call it cheating….In many cases a gamer’s mind-set is coming up with new and novel approaches to winning, and to a certain problem at hand. That’s exactly the kind of mind-set we need as far as 21st-century skills.” The tower, he says, “…is more of that blind adherence to following orders.”
Still, Hasbro has kept some key social elements intact, such as negotiating for property. But overall, what do you think of the Monopoly facelift?