This week, Hasbro announced the results of an online vote on the future of tokens in the board game Monopoly. The results are startling: the boot, wheelbarrow, and thimble have been expunged from the iconic game, replaced by a Tyrannosaurus rex, rubber ducky, and penguin. Voters passed up over 60 other contenders, among them an emoji and a hashtag. It’s the latest in a series of efforts to update the game, whose onerous play sessions, old-fashioned iconography, and manual cash-counting have turned some players away.
When today’s players play games, digital or tabletop, they identify with their token or avatar. It becomes “them,” representing their agency for the game. So it’s not surprising that players would want pieces with which they feel affinity. But ironically, affinity and choice in Monopoly token selection undermine part of the history of that game, which juxtaposed capitalist excess in an era of destitution.
Monopoly went through many evolutions. It was first invented as The Landlord’s Game, an educational tool published by Lizzie Magie in 1906 to explain and advocate for the Georgist single tax—the opposite take on property ownership that eventually became synonymous with the game (whose design Charles Darrow derived from Magie’s original).