11 September 2019
But the game’s inventor isn’t among its ‘female trailblazers’
Monopoly maker Hasbro is continuing its run of socially-charged spin-offs with Ms. Monopoly, a new edition of the classic board game that pays female players more than their male counterparts.
Ms. Monopoly is touted in its tagline as “the first game where women make more than men” and is said by Hasbro to be a ‘celebration of women trailblazers’.
It’s the first Monopoly game with an in-universe character other than the franchise’s mascot Rich Uncle Pennybags – or Mr. Monopoly, as he’s more commonly known – on the front. Replacing him is the titular Ms. Monopoly, Pennybags’ niece and a “self-made investment guru”.
Ms. Monopoly changes up the game’s iconic ‘collect money as you pass Go’ rule and hands players different amounts of starting cash based on their gender, in an apparent effort to reverse the real-world gender pay gap between men and women. As of April 2019 (via The Guardian), a quarter of UK companies were found to pay female employees 20% less than male workers, with the average difference found to be 9.6% in favour of men. The US suffers from a similar ratio.
In Ms. Monopoly, this difference is flipped: female players start the game with $1,900 compared to their male counterparts’ $1,500, and they collect $240 as they pass Go, while men continue to collect the traditional $200.
The game’s rules are otherwise the same, with Hasbro insisting: “Don't worry, if men play their cards right, they can make more money too." (The game can also be reverted back to every player receiving the same amount of money, obviously.)
Around the board, Monopoly’s properties, utilities and stations have been replaced by inventions from female pioneers, such as Wi-Fi (pioneered by actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr), bulletproof vests (a result of Stephanie Kwolek’s invention of the multi-purpose material Kevlar), solar heating (co-discovered by ‘Sun Queen’ Mária Telkes) and chocolate chip cookies (commercialised by Toll House Cookie creator Ruth Graves Wakefield). Players can construct business headquarters to collect rent from passing opponents.
Of course, the irony wasn’t lost on many that Monopoly is itself an invention by a female pioneer, which was taken and claimed for his own by a man – something that Hasbro’s “celebration of female trailblazers” appears to gloss over and outright ignore.
I mean, we all know Monopoly was stolen from Elizabeth Magie’s The Landlord‘s Game, so from my academic standpoint-— Holly Nielsen (@nielsen_holly) September 10, 2019
Monopoly and Ms. Monopoly can fuck off https://t.co/O96ng0ZUt4
Monopoly began life as The Landlord’s Game, a board game created by female designer Lizzie Magie at the start of the 20th century as a searing socialist criticism of economic inequality. The Landlord’s Game was later cloned by heater salesman Charles Darrow, who eventually sold the design to original publisher Parker Brothers (later bought by Hasbro) as Monopoly, which celebrated capitalist land-grabbing in opposition to Magie’s original intent.
As the result of taking Magie’s work, Darrow became the first board game designer to earn over a million dollars and was wrongly widely credited as the sole inventor of Monopoly for decades. Magie, meanwhile, is said to have made just $500 from her iconic creation, and even today isn’t acknowledged by Hasbro as the real genius behind its most famous board game.
Parker Bros: Rejects Elizabeth Magie's pitch for The Landlord's Game in 1909. Buys her patent decades later for $500 so they can bury it in favor of a similar game "invented" by a man, which praised capitalism instead of critiquing it. What a woman-friendly legacy, Ms. Monopoly! https://t.co/PVCXqYQJeX— Beth of the Elder Kin (@BethElderkin) September 10, 2019
Ms. Monopoly isn’t the first time that Hasbro’s attempts at social commentary have stirred up controversy. The recent Monopoly: Socialism was met with a wave of backlash as the result of its inaccurate and mean-spirited ‘parody’ of socialism (again, the complete opposite of Magie’s original socialist vision), while last year’s Monopoly for Millennials was the target of criticism over its apparently mocking of millennials’ inability to afford property (players could only rent spaces on the board).
Ms. Monopoly has currently only been announced for release in US supermarket Walmart, where it’ll cost $20 (£16).