No board game can boast the persistent popularity of Monopoly. Now in its seventh decade, the game has sold over 200 million copies in 80 countries and in 26 languages, including Arabic and Croatian. It is still the planet's best-selling board game.
What's the enduring attraction? Presumably, people the world over are seduced by the game's naked invitation to indulge in one of the least appetizing human qualities: abject rapaciousness. The object of Monopoly is to acquire as much material wealth as possible and, in the process, to drive everyone else to ruin. That Monopoly was born during the Depression, when hundreds of thousands of Americans were being driven to ruin, bespeaks a crassness that any red-blooded, merger-maniacal capitalist must still find inspirational.
Now comes Parker Brothers, makers of Monopoly, with an attention-getting (they hope) plan to add the first new token to the game in more than 40 years.
You're familiar with the 10 metal playing pieces currently used in the game - the flatiron, thimble, race car, Scottish terrier, battleship, shoe, cannon, top hat, wheelbarrow, and horse and rider. Hasbro, the parent company of Parker Brothers, is asking fans to vote for one of three prospective additions, with the winner joining the permanent cast next year.
The choices: a vintage biplane of the type piloted by Rich Uncle Pennybags (the avaricious, top-hatted tycoon appearing in the Community Chest and Chance playing cards), a piggy bank and a sack of cash.
This last entry may lack a certain subtlety, but it undoubtedly comes closest to the basic Monopoly ethos. As Glenn Kilbride, a Hasbro vice-president, says, "The sack of money is at the core essence of Monopoly."
What's refreshing about Kilbride and Hasbro is that they don't try to sugarcoat the seamier motivations that make Monopoly fun. After all, is anyone licking their chops to play a game called "Benevolence?"
Ballots will be accepted at FAO Schwarz toy stores across the country until Sept. 30. Votes can also be cast on the Internet at www.monopoly.com, or by calling 888-81-TOKEN.
! Pub Date: 7/12/98