Financial games: Another roll of the dice, from The Economist 5/8/10
New ways to take your friends and family to the cleaners
THE most famous board game of them all, “Monopoly”, was launched during the Depression. This crisis may not produce anything quite as successful, but it has also spawned a crop of new financial games.
“Billionaire Tycoon”, which will go on sale this autumn, is one engaging example. You are an entrepreneur who has been wiped out by the crash; you win when you have £1 billion on hand through the strategic acquisition of cash-generating firms, starting with car washes and pet shops and building up to oil rigs and private banks. Along the way, you can bargain, trade, steal, borrow and even engineer military coups to gain businesses and outfox opponents. Its co-creator, Shameek Upadhya, says his entrepreneur friends like to play—as do, apparently, their children.
“Monopoly Revolution”, the game’s latest official iteration, has ditched cash for electronic credit cards topped up at a mini-ATM
“Billionaire Tycoon” takes finance seriously. Rather like “Credit Crunch”, The Economist’s own board game that appeared in our Christmas 2008 issue, “Crunch”, a card game launched last year by TerrorBull Games, is pure parody. As the boss of a global bank, players have to trouser as much cash as possible by leveraging up, awarding themselves bonuses and stealing (literally) others’ cards. When the crunch-card turns up, a bail-out card offers a way out. As the game’s creators put it: “It’s your personal responsibility to do whatever it takes to ensure a comfortable retirement.”
Even Icelanders have managed to see the funny side. A 2008 board game, Kreppuspilid (“Crisis Game”), takes players on a journey from boom-time private jets to mass lay-offs and protests.
Gamers are also developing free online versions of existing games. An unauthorised version of “Monopoly”, tweaked for the recession, lets you collect unemployment benefit as you pass Go and several of the properties are stamped “Foreclosed”. Hasbro, the makers of the real “Monopoly”, cannot afford to be as ironic. “Monopoly Revolution”, the game’s latest official iteration, has ditched cash for electronic credit cards topped up at a mini-ATM and updated property prices into the millions. Claire Smith, board-games buyer at Hamleys, a toy shop in London, says the recession has not swayed parents against the skulduggery of financial games. “They see Monopoly Revolution as a positive thing: it now has more realistic prices. You can’t buy Old Kent Road for £60 any more.”