Monday, July 18, 2011

i finished monopoly

[this is an article where I get into a little bit of politics/economics/other stuff I'm not qualified to have an opinion on. As before, I admit I can be wrong and probably am.]

you can learn more from this game than you can in actual economics class. And it's all really depressing. I remember once crying because I lost at Trouble and one other time at Cootie. It still hurts today. I've since gotten over that sort of thing and can take losing a game or two thanks to regular exposure to failure. I began to lose at Monopoly a few days ago and what was at first mild loser's agitation quickly dissolved into a weird mixture of alarmed shock and cynical pleasure. It was like that part in Left 4 Dead where you start losing, and then you realize that maybe a world where everyone is a zombie isn't such a great place.

Not fun if you're ACTUALLY a survivor
You can also watch Christian Finnegan's take on Monopoly, which I totally agreed with when I first heard it in 2006-ish (skip to 1:00) and was pretty sure I was a Trivial Pursuit kind of guy. And I am. So I got totally buttraped twice because first I lost after 20 minutes, then I landed on a huge Free Parking and got to lose again.  The critical point was this: Three of us were playing, and one of us quit and sold their proper-tah. I didn't have cash to buy said proper-tah, but could have mortgaged some of my own to get it. I didn't do that, and the other remaining player used their cash to buy most of it, completing one or two monopolies. I didn't mortgage because (at the time) I was under the impression that mortgaging was similar to either selling the property or taking out credit. I'm not the type that will ever be comfortable spending money I don't have. Later, it would be the fact alone that he had monopolies and I didn't that would make the difference and reduce the game to a 90 minute "wait for Jeremy to die"-o-rama. What was really interesting was when I had to start mortgaging because I didn't have cash, and subsequently had to start selling property to the guy I owed money.

Initiate ominous music if you will.

Okay, stop it makes it hard to read. So I kept landing on his spots, and at this point all of his monopolies had hotels (I had none). Every time I landed on one it cost me about a grand, and so I would have to mortgage properties to get the cash, and if it didn't require all of my properties, it would require a very odd balancing act where I'd debate over which pieces were most beneficial to me. So I would mortgage because I was in debt up to my eyeballs, and if doing that wasn't enough I would sell property. I would literally have to sell something to the guy I owed so that I could pay him. I often had pieces he needed, and so I sold them at high prices. After this, I would have some cash left over from the rent. This was so freaking weird and similar to some kind of sad story you'd see on Secret Boss or something: I would often have enough resources to buy back one house from mortgage, but it would cost me more than I got for mortgaging it in the first place, and having one hotel open was not nearly enough to pay the next rent. In short, I was selling and buying my own money constantly, and he was getting a nice shaving of it each time.

What was weirder still was this feeling I had that arose from awareness of two things: (a) pacifists like myself have no opt-out for living in a world like this short of becoming homeless (b) If I could just get $200 I could totally turn this thing around, man. Buying back Boardwalk will only cost $100 and that's the best place on the board. Could you just loan me the $200? C'mon you know I'm good for it!

It was desperation. It got to a point where I had to use my last few dollars every time I bought a piece of property back, deluded into thinking I could still win when all I was doing was surviving. And I couldn't help thinking I should have been taking something away from this, like it was some kind of time portal and I should have been taking notes. I live at home, have a job and keep most of my money that I make. I don't pay rent but have recently tried to convince my parents to at least let me pay them a little something monthly. Realistically, I have no financial responsibilities and the prospect of paying rent, food, internet and por...... books every month when I move out terrifies me. I have little to no experience with finances, but if this game is indicative, it looks like the poorest people are kept poor by the rich, but not poor enough to stop them from regularly paying them. There was a point at which it was dreadfully clear that I could not possibly win, but the game was organized in such a way as to make my defeat take 60 minutes. I was really drowsy at the time, but I felt like I had learned something important or, rather, had validated something I'd known all along and had been saying all of my young adult life: I hate money. And I'm pretty sure it's not because I listened to Rage Against the Machine or watched a Michael Moore movie once. I just thought on more than one occasion: "Wow, this is pretty effed up." I'm not one of those guys that thinks we need to "burn this motherfucker down" and start over with some other kind of economic system because it's all corrupt and stuff. Seriously I hate college guys who are all anti-capitalistic but are in college to get a job.

Not cool, bro!

It really just reminds me of my last boss, like people like him are the only ones who succeed. I work retail/sales, and am expected to sell a certain quota of extended warranties every month. I hated that part of it because it felt audacious of me to ask customers to spend an extra $160 as they tried to buy a $300 laptop in peace. Most people appeared to be middle class and an extra $160 "just in case" felt like it would be a lot to them, just like it would be to me. My boss made it clear to me in conversation that the other duties I had like department cleanliness, customer service and price integrity were secondary. He was nice about it, but the message, loud and clear, was that I wasn't there to make chit-chat with customers, I was there to make him some dag-gum money. And that was why he was the most profitable store. This game felt like that: To make money you gotta be a dick. I read in the game manual that the object was not just to get rich, but to bankrupt everyone else. But the game was also constructed in such a way as not to "beat" me totally, but to keep me just alive enough to keep giving him money, not unlike horror stories I've heard about credit. The other player expressed grief at "having to do this" to me, but he had no choice because it's the object of the game. I can't really whine about it because, hey, nature is the same way and I always point to nature as an example of "how to do". For all the griping I can do, I actually am okay with natural selection. I found it a little chilling, realizing that this board game wasn't a charicature or exaggeration of our world so as to make things competitive and comically callous; it is the real world and that's why it's so disturbingly funny. Like Dr Strangelove. But we did have a good time learning about it. As we played, we discovered new, entertaining levels (not sarcastic) of dog-eat-dog economics and I'm more terrified now than ever about entering the world.

Oh, and a Happy 50th Article to me.

1 comment:

  1. Great read. The way this world works is hurts to think about sometimes.


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