11436 SSO

Monopoly Goes Cashless

Your gamepiece can still be a shoe, but how you pay for Park Place has changed
Mar 08, 2016

Monopoly is the only game I can think of where the player can select a shoe as an avatar. There’s also an iron, a car, and a top hat. You can't have a game set in New Jersey and not have top hats.

We can joke about how outdated some of these icons seem to us in 2016. But Monopoly seems so traditional as to be almost inevitable. It's an institution. So it would be quite a shock if the game were to change in any substantial way. Like replacing the shoe (they didn't do that).  

Or removing the paper money (they recently did).

The phrase "Monopoly money" is in common parlance. You can't take the money out of Monopoly. The brightly colored sheets of paper, little kids wondering if it could be exchanged for candy if they took a handful to the store, slipping your little brother a hundred to keep him in the game. Paper money seems essential to the game. But is it?

The main mechanism to propel the game is purchasing property, houses, hotels, and charging rent. These are all transactions. None of this explicitly requires that the currency exchanged is paper. What would a post-millennial child think about paper money anyway, growing up in the age of PayPal and Apple Pay, of touchscreen transactions, and in-app purchases? The paper money itself might be a hurdle to learning and playing the game.

Today we are used to interactions and experiences—increasingly personalized experiences. We live our lives through apps. Our data is stored in the cloud. And we don't use paper money.  

So, while it's the end of an era and the phrase "Monopoly money" will slowly lose its meaning, this change to the game is nothing more than reflecting belatedly the way we live our lives. We don't care about what happens behind the facade (the web page, the app, the screen). We care about convenience, experience, reliability, and security. After all, your pesky little brother can't steal the bright $500 bill that dropped on the floor any longer.

At first, I thought this might be a marketing gimmick, or change for the sake of change. But now I realize that this change should have happened a while ago. Instead of wondering where my childhood went, I can look with eagerness to where we are going.  

And you can still be a shoe.

Image: Flickr Creative Commons/Jason Devaun

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