Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go’ – The New York Times

Elizabeth Magie

I had read somewhere that Monopoly had originally been developed to teach the evils of monopolies, but hadn’t realized how interesting the story of the creation of Monopoly was. The New York Times tells the story in, Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go’. This excerpted from a book titled, The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game. The article tells the story of Elizabeth Magie who developed a game called the Landlord’s Game which had two sets of rules to teach about the alternatives to monopoly capitalism. You play the game with a rule set where the monopolists get richer and then with a rule set where wealth is distributed more fairly. Alas, when Darrow adapted the game and sold it to Parker Brothers he left out the progressive side.

It strikes me as an interesting example where a game designed for a serious purpose gets adapted to be more fun and in the process loses its progressive purpose. A change in the rules and you don’t have a game that teaches.