The Monopoly Board game is one of the most popular board games in twentieth century history. First designed in 1935, the game has sold more than 200 million sets in its 76-year existence. The game is loosely based on Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips’ The Landlord’s Game that she published in 1924. Although intended to bring awareness to the dangers of monopoly to the general public, the game caught the public imagination. And there’s been no looking back since then. In the next decade the game was re-adapted by Charles Darrow for maximum entertainment value under the official name Monopoly. (Orbanes, 2004)
At the time of its design, Atlantic City was a popular upscale tourist retreat. And hence the city was used as a model to fill in the details of the board. Many of the properties printed in the forty spaces in the board are taken after real properties of the same name in the city. But Atlantic City today is a frail shadow of its 1930’s glory. The ravages of the Second World War and the attraction of more exotic resorts had reduced the appeal of the city since. Yet, the grandeur and economic opportunity that this city once presented is perennially captured through the game. In other words, “the monopoly board is like a time capsule of 1930’s Atlantic City, reflecting the values and neighborhoods of the time.” (Watson, 2010)
There are similarities in the pricing given in the Board game and it’s actual version. The most expensive property in Monopoly is the Boardwalk, which represents the “the seven-mile beachside byway that extends to the towns of Margate and Ventnor, whose streets are represented by the game’s chic yellow properties.” (Watson, 2010) Mediterranean Avenue is quite cheap in the board game, consistent with the worth of Atlantic City’s property of the same name. For example, the $2 toll on players who land here is reflective of throwaway current real-estate prices where a condominium could be purchased for as little as $35,000. Baltic too is a real landmark in Atlantic City, situated adjacent to Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel, which is famous for hosting Miss America Pageants. One exception is that the properties Mediterranean and Baltic are priced cheaply in the game compared to those real estate that are located in the city’s shoreline. (Watson, 2010)
Similarly, landmarks such as Vermont Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, Marvin Gardens and Ventnor Avenue are integral to the game as well as the city. In the years gone by, with the undertaking of new metropolitan public works projects, Atlantic City’s landscape has been altered. Hence, the Illinois Avenue of the board game no longer exists in the city, as it is renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The St. Charles Place of old has given way to the Showboat casino. (Orbanes, 2004)
In today’s editions of Monopoly game, some of the archaic elements of the 1930’s Atlantic City are retained to maintain authenticity. For example, the four railroads – B&O, Short Line, Pennsylvania and Reading were the chief modes for transportation during the time. The public transport system of today is a feeble shadow of its peak utility. (Maxine, 1974)
Hence in conclusion, there is little doubt that the design of the board game Monopoly was inspired by the major landmarks and locations in 1930s Atlantic City. But it is sad to see the decline of the city from its most vibrant and commercial peak in the years leading to World War Two.
Brady, Maxine (1974). The Monopoly Book: Strategy and Tactics of the World’s Most Popular Game (First hardcover edition ed.). D. McKay Co.. ISBN 0-679-20292-7.
Orbanes, Philip E. (2004). The Game Makers: The Story of Parker Brothers (First Edition ed.). Harvard Business School Press. ISBN 1-59139-269-1.
Watson, Bruce, Monopoly and Atlantic City: 75 Tough Years Later, retrieved from <http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/02/23/atlantic-city-and-monopoly-a-zero-sum-game-on-the-jersey-shore/>, published on 23rd February, 2010