Monopoly, the Hidden Game

Is Monopoly a game of vicious unmerciful capitalism as most see it? The embodiment of trying to become a robber baron from the Industrial Revolution? The question is would that accurately translate to the game, or is there a hidden game and meaning underneath the otherwise overly obvious facade?

On the surface, Monopoly is all about what the title literally states, trying to create a monopoly and dominate the other players with cunning and unscrupulous tactics. The goal is to strip your fellow players of all their property and money, leaving them utterly defeated and beaten with nothing left, a pure zero sum game. Is it a zero sum game, however?

Suppose every one of the players agreed at the start that they were not going to attempt to build on any of their monopolies thus making it extremely hard or essentially impossible for anyone to win. If that happened, everyone would go around picking up the paychecks -when passing go while paying paltry amounts amongst one another. So in that instance, no one would win. Everyone would continue to increase their monetary holdings, all of the sudden, not making the game zero sum anymore but instead a win-win paradise.

There is, nonetheless, an even deeper hidden game within. I have a little cheap electronic version of the game on my computer, and have played it extensively. In the hours of playing that I have put into it, while watching a show on Netflix or Hulu, I have started to notice a very subtle but crazy hidden game underneath the surface of the immensely popular board game.

This hidden game mirrors the real game. revealing itself in the hours I spent playing it. I kept changing the rules each time I played the game, going from rounds where I would give every player the minimum amount of resources to start, then attempting to take down the computer players that I set on the most difficult play.

After playing every possible iteration, I started to make rules for myself to follow instead of the normal goal of the game. I began to wonder, what if I was just trying to go for the maximum monetary gain instead of destroying my fellow players? I then took that self-imposed rule and played out all different rules with that in mind. Something curious started to come up- it really was not in my best interest to actually see a player be eliminated from the game. In fact, even if I knew I could win the game, if the real goal was the maximum resources acquired, it was to my benefit to make sure that I went out of my way to actually trade resources away. It would appear like it only benefited the computer player and not me at all. Keeping them alive and in the game if I knew I was already in a position where I was going to win actually meant that eventually, in time, I would end up with even more money at the end of the game. The hidden game was revealing itself to me.

So, why would frivolously trading my resources away to another player help me acquire more in the long run? Well, if no one had a monopoly yet and I knew that they wouldn’t trade to give one there is really a simple strategy to receive the most from the other players in the game through rent. Bluntly put, you want to “monopolize” the railroad and utility properties. I am sure others already know this strategy, but my goal in taking those over was more sinister than simply destroying the others. Once you have a majority of those properties and no one player has a monopoly yet, you in time are the single player that receives the most rent from all of the other players.

Now let’s step it up, because in this hidden game scenario, so far no one looks like they will ever be eliminated from the game. More importantly we also don’t end up with the property that all of the others have either, thus keeping us from a huge amount of the total monetary resources. If our goal is to maximize our total net worth, shall we say, then we not only need to be receiving the most from all the other players in rent, but slowly acquire their properties as well. Of course they won’t trade them to us unless they are in trouble and are in need of cash to either stay in the game or the amount that you offer them is so obscene that they could not refuse the offer.

So, that last proposal is exactly what we start to do. Offer 50% or more of our total cash reserves to acquire just simply one or two properties around the board. To them it is not even a worry yet because to monopolize the railroads and utilities we traded away all of our other properties (of course making sure to not let anyone get close to a monopoly themselves) to have them. In time we re-acquire our money supply because we are getting the most in rent and we are also now slowly starting to take over properties all over the map. We carefully pick the properties we go after and don’t look like we are attempting to acquire a monopoly so that the other players are not as easily able to understand what we are exactly doing. We are seeing a bigger picture of pure monopolistic control over the board, not just a simple monopoly of particular properties.

I know now you are wondering where am I going with this. World Domination, Muhaha!!! I know that doesn’t make much sense yet, but it will. Once we have only properties that would allow us to acquire monopolies left, the other players have a lot of cash. Luckily, we have so many of the properties at this point that more than half the time anyone paying rent, is to us. The hidden game starts to be realized, we aren’t just creating monopolies, but economic slaves at this point.

Slaves!?!? What is wrong with you? Well, now all of the other players in essence are going around earning paychecks and lucky fortunes from chance and community chests, while we sit back and take those wages from them. Collecting the same paychecks and streaks of good fortunes that the rest are.

Now is the time to really ramp up our game! We pressure the others, finally getting a monopoly, by being willing to give up all of our cash and even perhaps a few properties to convince them to trade. We still have the majority of properties along with our newly acquired monopoly. We start adding some houses but don’t go crazy, just enough to slowly in time put pressure that one of the other players will actually be losing cash. This results in multiple players, or more specifically, one player, being dangerously close to elimination from the game. We slowly acquire everything they have left by offering crazy amounts of cash to wrestle away the properties they have.

I haven’t forgotten about the hidden game, so don’t worry- we are getting there. I just need to complete the dominance we have been working on for a while first. Once one of the other players has essentially nothing left, the plan is starting to become clear. Once one player is literally just running on the cash you keep giving them, the same plan can strip the other players in similar fashion.

I bet you are wondering why we don’t allow one player to go bankrupt now. We don’t allow them to exit the game, because if we do they stop producing their wages and good fortune that inevitably comes back to us either way. At this point it is hard to not translate this to real life.

If all of the players in the game are say the titans of industry, it would be in our best interest to keep them around instead of actually taking everything from them in one horrible bankruptcy. Why? Well if we took absolutely everything from them, the public might start to realize the futility of their economic predicament. Instead being able to look at multiple leaders of different industries for their situation, they will be looking at us. It is much preferred to instead be in complete control of those that run the different industries and be able to put out the facade that we don’t actually run anything.

In this nightmarish scenario, it is in our best interest to see that new leaders don’t pop up. We prefer that the players stay the same.

What if this wasn’t a game and no one could quit? Most “players” in real life would start to notice fairly early on the futility of trying to get to the top, since we have already firmly monopolized the top and they would likely quit the game. In transferring this scenario to real life, however no one can quit or leave, because the only option that allows that is death-oh, and you still have to pay taxes. If you refuse to play in the economic game, then you could not feed yourself unless you are receiving help from others. Either through charity or force of one kind or another.

About now you are probably pretty horrified at the implications of this. It sounds like a smart economic player in the right position turns reality into a literal “capitalistic” nightmare. Put all of these horrifying implications on hold for a moment, our monopoly game scenario has a few stark differences to the reality that we live in. What if someone just refused to give away their property to anyone for any reason despite what the short term economic gain is? Should that not hold this one overlord at bay from dominating this hidden game? Think Trump and eminent domain.

We are also forgetting that on the board the properties are limited and wealth in the real world is not a limited number of properties. New industries pop up and old ones die and leave the board. Hypothetically, what would be the best way to dominate as the economic overlord in real life?

Trying to make sure the board doesn’t have new properties enter the picture is a good start to winning the game. How is that achieved?

Just like in the game of Monopoly, we would much prefer to keep those that we already have control over in power. It is much easier to let these other titans acquire the newer, much smaller, players that enter the game, and we sit back and still control the titans.

Let them take care of the new smaller entrants to the game through whatever means. We don’t care (because remember our goal is maximum net worth) ruining the smaller players in whatever way they see fit or simply a buyout if the newer players accept that. If not… well, all sorts of nefarious means can be used. Ruining them financially by just letting one of our controlled titans start a company like the new player and since they have more capital and connections they could just simply dominate this new market until the player submits. This network that we control has the majority of financial capital that this new player might need to grow. Why not just cut them off from that capital until they submit?

Now we start to get to the crux of this hidden game. The real key is that the amount of money is either one of two things. Controlled by us (i.e. we literally control how much money is out there) or even if it is not directly under our immediate control, we have such a large percentage of the total wealth in play that no matter the supply of money in the end we hold a controlling stake of the money in the long run. Remember when we controlled so many of the properties on the board it did not matter if we did not have a lot of cash at any one moment in time because of the property we held (with no new property entering the game) the cash would be coming right back to us inevitably either way. We had a controlling stake in the total wealth in play, either through cash (which in and of itself is not wealth) or actually wealth (property).

If the monetary system requires everyone to only accept one kind of cash that is fairly key to the whole plan. Even if we did not have a majority of real wealth at any one moment in time, if only one form of cash is allowed and we held a majority of that we could simply acquire wealth with our monopoly of cash. Money can only be a monopolistic form of exchange if government makes it that way. If there are ten types of money allowed and new forms can be created at any time then the only way to keep our control is to keep our stake of literal wealth {property} which is very hard in a world where new wealth is being created all the time.

If money is made into a monopoly itself (legal tender laws) and everyone is forced to play with only one form, it is much easier to stay in control of the whole system. We can either work towards a monopoly on the total amount of money, which we can use to acquire real wealth. The more real wealth we slowly start to acquire, the faster we can replenish our supply of money that we used to acquire more wealth, which allows us to acquire a monopoly on wealth and keep our monopoly on money at the same time. Slowly winning a hidden game that the average player has no idea of and simply couldn’t fathom with the amount of wealth and money they have in comparison. They wouldn’t know us and we wouldn’t know them, we only keep tabs on the other big players that are near us on any meaningful level in wealth or money.

Having a few other big players is key to keeping those that are immeasurably far down the scale from being able to pin any one particular actor in this hidden game down. Compared to them any number of the huge titans that are really completely under our control, are so overwhelmingly above them in wealth it makes it hard for them to understand the real players in our hidden game. They are easily distracted by every titan along the way since the gap between any of the titans and them is so vast, let alone us.

With enough titans under our control and say a form of government that was already willing to make the type of money a monopoly in and of itself, it isn’t that crazy a speculative jump into having the government make other things a monopoly. We don’t even need full on monopolies like money but just say make it hard for other property to enter the board. We prefer the property on the board to stay the same because we are already controlling it, new property requires a whole new task of getting control over it. We don’t even need to have control over anything near the whole board to really be in control of the hidden game.

If you remember we really had control over both the money and property well before we overwhelmingly had both, we only required a significant enough stake that compared to the other players in the game no one could challenge our stake and there was no way for them to overcome that gap. This can be achieved well before a fifty percent stake in either. Most human players would quit our game of monopoly and do before one person is anywhere near even a fifty percent stake because they can see that it is insurmountable well before the end. Luck and chance only inject so much deviation, once that is overcome the game is essentially able to be calculated out.

If we imagine the game being more than four players it becomes harder and harder for even the titan players to realize that the hidden game is being controlled. If we let most of the titans keep a significant portion of what they have but make sure that we are insurmountable, the other titans in the game look at one another instead of at the one whom controls them all. Inevitably, we just merely need to keep our monopoly on the total money or property compared to all of the players instead of what we would normally consider a real monopoly of over fifty percent control over either. We knew from early on in the game that we were going to win and that no other player could move into the position we already held. With more titans around it makes it harder for any of them to team up in any effective manner against us.

Just like in the board game we slowly get one after the other to be under our control whether they know it or not. Now of course in the board game anyone can look around and see who is in control, but in real life it is infinitely harder to acquire that information and it also requires monetary cost to even attempt to do that. It is also easier to say put our money under the board so that even when someone looks at us they don’t know how much we actually have.

All of this is strictly dependent upon a monopoly of money requiring all players to use one form of exchange (money) and the top player constantly attempting to keep the board from allowing new properties to enter. The latter is actually easier because other titans will be working towards that goal for us. They notice those below them easier and begin to realize that it is in their best interest to make sure that the amount of property on the board stays the same just like us.

Why is it in the best interest of the other titans to restrict the amount of property on the board? To all of the titans new property means that their share of the total property in play decreases, and they too will then have to attempt to bring the new property under their control to even keep their same stake that they had before. Luckily a government willing to make money a monopoly is willing in all sorts of ways to make it harder for new property to enter the game. If all of the titans are in possession of a large quantity of the money in supply it is easy to manipulate those lower on the wealth ladder with temporary short term gains in either real wealth or money.

I know we all can agree special interests don’t effect policies at all….

Most people within a nation are hardly titans on the game board so if titans themselves can be manipulated by the gain of money or property those lower on the ladder are even easier and cheaper to manipulate with these methods. The titans don’t even mind what appears to be such a one sided exchange. The money or property that they even use to manipulate those below them inevitably comes back to them in time, so it isn’t even lost wealth or money to the titans.

The hidden game behind Monopoly is terrifying if it applies to the world that we live in. The illusory perception one has of it going in, to the rules and interactions in the game shows that we all synonymously attribute to something very well known in the real world, but is it or are we all being deceived and deprived of the hidden game that is always in play underneath?