The newly announced update to the classic board game raises questions about what the “game” parts of Monopoly really are.
An updated version of Monopoly has been recently announced, set to hit stores this upcoming fall under the title Monopoly Live. The game features a central tower-like structure, a device that calculates all transactions based on the digital payment cards provided with the game, and simulates dice rolls for players as well. Because the tower constantly monitors the positions of specially fitted game pieces through infrared camera, the game can ensure that pieces have moved the proper amount of distance according to the simulated roll, and is aware of the status of each player’s property assets.
Some of the initial reaction to the new system is what you might expect – the game is strikingly devoid of any actual human interaction. There are a number of human elements within games like Monopoly that might initially seem superfluous, that end up having a significant impact on what it means to play a game. One can imagine that a board game that moved all the pieces for you allows no room for the subtle tensions that arise from trying to avoid landing on another player’s coveted spot. A game that calculates all the transactions for you allows no room for the negotiation process. And a game that constantly calculates the actual value off all players’ assets – making it very accessible and tangible – takes away the sense of mastery that comes with being able to asses, manipulate, and trade otherwise intangible value with others.
In short, from an interaction design perspective, the game is becoming very close to a purely random-event environment, which would be something like a game where players just roll dice against each other to see who gets the higher score. As you might imagine this doesn’t make for a very enjoyable experience for very long. An important lesson here is that games aren’t inherently fun just because you call them a game – a lesson that seems to be emerging as many begin to think about game mechanics and how to make them part of more and more experiences.