I find the game slow, dull and not very fun — so what keeps me coming back?
Monopoly is probably the best-selling modern board game of all time. Yet if you ask an adult friend or family member to play a round with you, they’re far more likely to respond with a groan than with a “yes.” The game takes too long to finish, doesn’t involve very much action or strategy, and always seems to end with one player throwing the game so somebody can win and everybody can get on with their lives.
That’s how I feel about Monopoly, anyway, and I’m not alone. The classic edition sports a dreadful 4.4 / 10 rating on the review aggregator BoardGameGeek. People who love board games hate Monopoly. So why does it keep flying off the shelves year after year?
I ask the same question of Call of Duty: Warzone (which was downloaded a whopping 80 million times in its first 8 months) every time I boot it up. I confess — and I apologize to my friends who are reading this — that I mentally groan every time our “Losing in the gulag” group text lights up. Yet I still (sometimes) join in and slog through loadout drops, helicopter rides, and — yes — getting obliterated in the gulag (I have succeeded in this minigame exactly one time).
Why? I promise I’m not a masochist. Warzone isn’t so much a game as it is a social experience. It’s a thing to do while I catch up with my friends and ask them how med school is going or what their girlfriends are up to (and there’s always plenty of time to chat while I wait to be bought back in). We all play because we all can play: Warzone is free to download, cross-platform, and has a gameplay feel instantly recognizable to anyone who’s ever picked up another CoD title.
I also find myself nostalgic for the sort of common social language Warzone offers. I was in 10th grade when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 released; in the sweet spot where I was old enough for my parents (or sister) to buy me M-rated games but too young to drive myself around. With all my friends and I stuck in our suburban basements on the average school night, playing Modern Warfare 2 became the social activity. You finished your homework, turned on your console, and rounded up your friends list to jump into a game. The only question was whether you owned an Xbox or Playstation.
As my friend group has geographically splintered after high school, so too have our gaming preferences. When we play at all it’s often across different genres, with the planets only occasionally aligning for a joint play session. The enduring exception to this, for over a year now, has been Warzone. Messages to the group chat aren’t often, but they reliably pick up a couple of people who are willing to set aside whatever else they’re doing (or playing) and drop into Verdansk.
So is it nostalgia for the social connectivity of youth that keeps adults buying Monopoly? Actually, judging by the Amazon reviews, adults keep buying it for their children— because they played it as kids. Monopoly has become the multigenerational least-common-denominator of board games. A bit like learning to ride a bike, flipping the board after going bankrupt on Park Place (or, more realistically, giving up after a game drags into its third hour) has become a childhood right of passage.
An invitation to play Monopoly isn’t about the game itself; it’s about spending time together without having to explain the rules of the game first. And that’s how I’ve come to feel about Warzone: I don’t like the game very much, but I enjoy how it allows me to be social. That’s why I’ll keep playing.
So, to my friends who read this far: Please don’t kick me from the group text.