ONE-MAN FOCUS GROUP FEBRUARY 25, 2013
As you've probably heard by now, Monopoly—the game that's grown-up enough to have mortgages but innocent enough not to have mortgage-backed securities—is about to get a new pet. Based on the results of an internet election to shake up the game's roster of tokens, the cat is in and the iron is out.
It's no surprise that a cat won an internet election, of course, especially when the other candidates to be added to the game were a robot, a diamond ring, a helicopter, and a guitar. Do videos of cute helicopters go viral? Is there a web site called LOLGuitars? Can a robot snuggle up next to you while you tap away on your laptop? (Don't answer that.)
According to one school of thought, adding the cat makes a certain kind of sense. The argument goes something like this: Up until now, all the Monopoly tokens have been inanimate objects—the thimble, the iron, the race car, and so on—except for the Scottie dog, which has always felt a bit incongruous. So giving the pooch a feline counterpart helps balance things out a bit.
But here's the thing: Monopoly isn't about cute animals. It's about property, banking, development, railroads, utilities, making and losing fortunes—in short, being a captain of industry. That's why the metal-cast tokens with their industrial symbols feel so appropriate. It's true that the Scottie always stuck out as the oddball of the group, but the proper remedy would have been to eliminate the Scottie, not to add another animal.
And even if the cat had to be added, by what zero-sum logic did another token have to be scrapped? The iron is a particularly unfortunate choice in this regard. In the words of Heather McCabe, a Monopoly enthusiast in Brooklyn, New York, "There was always something satisfying about putting the iron down flat on the board, as if it were secretly ironing everything underneath it as it moved along." Well put. What are we supposed to imagine the cat doing as it proceeds around the board—scratching the furniture?
This whole imbroglio has echoes of a telephone election from 1995, when consumers voted to add blue M&Ms in place of tan. Adding blue was fine (it was certainly better than pink or purple, which were the other two options), but did tan really need to get kicked to the curb?
But there's no time to dwell on past consumer injustices—there's a new consumer election afoot, this time to select the latest gonzo potato chip flavor. As the saying goes, people, vote early and often.