Saturday, February 9, 2013

Requiem for The Iron

In my family, Monopoly has never just been a game.

For us, it's a contact sport.

That fact had always been lost on me until such a time as my cousins, my brother and I reached an age where outsiders (read: girlfriends and boyfriends) would occasionally get invited to play in our family Monopoly game over the holidays.

The outsider reaction pretty much goes like this:

     "Wow - you guys play really fast"

     "Wow - you guys don't mess around, do you?"
     "Are you always this cutthroat with one another?"

     "I want to go home now"

Monopoly is the perfect game for my family:

It accommodates a lot of players (there are a lot of cousins in the clan)

It involves trades and dealmaking, allowing for plenty of backstabbing opportunities (it's how my family shows love - don't judge)

Games can run long into the night (we are genetically predisposed to being night owls)

And it keeps score with money (yes, some Asian stereotypes are somewhat true...)

The official family Monopoly set, for years, was a old British edition, circa 1960 I believe.  It featured London street names (Mayfair, Bond St, The Strand, etc) and the houses and hotels were made of wood.  It came with 10 pieces:


     Top Hat




     Artillery Cannon

     Rider on Horse

     Scotty Dog


     and The Iron

I don't remember how it came to be that I always played The Iron. Perhaps it was because nobody else wanted to play it, and so I always knew I could get it.  Perhaps it was the first manifestation of my minimalist design aesthetic.  Perhaps I liked the idea of an out-of-scale iron that was as big as a race car.  Who knows?  All I can tell you is that I have always played The Iron, just as my brother always played The RaceCar, our cousin Kimberly always played the Top Hat, and our cousin Neal always lost.

A few months ago, when Hasbro announced that one of the classic tokens was going to be retired, I knew that The Iron was in trouble.

     The Iron lacks the universal appeal of a Racecar or a Scotty Dog

     The Iron lacks the stylish swag of a Top Hat

     The Iron lacks the collectible & heirloom qualities of a Thimble

The only hope was for The Iron to collect more votes that the Wheelbarrow or the Shoe

I voted early

I voted often

And early on, it looked like it might have been enough.  But then the Wheelbarrow found its champions. picked up the cause for the Wheelbarrow.  As did True Temper, who put together an entire YouTube campaign around it.  Once Zappos entered the fray on the side of the Shoe, it was all over.

There are no champions for The Iron.  Not in today's world.  In a world where everybody talks about "Working Smarter," The Iron harkens back to an era that was about "Working Harder."  There is no room for The Iron in a world where cadre after cadre of douchebag MBA and Law School grads pay $1.89 per piece to have someone else press their shirts for them.  There is nothing aspirational about The Iron - instead, one aspires to a lifestyle where one never has to wield an iron.  Whatever credibility there may be in paying one's dues (metaphorically doing one's own ironing), is cancelled out by the feeling of entitlement so rife among first-world board game players in today's age.  The world has moved on, and The Iron has been left behind.

Leaving me here also - A Monopoly ronin, bereft and without a token, far from Go in a hostile landscape of high rents and internet cats.

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