Business, as some mogul would have it, is still warfare, only subtler.  The good news is that more people can participate without any physical killing.  The bad news is that those who got their hands on the money first get their shots at creating their own business empires ahead of everybody else—then make a killing.  But wait!  There may yet be some good news in the way you can negotiate your little business’ survival.  That is, if you know how to negotiate.

Table Games In Business And Technology College: Monopoly (2 of 5)
While monopolies aren't, by nature, bad, it can be very unfair.  Monopoly and the collective effort of some to level it is indeed a game of life.

So, how do you stack up against business rivals waiting to make a killing out of you?  You roll the dice in your living room—or classroom—before taking people’s lives and livelihoods with you in a real boardroom.

Monopoly®: It’s all in the history

Monopoly® is just a game, right?  Right!  But on the question on whether it is just a game or something else, the answers are yes and no.

Based on its history, Monopoly came about during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  The prices of properties and goods skyrocketed, the sprawling farms of the US became dust bowls, and there was massive unemployment.  The US had only just begun its economic hegemony, and already they failed.  Then, out of the boredom and waiting for President Franklin Roosevelt to come up with solutions, an idea came about, and a game for “constructive boredom” was born.

Monopoly® could not have had a better timing.  People didn’t earn money by playing it, but learning how the economy’s gears worked—at least in the microcosm of the game—is a whole lot better than doing absolutely nothing.  Besides, the US needed to rise soon—the “day that will live in infamy” was beckoning.

Table Games In Business And Technology College: Monopoly (2 of 5)
The Monopoly Philippine Edition tokens, cash denominations and Chance cards.
Not many people of this age know that, but the key to fully appreciating Monopoly--any game, for that matter—is to look back at how it came to be.  Even its history has a history of its own: a root concept about explaining the negative effects of private monopolies came way back in 1903!  It shouldn’t be a surprise: Risk® had its root concept from the Napoleonic Wars and the game began taking shape in the late 1800’s.  And back in the day, when the Industrial Revolution was climaxing to give way to capitalism, more people found themselves as economic players (only most didn’t know the extent of their roles).  As such, it was said that several people contributed to Monopoly’s evolution, but nobody knows their names to this day.

Elements of reality

There are elements of reality that make Monopoly not just a game but a laboratory equipment in MBA (Master of Business Administration) classes—even in my own classes.  Information Technology, after all, is a degree program composed of Business and Computer Science disciplines.  Those elements are:
  • Properties: these have prices, mortgage value, cost of improvements, and rent prices
  • Utilities and railroads: these have prices upon acquisition, and rent prices that rise based on how many are owned by one person; improvements cannot be developed here
  • House and hotels (improvements): these can be placed on properties to develop them, just like in real real estate; like reality, the materials for making these improvements are finite (well, plastic is finite)
  • Money: money is finite; the world is a US$30-trillion (or so) economy, based on how much gold and precious metals are backing them up
  • Chance: these are represented by dice and cards; dice will take you places (hopefully not the Jail); cards (Community and Chance) will get you to do things not normally associated with buying and paying rents

The Light Blue group is the most easily affordable property group in Monopoly Philippine Edition.  Landing on these space is just as likely as the Ortigas, and upscale Makati and Quezon City properties, but the economic gains are not as big.  Development, however, is quick and cheap; good for the early game.
The global economy is a finite one, and constrained—in ways good and not-so-good—by the laws of states.  As Adam Penenberg cited video game designer Jesse Schell in his book Play At Work, games have a closed environment and rules of their own.  While there are such players as small-to-midsize businesses (SMB’s) and republic acts, we are all parts of this closed system.  So, is Monopoly any different (or, is the global economy any different from the game)?  It’s the Monopoly money, perhaps.

Monopoly in my classes

As I spoke about in the previous article, I conducted my classes with one half playing Risk® (for war decisions) and the other Monopoly (economics).  And just like the other half, Monopoly players were asked to record every turn in order to capture patterns in the way business decisions are being made.  Patterns may also help extrapolate who’s going to win at the rate things are going—or we’ll be playing for hours!

There was one thing we were never able to capture and quantify: negotiations.  It is the only thing not covered by the rule book, cards, dice and the board.  Again, we simply didn’t have enough time to capture the logic of negotiating and its consequences, such as how many iterations does it take to come up with agreed prices, beginning at a certain price for a particular property.

My advice for setting up your own Monopoly classes with time in mind: ready your spreadsheets.
  • One sheet each for all board elements;
  • One sheet for the cards;
  • A few more sheets for other data and other needs.

Table Games In Business And Technology College: Monopoly (2 of 5)
In this spreadsheet, I laid out all the values according to individual property and property group.  Immediately, you'll know your priorities (in an ideal situation), and your next-best options.
Table Games In Business And Technology College: Monopoly (2 of 5)
There are four Chance Card spaces on the board, and when you do land (10% chance), you get a 50% chance of drawing a card with a favorable outcome.  In Decision Theory, knowing your chances allows you to compute pay-off values and expected value of perfect information (EVPI).

Monopoly® is full of probabilities.  The first things you should bear in mind are the likelihoods of you landing on a particular space on the board and the chances that you will be made to pick cards and do their actions (which could incur you gains or losses).  At the end of every class, and as an assignment for those who participated, have the students plot gains and losses, the methods they were incurred, and predict how future decisions should be made based on chances (die rolls and card draw).  Very often, businesses and projects fail because of little attention paid to risks composed of impact magnitudes and probabilities.  Since we never could finish a game (save for the one time a bankruptcy was declared in 90 minutes), we also had to count each player’s remaining assets.

Compared to Risk®, there are more data to collect and calculate in Monopoly.  Since most Management Information Systems classes in Business and IT don't have laboratory classes, Monopoly can be effectively used to demonstrate the three-tiered architecture of decision support systems (Oz, 2009):
  1. Data: Your spreadsheets will tell you more or less how real business systems can be structured in order to gather--and make sense of--data that matter to your business;
  2. Decision: Let the spreadsheet do the math and logic (IF-ELSE); and
  3. Reporting: View the tables and charts and ask yourself if you have what you needed to know to execute an action.
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