Game for Experiencing Inequality
a feature of teaching.
Simulations games have long been a feature of teaching (Dorn
both large and small classes.
McAllister, Warren, and Witschger (1996)
successfully adopted a simulation game to teach about structured inequality
that required few resources, accommodated a large class, and was well liked by students. In an extensive and exhaustive review of the
literature, Dorn (1989) offers ten points in consideration of adopting a game
for the classroom: 1) goal setting;
2) integrate and supplement with course material; 3) game
relative to course material; 4) familiarity
with the rules and instructions; 5) time, space, and costs; 6) pre-game
preparation; 7) enthusiasm; 8) rule based;
9) structured debriefing post-game
including emotional debriefing; and 10) reflection, evaluation,
I have considered each of these
adopted the popular game Monopoly. The rules
Rules for Modified
Introduction: Monopoly is considered the leading proprietary
game in the
different languages, most cadets will have familiarity with
the game. The objective of the
traditional game is based on one primary rule to “ . . . become the wealthiest
player through buying, renting, and selling property.”
represents a simulation
of a significant feature of a capitalistic political economy and when played
can help highlight
/simulate the experiences of living in
the Western world. However, one assumption of the rules of the game is that
everyone begin equal--$1,800. is
socio-economic error and distributes income according to four different classes--upper,
middle, working, and lower socio-economic to more robustly represent class
distributions in the "born "
family. Cadets must draw
slips of paper from a hat containing the social-class families. The drawing is random with no
replacement. Eight possible family
arrangements representing the four different social classes are available. After all
cadets have drawn a socio-economic class, they next get
with their respective family members and adopt family roles. For example, if four cadets draw middle class
family, then they must decide what type of family they will be—mother, father,
and two children or two single parent mothers or four adult sisters, and so on. Ages must be identified for purposes of
Salaries: Each family
game with the following amounts of money: 1) upper socio-economic
class (05 – L TC /12-14
years of service) receives merely $500.
Turns: Turns are taken in
descending order, beginning with the upper
SES family. Upper
Property: The lower SES can
buy only the purple and the light blue properties; the working SES can buy
lower SES and maroon and orange properties; the middle SES can buy lower and
working SES properties, red and yellow properties, plus utilities and
railroads; the upper SES can buy any properties it can afford. If an SES family
lands on a property that is for sale but
ineligible or decline s to purchase a
property, the property is auctioned off to the highest bidding eligible SES families. Bidding runs in increments of $10.00.
Passing Go Salaries: Salaries are a major feature of Monopoly and they are obtained by passing “GO.” When a family passes GO, the lower SES receives $85; middle SES receives $130, upper SES receives $200, and working SES receives $150.
The Lottery: A $50.00 lottery ticket can be purchased prior to a family's turn. In order to double their money, they must roll a 12 on dice on their turn (an odds ratio of ). The bank invests the initial $50.00 for the lottery.
Outside of the above specified rules, all
other Monopoly game rules apply. The course instructor is
usually the bank. Finally, if there is any socially
deviant/ criminal acts c ommitted or perceived
to have been committed by any single player
of (voted on by referendum by all players playing rolls that are
18 years or older) sends a family to jail and get out of jail
rules apply. Three violations
constitute expulsion from play completely.
The next section turns to academics at
Monopoly Versus Modified Monopoly
Monopoly, the Parker Brothers' Real Estate Trading Game was developed by an unemployed American named Charles B. Darrow and trademarked by Parker Brothers (1935). The game begins and assumes equality on the social, political, and economic playing board of American life. Sociological research shows the country to be stratified along a number of dimensions including class. I have modified the rules of Monopoly to more realistically represent the forms of social inequality that exist.
I adopt and modify Monopoly as an experiential tool in a junior level
sociology of the family course and more recently, for an introductory sociology
course. It can easily be adopted for
social problems, social inequality, and other courses that have some social
class component. The game is designed to
have cadets experience the tasks and subt itle s
of being born into and living within a family of a specific social class
standing and “feel” the structural conditions such situations impose on
members. The affect, cognitive,
and behavioral dimensions of class are included in the experience as well. The modified rules can be further modified to
accommodate different class sizes, courses, and time schedules. No other resources other than a traditional Monopoly board are necessary.
The goal of
the M odified Monopoly Academic goals,
and hopefully inspire them to want to learn more about the causes and
consequences of inequality. We play Modified Monopoly
prior to readings and lesson blocks on social inequality and stratification in
the introductory course or prior to lessons and readings on families and
class. While the game is played as
laboratory of sorts, it is eventually integrated and supplemented with course
material. I attach the M odified Monopoly rules
to the course guide and encourage them to familiarize themselves with the rules
prior to attending class.
Depending on the structure of our
classroom, I move all the chairs to the side of the room and set-up the game on
the floor or use a large conference desk that is centrally located in the
classroom. The key is equal access to
the game board. The justification here
is to observe if cadets from lower SES groups in the game move further away
from the gaming activities as the game progresses. I prepare by counting all the monies out in
advance and have
a -up the board
prior to cadets arriving to class. An
accelerated game requires more distribution of properties to the eligible
families. As cadets enter the room, they
are “born” into a family by drawing a slip of paper from a hat, randomly
without replacement. They are told to adopt family roles in a household
arrangement. Note that on some occasions
cadets will actually merge with other families to survive the game. This should be closely monitored and included in
debriefings about the social forces of economics and alternative family
arrangements. I use the current military pay scale and create
proportional monthly salaries where a Sergeant earns 42.3% of an LTC salary, a
Sergeant Major 67.5%, and a Warrant Officer 74.9%. We then begin the game.
Monopoly board games are inexpensive and can be purchased for approximately $30.00 new and cheaper used. More elaborate games are on the market, including an electronic version. In large classes, two or more games can be run simultaneously. Instructors can also increase the family size. I have allowed for as many as eight families to play a single game, across three 55-minute classes. The game can be played for an hour or across three to four--50 minute class periods. Again, shorter games or accelerated games may require a pre-distribution of some properties to families based on class standing. Again, I justify distributing various properties to cadets in advance as an additional form of inherited wealth (property). This justification often arises during the game but should be discussed during the debriefing session.
In preparing for the game, I have invited colleagues to visit our class to serve as bankers when running more than one game or as non-participant observer to assist with taking notes to use for debriefing. In preparing, instructors should treat the game as an experiment. The instructor serves as the bank but should also take mental or short-hand notes as the game progresses.
When I instruct cadets about the rules and the upcoming class, I try not to understate playing Monopoly to encourage cadets not to attend, but I am enthusiastic about the game. Cadets are instructed to bring the rules to class and I also make another copy of the rules available for each family during the game.
the game progresses, the instructor should take mental, and on occasion,
short-hand, notes on the cadets' interactions.
Indeed, the instructor is a participant observer in this field
experiment. Various forms of
communication, both verbal and non-verbal, become significant social indicators
to the cadets’ experiences that can be addressed in the debriefing portion of
the game. However, on many occasions I
improvise the teaching moment and throw
concepts to cadets. For example, lower
SES cadet families have complained about not being able to purchase property
from other areas of the board. I point out that this is known as “redlining”--a
practice of banks denying home loans to minority groups (Healey, 1998).
Cadets should be debriefed about their
experiences as a result of playing the game. Instructors should ask their cadets
about their feelings and what they were thinking during the game. Of course, all thoughts, feelings, and
behaviors should be placed in a larger social context and discussed. The first class after
Modified Monopoly They may also attempt to role distance themselves from their ascribed
lower status. Some cadets from lower SES groups might
question the pedagogical legitimacy of the game and others have indicated that
they stopped coming to class because they were not “into the game.”
verbalizing and other out
-right deviant behaviors should also
be noted for later discussions. For
example, some lower SES players may offer to merge with other
families--creating very non-traditional households in order to solidify their
economic standing. It is worth noting
that on only one occasion did a higher SES family decide to distribute their
wealth among the lower SES families. However, the normal response is to be
competitive, allow the norms of the game to govern behavior, and feel
compassionless for people relegated to jail, poverty, and outcast.
This becomes important information in
terms of how social forces limit and construct choices about household
arrangements and choices of partners.
Other deviant acts might include refusing to pay rents and stealing
money from other families. Finally, one
consistent feature I've noted with every course is a group or groups of families
verbalize or intentionally
remain in jail in order to continue play in
the game. For the instructor, this facilitates
an interesting discussion about limited opportunities for the poor, values, and
rational choice. Most importantly,
instructors should link the experiences of the game to the real social
conditions that people in everyday life may face as a result of their income
Reflection is accomplished using the game as a shared and common experience and as a gateway to larger social issues. I rarely have a systematic method for assessing and evaluating the game. It is primarily a method of introducing a particular section in the course. Cadets have offered suggestions and strategies for improving the game. Likewise, I routinely invite other instructors into the class as non-participant observers. They have offered noteworthy insights about improving the game. For example, my department chair, an historian by training, suggested adding the lottery because it historically has been a resource and beacon of hope for the poor.
The Parker Brothers' board game known internationally as Monopoly, simulates the capitalist
economy. However, the genesis of the
game assumes economic equality, with each player. I have modified the game for inequality and
allow cadets to experience the euphoria of higher SES living and the
disappointments of lower SES life.
Instructors should consider the major points outlined by Dorn before
adopting a simulation game. I have
easily integrated the game into a number of different courses including Marriage and the
odified Monopoly to be novel, familiar, and inexpensive. Because it teaches from the perspective of
the student and involves their active
involvement, they are allowed to experience and consider inequality a
different levels immediately prior to reading about it--an opportunity the
sociology teacher can capitalize on. Most importantly, the game is aligned with
goals we aspire to at
Dorn, Dean S. 1989.
Games: One More Tool on the Pedagogical Shelf. "
Teaching Sociology 17:1-18.
Goldsmid, Charles A. and
Healey, Joseph F. 1998. Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class: The
Sociology of Group Conflict and Change (2nd Edition).
Fortune: A Simulation Game for Teaching Inequality in the Classroom. "
Teaching Sociology 24:364-371.
Monopoly. 1935. Monopoly: Parker Brothers' Real Estate Trading Game
of the Dean 1998. Educating Army Leaders
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