When I was growing up, Monopoly was a favourite family game. It was played, in particular, on occasions when the extended family got together, such as at Christmas. Games would go on late into the night, and my sister and I were allowed to stay up much later than would normally have been the case. I still have fond memories of those times.
It used to be that there was only one version of Monopoly (at least, only one in the UK) – the one with London street names on it. Now, of course, there is a whole host of different versions; even so, to me it still feels odd and not quite right to play any version other than the traditional London one. I guess I’m something of a traditionalist at heart.
Anyway, my son happened to mention yesterday that he and some friends had been playing the “Empire” version of Monopoly, pictured above. I didn’t know of this version, and the image that spring to mind when my son mentioned “empire” was of ancient warring empires like Rome, the empire of Alexander the Great and the Byzantine empire. But I was wrong: the empires on which the game is based are corporate empires like Coca-Cola, Microsoft and McDonald’s. I was immediately struck by just how apt this is.
In ancient times, an empire was an extensive geographical area within which everyone was under the authority of an emperor. Empires were mostly dictatorships, which meant that the emperor passed laws by decree, so you were more or less forced to go along with them whether you liked it or not. Stepping out of line usually entailed consequences of the most severe kind.