Posted 9 years ago on May 23, 2013, 11:08 a.m. EST by LeoYo
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Teach Your Children Well: Don't Play Monopoly
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview
Do you really need to own Boardwalk and Park Place and all the associated property to be a winner? That's how it works with Monopoly. But isn't that the sort of board game teaching the wrong lessons to our children - and to us?
Don't we have enough corporations and businesses monopolizing our economy and owning our government?
Enter Co-opoly, a board game where cooperative business are developed through team strategy. In short, sharing knowledge and creating cooperative strategies determine whether everyone wins or everyone loses. It's not about an individual grabbing up all the wealth and bankrupting others; it's about the economic success of people working together.
Co-opoly is the creation of The Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA), a worker-owned cooperative based out of Northampton, Massachusetts. They create and distribute educational resources on social and economic change for activists, organizers and educators. TESA also partners with other social justice organizations to build the materials and programs they need to effectively teach about their causes.
Brian Van Slyke is a worker-owner at TESA. He has created educational resources on subjects ranging from people's history to social change movements and the cooperative movement. Truthout recently interviewed Van Slyke about Co-opoly, its creation and its challenge to Monopoly.
Mark Karlin: Clearly Co-opoly is a creative alternative (boosting the cooperative movement) to Monopoly, the ultimate game of capitalism. Can you explain your organization and how you came up with the idea for Co-opoly?
Brian Van Slyke: One of the interesting things about Monopoly is that people often promote it as a good way to teach about financial literacy, even though the way you win is by obliterating all of your opponents and leaving them in economic ruin. What many people don't know about Monopoly is that it was actually created to teach about the dangers of cutthroat capitalism. The original version was called The Landlord's Game, and it was used in the Great Depression as an underground game and organizing tool to teach tenants about how they were being ripped off. Its creator, Elizabeth Magie, had her vision corrupted - and now we know Monopoly as the game that's a shining example of American capitalism.
So, what Monopoly does so perfectly is present the problem. We created Co-opoly to offer the solution.
Originally, we came up with Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives based out of a need we saw through our work in the cooperative movement. We wanted to give people a way to not only learn about co-ops and the immense benefits they have for individuals and their communities, but also to allow people to experience cooperation. Co-opoly actually started with the intention of being a 15-minute role-play activity for a workshop, but it kept building and expanding until one day we had a board game prototype! We spent three years traveling around the country, testing it out with game designers, co-op enthusiasts, educators and people at conferences. During this time, we took in all of their input and advice. In the end, we came up with something that is an incredibly fun game and is also a great tool for building the cooperative movement and a democratic economy.
Mark Karlin: On the box cover of the game, it says, "Where everyone wins or everyone loses." So we can safely assume a billionaire hedge fund operator would not like Co-opoly. Is that a safe assumption?
Brian Van Slyke: I'd go out on a limb and say that's a safe assumption.
In fact, you could even say these hedge fund billionaires are the villains of Co-opoly. The main nemesis in Co-opoly that players struggle against together is the Point Bank. The Point Bank essentially symbolizes the economy of exploitation, big bankers, as well as the system of profit over people and the planet.
I'd also say that Co-opoly's philosophy is antithetical to the values of these hedge fund billionaires and big bankers because everyone's in it together. In Co-opoly, people are playing as individual members of the co-op as well as the whole co-op itself. People can lose Co-opoly in two ways. First, if a single player goes bankrupt, then everyone loses. Second, if the co-op as a whole goes under, everyone loses. Perhaps particularly infuriating to lovers of cutthroat capitalism is that players win Co-opoly together by starting another co-op in their community. Essentially, the way people win Co-opoly is by springboarding the cooperative movement in their community. Luckily, we don't feel so bad alienating these billionaires - the world happens to comprise primarily non-billionaires. In fact, we're currently on our second pressing of Co-opoly, as we sold out of the first pressing in under a year, so it is safe to say that many people feel the same way about the billionaires. The game has been distributed in roughly 30 countries - from the US to the UK, Spain, Malaysia, Chile, Australia, India, Hungary, Greece and many more.