When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
For a few young adults who tested out a board game with me recently, it isn't pretty.
A group of college students I know were a little embarrassed and even ashamed to be pigeon-holed so much. What bugged them the most is that the game, called Monopoly for Millennials, is that it all seemed somewhat accurate as far as their plight in this world--they talked about rising student debt, the lack of jobs, and a sense of despair.
An exclusive board game for Walmart, the reaction so far has been mixed at best. Many of the reviews talk about how insulting the game is. Here's just a taste:
"This is the dumbest game ever. Discovering new restaurants? I'd rather have a job and buy a home. Maybe it was the way I was raised, but I enjoy being an adult. My parents always instilled a work ethic and money-saving. What is wrong with you, Hasbro?"
"Just Baby Boomer propaganda. Can we get a Monopoly for Boomers with every space being low wages and not understanding credit."
Yet, not everyone who played was so annoyed. A few reviewers understood that it was all in good fun. (Hasbro did not respond to an email for official comment.)
In a few cases during my tests, older Millennials laughed and scoffed at the idea, tossing aside any insinuation that they might not go anywhere in life.
Still, most were annoyed. It all started with the basic underlying theme of the game. You can't buy a house. It's all about "experiences" which typically cost only $20 or $30 each. The money rack looks depressingly sparse, just a few $5, $10, and $20 bills with a small handful of $100 bills but nothing substantial. As you play, the goal is to experience as much as possible, although you can still "experience" going to jail.
"I'm not insulted by it," said one older Millennial as he was reading over the rules. Another echoed the same sentiment. However, when a few younger Millennials played the game, then heard more about the full version of Monopoly (including the history of the game, which was meant to expose corporate greed), they were quite upset. The problems started when they realized the people making the game were not exactly showing any understanding for their plight. There are no get out of debt free cards.
Part of the issue here is that we tend to dismiss this generation and call them entitled without trying to understand what is going on with them. We make board games that shows pictures of a game character wearing earbuds and taking a selfie, a cartoon-level grasp of what they are facing.
Many of them have written to me over the years. They admit they should not have taken out so many student loans. Some say they not only took out the maximum number of loans at their college, but then took out secondary bank loans. They've told me how their parents offered some help, but that college is incredibly expensive.
And, they talk about the job market. For those who picked a field like data analytics, there are many options available, but they say it is hard to prove they have enough experience, even if they worked as a paid intern or had an on-campus job loosely related to their major. Those who picked a more unusual major have been stuck for years.
During the game, we talked about how they are perceived by society. The older Millennials, one of whom does own a home and has a great job, said he is not surprised by the stereotypes but also tends to laugh them off and says every generation has struggled with being pigeon-holed. He didn't have an issue with the game.
A few players were not amused. One game took a surreal turn when a player took out his wallet and showed me he had the same amount of real cash as he did in the game. He said he could barely make his rent payment, and was confused why anyone would make a game about this problem. He suggested that Monopoly for Millennials was developed by older adults. And, he said he doubts whether any Millennials were involved.
What are your thoughts? I'm curious if you agree that the game is not that serious and not offensive, or if you think it's a slap in the face. Drop me a note and share your view.