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Hasbro’s new Monopoly for Millennials illustrates the problem with jokes about millennials: they have to be funny

This holiday season, give yourself the gift of not playing this game.

the new Hasbro board game, Monopoly for Millennials
Monopoly for Millennials.
Walmart

Monopoly — the Hasbro version, not the concept — is a fun board game about capitalism. You and some number of your most patient friends take turns rolling dice for the opportunity to buy and trade fictional properties, and then “develop” those properties with “houses” and “hotels,” with the ultimate goal of driving everyone else into bankruptcy. It is like being Jeff Bezos, kind of, but from the comfort of your living room.

(That the first iteration of the game was developed, in the early 1900s, to illustrate the evils of monopolies is a detail that has mostly gotten lost in popular memory, speaking to the dark reality that it is fun to build hotels and crush your enemies.)

Last week, Hasbro announced a new twist on the classic, updated for these very modern times. It is called Monopoly for Millennials, joining other special editions, including Monopoly: Fortnite Edition, Monopoly: National Parks Edition, and Monopoly Gamer Mario Kart, and while it seems like a joke, it is apparently real, in that it exists as an object you can buy exclusively at Walmart for $19.82. (The year that most agree the first millennials were born.) Well, you could buy it at Walmart. According to the Walmart website, it is currently sold out.

“The point of the new game, rather than buying real estate, is to enjoy experiences,” says the Independent, “because as the box explains: ‘Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway.’” Do you know that millennials, generational victims of the Great Recession, aren’t buying homes? Get it?

Instead of buying railroads with fake money, you buy and trade “the hottest destinations,” which range “from your friend’s couch to the vegan bistro to a week-long meditation retreat,” using “experience points” instead of imitation bills. According to CNN, “players are encouraged to find new places to eat, shop and relax and to become involved in community interactions via the Chance and Community Chest cards.” I have not played the game, but several news outlets assure me avocado toast is somehow involved.

In an email to CNN, Hasbro explained they intend the game in a spirit of millennial solidarity:

With many of us being Millennials ourselves, we understand the seemingly endless struggles and silly generalizations that young Millennials can face (and we can’t even!), so we created the game to provide fans with a lighthearted experience that allows Millennials to take a break from real life and laugh at the relatable experiences and labels that can sometimes be placed on them.

And indeed, at least some millennials could not even. “The whole thing feels out of touch with what my age group actually wants or likes,” one real live millennial told CNN. (“We think the game is ‘lit’ and didn’t intend for it to be ‘salty,’ responded Hasbro, in the manner of a dad.)

Obviously, millennials took to Twitter — they would — to express their opinions, which turn out to be diverse and varied, as though millennials are not actually a monolith. In the true spirit of the game, some critics saw a market opportunity:

What is most frustrating about millennial Monopoly is not that it turns the economic realities — earning “experience points” is the game-equivalent of working for a company that offers unlimited free cereal but no benefits — into a smug punchline. Millennial angst is a great commodity. There is so much of it! It’s great to see that enterprising Hasbro is cashing in on this unlimited natural resource.

The problem is that the joke is not that good. The joke — millennials have no money and love toast and sharing bikes! — is a tired joke, a joke we have been telling, without addressing the grim reality behind the joke, for well over a decade now. It is not that millennials cannot take a joke. It is that, by now, millennials are entitled — get it? — to a better one.

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