Marshall McLuhan

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Using the article "Games: An Extension of Man" by McLuhan, critically analyze the game Monopoly as a cultural product and as part of our culture, and how it could be better in a cultural frame.

Marshall McLuhan describes games as extensions of our social selves, in which we recreate the patterns of collective life. In Monopoly, the patterns recreated are those of ruthless capitalism, in which the objective is to succeed by causing others to fail. If the aim of bankrupting ones opponent were replaced with a more constructive goal, Monopoly might exercise a more positive cultural influence.

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Marshall McLuhan defined games as extensions of our social selves. The game, in McLuhan’s view, creates a situation in which many people can participate in “some significant pattern of their own corporate lives.” This definition is somewhat selective, excluding single-player video games, as well as card games such as Patience. However, it fits the game of Monopoly particularly well. Monopoly reinforces various cultural attitudes and assumptions which are commonly regarded as toxic when stated out loud, but are nonetheless implicit and prevalent in capitalist cultures. Chief among these is the idea that making money is the primary aim in life, one which justifies a multitude of sins. Other attitudes reinforced by Monopoly include the idea that success is a zero-sum game: you achieve it by causing other people to fail, and the notion that winning is mainly a matter of luck, since Monopoly is predominantly a game of chance.

Although not all games are competitive, to recast Monopoly from a competition to a cooperative enterprise would alter it beyond recognition. However, the element of Monopoly that is particularly mean-spirited, that of making your success dependent on bankrupting opponents, could be removed while maintaining the most important features of the game. This objective could be replaced with a target, such as building a business or a property empire, or even a more altruistic endeavor like a charitable endowment.

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