Rules for "Real World" Monopoly

I use Monopoly in my introductory courses to convey to students how various aspects of the real world (inequalities, natural disasters, medical illnesses, etc.) makes living life difficult for many people. These are the rules that I use for my "Real World" Monopoly lesson. This experience is then used as a basis for future discussions on topics like ethics.

1) Roles needed other than player: Banker, Property Distributor, and Insurance Collector. These roles are pretty much self-explanatory, and each role can be played by any player; but they should be played by three different players since putting all the responsibility on one player can be very taxing and complicated for that player.

2) Students flip a coin, and are assigned the PR (privileged) or UN (under privileged). Two different color sticky notes are given to them to track the differences in status, and they are instructed to write their names at the top of the sticky note. The sticky notes are also used for tracking insurance (see #4) and other pertinent information when necessary.

3) PR plays by the following rules until the rules are flipped (see #7): they get $1500 to start, they use 2 dice to roll at every turn, and they collect $100 every time they passed go. 

4) UN plays by the following rules until the rules are flipped: they get $750 to start, they use 1 die to roll at every turn, and they collect $50 every time they passed go. 

5) Each player has the option to purchase insurance at the beginning of every turn, before they roll: (L) Life/Health Insurance, (P) Property Insurance, and (M) Monetary Insurance. I arbitrarily set the prices for each of these. They can be set to reflect something close to real world insurance costs, but I find that using $20 (L), $20 (P), $10 (M) works well. The players have to pay for insurance every time they passed Go. Notice that those who are UN will have to struggle with deciding what insurance to purchase since purchasing all three exhausts their regular income for passing GO. The students are instructed to write down the letter of the insurance they want to purchase on their sticky notes and then give the notes to the Insurance Collector, who then keeps track of who purchased what insurance and collects the insurance fee at the appropriate time and gives it to the banker.

6) Throughout the course of the game, I pause the game and insert an act of God/natural disaster, medical problem, etc.; some real world event that puts people under financial and emotional hardship. I set different consequences for people who purchase the appropriate insurance compared to people who did not. For example, I stopped a game once and told everyone they received a call from the doctor and was told that a loved one had a possibly terminal disease. Those who purchased life/health insurance had to pay $10 every time they rolled for the duration of their game in order to pay for their loved one’s treatment, those who didn’t have life/health insurance had to pay $50, and those who did not want to pay at all had a one time penalty of giving up half of their money to reflect the emotional cost of the their loved one’s death.

7) The events insert during the game are arbitrary. I decide what they are and what the consequences are. The principle I use to determine these is to have the students know what it would be like to experience real world hardships. The point of the game is to have the students experience “real world” conditions that they may never experience or have yet to experience. 

8) Each class plays the game twice. At the half way point, I have students figure out who won and have them list the winners in order. I then asked them if anyone who started out in the non-privileged position won. Almost always, the answer is no unless those who started out in the privileged position did not manage their money well and did not purchase insurance. So if you start out privileged, you can always become non-privileged; but it is very difficult to become privileged if one started out non-privileged. Before restarting the second game, I flip the rules. So each student has the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a privileged member of a society and a non-privileged member of a society.
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