♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ (dice thudding) PATRICK JAGODA: We played on vacation, and it never ended well.
I mean, it would always end in a fight.
It was either somebody was cheating.
These weren't the rules, right?
There were always house rules that we were applying.
So it was a very intense series of games growing up.
MARY PILON: We always played Monopoly at Christmas Eve.
That was our family tradition, still is.
As a kid, it wasn't just exciting to win at a game, but also seeing my brother get destroyed.
As the little sister, it was, like, a very exciting feeling, if I had to be honest about it.
It's America's game, right?
It's all of our game.
It's the games of our childhood.
ERIC ZIMMERMAN: But there's a dark side, too.
It's not all, you know, rainbows and, and unicorns.
It's a cut-throat game: "I only win when you lose."
(dice clattering) BRYANT SIMON: In America, we've created a myth that capitalists like competition, but no capitalist wants competition.
What all companies want is monopoly.
JAGODA: This story about Monopoly is filled with ironies.
I mean, this is one of the things that makes it so compelling.
It's not just the twists and turns, but the fact that it is a game about capitalism that was created to teach people about something completely different.
KATE RAWORTH: The dynamics written into the rules of this game were never intended to be the rules.
It should come with a health warning, like a packet of cigarettes.
"You are playing a twisted version of this game."
TOM FORSYTH: It was supposed to be a critique of capitalism, and it turned out to be a celebration of it.
RAWORTH: And so it's a story that teaches us: compete, acquire, be ruthless, and you will go on to conquer the world.
It's monopoly through and through.
(kids talking in background) Read the instructions.
Pass me the instructions.
Uh, what piece do you guys want to be?
I'll be car.
I wanna be the hat.
You're the banker?
I want to be the banker.
So, how much money do we give out?
I think, like, $500.
No, "two of each, 500s."
Everybody gets two 500s.
That's a lot of money.
That's so weird.
And six 20s.
Okay, this is a lot of money.
My goal in life is to win and beat you all.
(dice clattering) ♪ ♪ PILON: Once upon a time, in the great Great Depression, there's this man named Charles Darrow.
He's unemployed, as are millions of Americans.
He has this big light bulb moment, this big eureka moment, and out comes Monopoly.
He's told no one will buy this game.
It's a game about property and money at a time when Americans are so desperately lacking in exactly those things.
But undeterred, he ultimately ends up at Parker Brothers.
They decide to sell the game, it becomes a massive bestseller, and it saves him and Parker Brothers from the brink of destruction.
(laughs): Everybody lives happily ever after.
There's just one problem with that story, and it's that it's not true.
SINGERS (on radio): ♪ KNBR, 68, it's San Francisco ♪ RADIO HOST: 24 until 11:00... PILON: In the early 1970s, Ralph Anspach is an economics professor at San Francisco State University.
Ralph is an impassioned anti-monopolist.
He thinks that monopolies are at the root of all that is wrong in this country and create power imbalances.
His ideas aren't getting across, and he's frustrated, because at this point, the OPEC oil cartels are dominating headlines.
(car horns honking) TRISTAN DONOVAN: OPEC, the Arab oil monopoly, controls the oil supply.
They've just hiked up prices, there are queues at the petrol pumps, the economy is in tatters.
It's a crisis, an absolute crisis in 1973.
6:00 tomorrow, we'll be open again.
Ralph believed that monopolies were one of the major forces holding back the optimal version of American capitalism.
And so what better way to teach people about those complex systems than having them play and experience a board game?
INTERVIEWER: Ralph, tell me about the board game that you invented, and how did it come about?
ANSPACH: It was a very hot day, chaos on the roads.
It took me about four hours rather than one hour to get home.
And when I finally got, sat down at the dinner table, I was X-rated cussing out the oil monopolists.
And suddenly my eight-year-old son says, "Dad, you are a really poor loser."
I said, "Why, William?
Why am I a poor loser?"
He said, "Yesterday, we played Monopoly, "I won the game, and now you're such a poor loser, you're attacking my victory."
I tried to explain to them, "You shouldn't take it personal."
And I started looking for a game that would show the anti-monopoly side.
Unfortunately, there was no such game.
I began to think about that, and that's what happened.
I invented Anti-Monopoly.
♪ ♪ PILON: Anti-Monopoly becomes a hit in the Bay Area.
It's sold at local stores.
Patty Hearst reportedly plays a version of the game.
And it becomes kind of this counter-cultural icon.
ANSPACH: The point of Anti-Monopoly was to retain all the fun of Monopoly, but at the same time, make it very clear that the monopolists are the bad guys when they play.
Anti-Monopoly has a message.
Monopolies are not a nice thing in capitalism.
It's the dark underside of capitalism.
DONOVAN: Anti-Monopoly is there to basically turn the tables on the Parker Brothers game.
Instead of trying to build a monopoly, you try to break them up.
There'll be steel monopolies to smash, oil monopolies to smash.
So, you know, it was about busting these giant corporations.
PILON: Anti-Monopoly takes off, it starts selling, all over the country, and it looks like it's going to be a huge hit.
And then one day, Ralph receives a letter.
It is from attorneys who represent General Mills, which at that point owned Parker Brothers, and they say, "You cannot sell Anti-Monopoly-- you are infringing upon our right to sell our game."
ANSPACH: The letter said, "Take the game off the market immediately, "destroy all games you have, and also, "we want you to put an ad in newspapers saying that you're sorry that you attacked us," and so on and so forth-- that's how it began.
It was enough to frighten anybody out of their wits, but I get mad about things like that, when some big company attacks a little guy for what I consider to be no valid reason.
So, I got ready to fight.
PILON: Ralph's a very cause-driven guy, and I think some of that's from his childhood.
Ralph was born in the city of Danzig.
He was Jewish.
Somewhere around the age of 12, his family moved to New York to escape the coming Nazi threat.
PILON: He's a scrappy kid in New York City, he doesn't know the language.
And then works his way through school, eventually to getting his doctorate.
DONOVAN: I think this gave him a kind of attitude of, "I need to stand up to bullies."
You know, if someone was trying to push him into a corner, he's gonna hit back.
We've sold a half a million Anti-Monopolies, and not a single consumer has complained to us or to Parker Brothers.
REPORTER: Complained about confusion, you mean?
That's right, not a single person claimed that they had bought Anti-Monopoly and they thought it was a General Mills game or something like that.
PILON: Now he lawyers up and he serves a counterpunch.
He actually sues Parker Brothers first, so that way, he can claim jurisdiction in California.
Part of Ralph's strategy is to prove that the Monopoly trademark is dubious.
So Ralph is on a mission to piece together Monopoly's early history, trying to find out what happened with the game before Parker Brothers started to sell it.
FORSYTH: And then one day, Ralph is working at home, and his son Mark comes running into his office, and he said, "Dad, Dad, there's this book I've been reading "and it says that Monopoly was invented by a woman.
This woman Lizzie Magie."
And Ralph is, like, "Wait, who's Lizzie Magie?"
♪ ♪ PILON: Elizabeth Magie was born in 1866 in Macomb, Illinois.
Her family was very political.
Her father was a very influential newspaper owner.
He was one of the early founders of the Republican Party.
He had traveled with Abraham Lincoln during the Stephen Douglas debates.
She was exposed to a lot of big ideas.
And at a time when women were not afforded many opportunities to be in the public space, she took every single one that she could.
She was an actress, she was politically very active.
She is a writer, and she produced plays, and she also invented a way for typewriters (typewriter keys clacking) to move paper more efficiently.
(carriage slides) JAGODA: I think of Lizzie Magie as a performance artist in some ways.
I'm serious, I mean, how do you, how do you classify her, right?
I mean, she's an engineer, she's a poet, she's a writer, she's an activist, she's a staunch feminist.
SPARROW: She is doing all of these things that a lot of women in that time were not allowed to do, or able to do.