“Distoppley”, the game after “Monopoly”

“Distoppley” is a game that starts from bankrupting the economy as at the end of Monopoly, when you then get to figure out a more successful end.

– from a The Finance Lab conversation responding to a finance learning game idea raised by Mark Gater –

Phil Henshaw on 3/18/10

How about if you made it fairly realistic, allowing money holdings to continue growing normally even when the amount of product doesn’t, as it we have now. Keynes proposed his change in the rules for that circumstance, for how to coordinate the emergence of “peak stuff” with a matching “peak money”. Do you think it would be worth designing a money game to see what winners would do with their multiplying ownership of finite goods in that case, and if they’d discover the way out?

from Mark Gater 3/18/10

Hi Phil. In a sense (though accidentally – it wasn’t part of the game’s intent), the game does show money holdings growing while product doesn’t – basically people take out loans to buy second hand cars, and then sell them to pay the loans off; money supply increases and decreases while the number of cars in the game stays the same. Having said that, yes, it would be great to design a game to see what winners do in the scenario you describe. One of the things I’m looking at is trying to build scenarios for a world without perpetual economic growth; the game would be excellent in that context. (and I believe that the money system that we currently have wouldn’t work).

from Phil Henshaw 3/22/10

It’s been a long time since I played the American board game “Monopoly” but one thing that happens there is the point someone is winning and the game has to end… That is also usually just about when people have had some fun and are ready to go do something else anyway. With economies you can’t stop and do something else instead though.

So in designing a social game to arrive at the other solutions (i.e. how to make it sustainable) maybe you’d need to start from the point of monopoly, and go on from there. Do you call it “Distoppley; how to prevent the fall of Bable”? Nature seems to be chock full of examples of growth systems that switch to maturation just when their growth systems are becoming unstable that I study, going forward from crisis rather than back.

from Mark Gater 3/22

Hi. Really helpful ideas on the game. And I’m very interested in good examples of growth systems that switch to maturation as analogies to help people let go of ‘growth’, to see that there might be an alternative.

from Phil Henshaw 3/23

Well, they’re “hidden in sight” all over the place, by our assumption that the things we observe that work out well are complexly “programmed” ahead of time, rather than being the result of a learning and discovery process that changes as they develop, like games.

The most common sort of example would be making dinner for the family, starting with an idea and looking in the fridge and getting more ideas. If that just leads to getting ever more ideas and taking ever more out of the fridge instead of pruning your ideas to something doable to finish on time you leave everyone disappointed.

A business example is the normal small business, that grows till the returns from setting aside earnings to increase investment decline below the returns of enjoying the income, generally at the point some security and comfort are achieved. The general model is anything that begins with growth that is stabilized by refinement rather than ending with exhaustion.

They’re hidden but in plane sight, because they fit a model in our minds of “what should be” and so we don’t recognize them as learning processes beginning with growth and having very satisfactory ends. For the world economy the image people have seems more like “endless growing struggle” instead of seeing some end point when the growing struggle will have been worth it and can be completed.

(if someone wants to use the name and have help designing it as a board or video game let me know…!)



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