Abimbola Akosile and Ebere Nwiro review a novel approach to the revival of the popular board game, Monopoly, with the city of Lagos providing the backdrop for the streets and real estate
It has taken many to jail. Yes, jail, several times in the past, and they enjoyed their stay there. But the ‘jail’ was enjoyable simply because it was better to go to jail and remain there than come out and pay sky-high rental fees and fines to speculators and investors.
But these jails were not the usual Ikoyi or Kirikiri Prisons. The jails are on the flat, lovely board of a Monopoly game. Jail is one of the four corner spaces on a Monopoly board game.
For those who have had such memories growing up, another unique concept to the widely-acclaimed indoor game of Monopoly is about to be unveiled in Lagos, using the City of Lagos as the new innovative board.
Come December 11, Lagosians and indeed Monopoly-loving Nigerians will be treated to a curiously familiar but refreshingly new sight, when Bestway Games Limited, alongside Lagos State Government and with the media partnership of THISDAY Newspapers will unveil and launch the City of Lagos Monopoly Board game, using the landmarks and streets in Lagos as features on the first-ever City board.
Whiff of Nostalgia
As a young boarding student at the Federal Government College, Warri, then Bendel State (now Delta State), the game of Monopoly held a special allure for Adekunle Olasile. He says, “It was greater than the equally familiar indoor games of scrabble, chess, cards and Ludo.”
Though among his peers there were different hobbies, ranging from cricket to cards, from soccer to track events, and from drama to reading novels, Monopoly had a pride of place. “Given the gusto with which it was played back then, one cannot but wonder how such an educative game vanished from many living rooms and minds of fun-loving Nigerians,” he adds.
With his siblings, 6 brothers and 2 sisters, who were and are still avid and voracious readers of books in any form and players of indoor and outboard games, he has spent many endless nights thinking over which train stations to buy or sell in a British Monopoly board game, or which properties or sites rival players are bound to hit, to generate revenue for him.
The focus of the game was simple: acquire as many properties as possible, buy out your rivals and put them out of business as quickly as possible, while amassing a fortune in the process. Among players then, it was believed that the type of investments one made on the board reflected the personality of the investor/player.
For those familiar with the British version of Monopoly, if all a player was interested in was buying up Old Kent Road and Pall Mall sites, in addition to Kings Cross railway station and the utilities, then that player was branded as unambitious, a small-time thinker and conservative.
But if the constant preference was in acquiring high-brow Mayfair and Piccadilly or Bond and Regent Streets, you were regarded as smart and investment-savvy, even if that player ends up with nothing in the struggle for acquisition or gets wrecked in the course of the game.
No doubt, those fond memories have helped to shape Olasile’s life, aside the hundreds of Harold Robbins, James Michener, John Jakes, James Clavell and Nick Carter best-seller novels read over countless cherished hours, and now they are about to return in a new dimension; courtesy of the City of Lagos Monopoly Board game.
First of its Kind in Africa
Bestman Games, with the support of the Lagos State Government, First Bank of Nigeria Plc and Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and other esteemed partners, are set to launch the first African city edition of the world’s most famous board game of Monopoly.
In a statement, Bestman Games said the City of Lagos Edition of Monopoly, set to be launched on December 11, portrays the strength of the city. According to the company, the Monopoly board as one that enhances the profile of Lagos and Nigeria would present the mega city on the world stage in a fun and attractive way.
Bestman also disclosed that the initiative would be a powerful tool for children as they can relate to the board game, adding that it captures familiar streets, neighbourhoods and leading brands, which other board games currently do not address.
The statement read in part, “Millions of Nigerians grew up playing the iconic board game. The images of Mr. Monopoly, Advance to Go and the ‘Free Parking’ spaces are etched permanently in the hearts and minds of people across the country. Several memorable family moments have been defined by the playing of the game. It is such moments that this special edition aims to revive amongst the youth and other segments of our population.”
It added, “This is one of several reasons that the City of Lagos Edition has enjoyed the full endorsement of the Lagos State Government. The Government aims to use this novel tool to educate people about some of the laws of the city that are so often overlooked, to promote financial literacy and tourism.”
Filling the Gaps
In response to enquiries on the rationale behind the City of Lagos Monopoly game and what to expect, Mr. Adeoye Omotayo of R&B Public Relations Limited, an Ikoyi-based agency representing Bestman Games, provided some answers.
He said, “the vision of the City of Lagos Monopoly Board game includes: to promote financial literacy and encourage personal financial responsibility from an early age, and to promote and encourage strong ethical values and a sense of integrity amongst players by penalising negative or dishonest behaviour in a symbolic way.
According to him, the game also seeks to reinforce the importance of family values by creating a reason for family members to enjoy quality time together playing, learning, and having good old fashioned fun.
On the major differences between the new localised board game and the UK, USA popular copies, he said the rules of the game remain the same with the other international formats however the landmarks and icons are new and customised to Lagos City. “So, for instance, the most coveted area in the UK board is Mayfair, and in the City of Lagos edition, we have our own Mayfair equivalent and so on”.
Adeoye, who confirmed that South Africa has a country version of the Monopoly board game, affirmed that Lagos is the first African city to have its own game, and said the package would be accessible and retailed in major sales outlets, to ensure national spread and patronage.
He disclosed that Bestman won the franchise for the City of Lagos Monopoly board game through a rigorous criteria process conducted by Winning Moves. Adeoye, however, declined to name any specific Lagos features or landmarks that would appear on the board or the make-believe currency to be used, saying, “It is top secret. All will be revealed on December 11”.
Consistency in Appeal
All indoor games hold a peculiar and unique appeal and the pull factor, depending on the individual player. From scrabble, which enhances the vocabulary in an enjoyable way, to chess, which sharpens the intellect in a laid-back manner; from cards which help to pass the time in an amiable way to even Ludo, which is more of luck than skills, each game has its own flavour and characteristics.
However, Monopoly, which curiously sidled out of many Nigerians’ living rooms and memories, is about to return in a novel dimension. Its useful investment lessons are there for all to see, and the feeling of pride at acquisition of even the slightest property, and the accompanying glee and satisfaction from having bested rival players in a skillful and lucky manner, are major pull factors.
Also, the feeling one gets when he or she has to pay fines each time one uses a utility or visits another person’s property helps to curb societal excesses and rein in miscreant tendencies; a factor which is needed in Lagos. Lastly, the reward of passing ‘Go’ and getting some vital financial boost for further investment portrays timeless allure for fun-lovers and players of Monopoly.
The City of Lagos has its unique characteristics and qualities beside its frenetic pace and hard style of life and replicating these on an indoor board game of Monopoly only serves to present and preserve its flavour in a pleasant manner.
Many residents eagerly anticipate the return of Monopoly in a new dimension to the living rooms around the country. That may be just be the breath of fresh air Nigerians across all class and age divides need, in the midst of a sober, sordid and disorderly existence.