Comedy duo Never Sad got the green light to reboot '70s racial equity game Blacks & Whites, which, like Monopoly, revolves around the buying and selling of real estate.
The revamped game, Blacks & Whites: 50th Anniversary Edition, notes that the game character's race is "crucial to the player's success in the game" — meaning that the cards are figuratively stacked against black characters.
What are the details?
A Thursday report from Wired's Sebastian Skov Andersen succinctly sums up the game: "a 'socially conscious' tabletop game about privilege and inequity in real estate and American society."
Never Sad, the duo made up of made up of black comedian Nehemiah Markos and white comedian Jed Feiman, received permission from the original game's creator, the late Dr. Robert Sommer.
Sommer, an internationally renowned professor and psychologist at the University of California-Davis, originally crafted the game because he was "struck by how unrealistic" Monopoly was, the Wired report explained.
"In Monopoly, everyone starts out with the same amount of money," he previously said. "That certainly doesn't fit the real world. ... I decided to change the rules and introduce disadvantaged players."
According to the article, the overlying theme of white privilege in the game is patently obvious.
"White characters are granted a sum of $1,000,000 to go and purchase property with," Andersen writes. "Black characters, encouraged to pool together their assets in a form of collective action, are given just $10,000. ... In my first turn, playing as a black character called Rico, I rolled a 10 and landed myself a round detained at the police station. Had I been white, I could have posted $20,000 in bail, rolled again, and pretended it had never happened."
From that point, things only got worse for the black player.
"Players can land on opportunity spaces, draw a card and get an advantage or disadvantage," Andersen continues. "But card stacks are segregated, and the stack reserved for Blacks contains more bumps in the road than the one for whites. For the first many rounds of the game, Black characters are only allowed to buy property in two of the four property zones (the Ungentrified Zone and Integrated Zone) while white characters can also buy in the remaining two (the Suburban Zone and 1% Zone) from the start—not that I could afford it anyway."
Andersen's fortune changes at one point, however, after he accidentally applied too much sunscreen and was able to "play the next three turns as a white player, and was granted $100,000 just because."
He adds that black characters in the new edition "cannot go bankrupt."
"If they do, they're kept in the game by qualifying for benefits, financed from the pockets of the white characters," Andersen explains. "But when I played the game in a group of six, with half of the characters being black, it felt like, despite the fact that we couldn't technically lose the game, we were never really in the game in the first place — even if we did manage to pool together our meager resources and acquire a single property, Harlem. Blacks and whites were essentially playing two different games, with different rules."
That, according to Markos and Feiman, is precisely the point of the game.
Andersen concludes by pointing out, "In the best case scenario, a young person will come across the game, bring it to Thanksgiving with the family, and convince their racist uncle that white privilege exists by playing."
The duo in December released a video requesting people back their Kickstarter fundraising efforts.
A voiceover for the ad warns, "Watch out for greedy white people or you may go bankrupt!"
"Capitalism and racism are inextricable!" one of the players, portrayed by Markos, responds during the spoof ad.
The voiceover concludes, "Win the game by owning the most property — and hopefully learn something about inequity, empathy, and cooperation along the way!"
You can purchase the game — which has a $50 price tag plus shipping — directly from Never Sad's website.