It is not very often boxes of the game Monopoly sit on the table of a UCT boardroom; but participants at the recent brainstorming session hosted by ACC were not entirely surprised. Indeed the idea of creating a game about Cape Town has been the centrepiece of the Serious Fun project as a part of the upcoming ACC’s Desired City exhibition. The game, currently known as Metropoly: Cape Town, aims to give a sense of the reality in Cape Town in terms of access to capital and land and how those dynamics result in cumulative advantages and disadvantages depending on where people live, what they earn and own.

On Friday 8 August, a dozen minds came together representing a broad range of interest groups including ACC affiliates academics from other UCT faculties, the City of Cape Town, a game designer and an open data specialist. The order of the meeting: play! but not just to ‘win’. In fact the exercise focused on following the traditional rules of Monopoly, while keeping a critical eye in order to adapt it to Cape Town. The exercised ranged from creating appropriate house typologies to ensuring the ‘chance cards’ illustrated realities in the city.

The first part of the discussion reaffirmed the interest around the table to ‘give the game a social dimension’ and extrapolate from Cape Town’s reality in the housing and property sectors. It was acknowledged the reality is very complex and while the game might not be able to cover all the different aspects, it could be a powerful vehicle to engage people of different ages and could plant the seed for the development of a long-term project around Serious Games.

Much discussion about the suitability of Monopoly preceded this meeting but what became clear is that popular culture resonates strongly with this particular game and provides a common language. Indeed, many have tried to repurpose it in in several instances including Monopoly Lagos, which was one of the versions used for this particular meeting;  the controversial ‘Ghettopoly’ which incited legal action and“Commonopoly” which challenges the principles of monopoly with the value of the ‘commons’ where collaboration is the key to win. The challenge is therefore to use it as a vehicle to challenge the status quo while imagining a different reality possible in Cape Town.

While the specificities of the game are still under construction, what can be expected is a game that illustrates iconic places in the city and a whole lot of fun for all ages.