Searching for the ideal holiday gift for the special millennials in your life? Why not get them a board game that will point out their crippling student loan debt and the unprecedented barriers their generation faces to entering the housing market?
In what is either a product created by a baby boomer who wanted to pigeonhole an entire generation or a work of satire conceived by a salty twentysomething, Hasbro recently launched Monopoly for Millennials, a spinoff that features the slogan: "Forget real estate. You can't afford it anyway."
Pictured on the box top and at the center of the board for the game, which is already out of stock on Walmart's website, is Rich Uncle Pennybags dressed in his signature suit and top hat — who's also taking a selfie, holding a coffee, and sporting a participation medal.
The game that mocks millennials hasn't gone over well with that generation, born roughly between 1981 and 1996. But its appeal to older generations, comprising some who view millennials as vain, spoiled, and technology-dependent, is indicative of larger generational conflicts, and online conversations about the game seem to be a microcosm.
On a Facebook post about the game's launch, one man — presumably not a millennial — commented: "Change the name from Monopoly to I'm a loser with no money… I'm a overprivleged little cry baby who has a beard and can't change a flat tire or swing a hammer."
That would be a very long name for a board game. But the suggestion also demonstrates how millennial stereotypes anger young people in the process (because they're so sensitive, of course), including one commenter who responded: "The only reason we're in this position is because our parent's generation ruined everything for us."
Jason Dorsey, director of the Texas-based Center for Generational Kinetics and a corporate consultant on millennials in the workplace, said while "everybody knows a millennial that fits these stereotypes," the research doesn't show that millennials are any more lazy or self-entitled than any other generation.
"The reality is that millennials are the largest generation in the United States workforce," he said. "For most of our clients, they're the largest generation of managers. What we've uncovered is that millennials are the generation most offended by other millennials at work who act entitled."
Monopoly for Millennials is like Hasbro's other Monopoly editions, some of which have been marketed to Fortnite fans and "cheaters." But it's significantly more tongue-in-cheek, and it differs from the traditional Monopoly in that rather than trying to earn money, players attempt to rack up "experiences," a nod to the studies that show millennials generally prioritize travel or friendships over material possessions.
In the game, those experience points are gained by visiting a friend's couch, the vegan bistro, the artisanal coffee bar, or a weeklong meditation retreat. Game pieces include a bicycle, a pair of sunglasses, a camera, and a hashtag.
The game also includes Chance cards — "Your cellmate is sick of you vlogging about prison life. Get out of jail free" — and Community Chest cards, including "Your mom learned how to text! Advance to Go" and "You get a fourth job. Hashtag hustle. Hashtag side gig. Hashtag NoDaysOff"
A Hasbro spokesperson said in a statement that the product was launched at Walmart earlier this month and was meant to provide players with "a lighthearted game that allows millennials to take a break from real life and laugh at the relatable experiences and labels that can sometimes be placed on them."
Plenty of people weren't laughing.
Some saw the game as condescending, and pointed out that external factors have made it harder for millennials to accumulate personal wealth.
"These economic headwinds have had a profound and deeply emotional impact in our lives, and they're very personal," said Dorsey, himself a millennial. "There is truth that we chose to go to college and rack up student loan debt, but we did not choose the Great Recession. We didn't choose wage stagnation, and we didn't choose real estate prices."
Studies have shown that a significant portion of millennials, many of whom entered adulthood at the height of the recession, blame baby boomers (born from 1946 through 1964) for policies that exacerbated the housing collapse, student loan debt increases, and wealth inequality. Meanwhile, the younger generation has been blamed in the media for "killing" everything from napkins to Applebee's, from the Olympics to marriage.
Some social scientists worry the two generations will only have more conflict over the next decade, as public pension and health-care resources grow thinner and automation changes how the U.S. workforce functions, causing a competition for government support between workers and retirees. (Never mind the thoughts of the generation sandwiched between the two; Gen Xers' hallmark is to be ignored.)
Others say the conflict — real or perceived — between millennials and the baby boomers who raised them is nothing unique. Dustin Kidd, an associate professor of sociology at Temple University's College of Liberal Arts, said that while there are some generational differences as a result of technology and economics, most of the complaints levied against millennials are similar to those made against generations that came before them.
"There has never been an older generation that actively praised young adults for being great workers and communicators," he said, adding: "The sense that each generation is somehow a fundamentally different kind of human just doesn't hold true."