Houston Matters

‘Don’t buy the Dome’ and other lessons from playing a 1996 Houston version of Monopoly

Members of the Houston Matters team play a Houston edition of Monopoly from 1996 in conjunction with the new American Experience documentary on the untold history of the iconic board game.

The Houston Edition of Monopoly, circa 1996, in the Houston Matters studio.
Houston Public Media
The Houston Edition of Monopoly, circa 1996, in the Houston Matters studio.

Listen

To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="https://embed.hpm.io/444048/444051" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>
X

Monday night at 8 on Houston Public Media TV 8, American Experience presents Ruthless: Monopoly's Secret History.

The program delves into the fascinating true story behind one of America's favorite board games.

The show reveals that the game's official origin story is...not exactly true. And who really created it — and why — is surprising. Let’s just say it wasn't originally intended to be what it became: a celebration of unbridled greed.

While reflecting on our memories of playing Monopoly over the years, members of the Houston Matters team decided they should play an officially licensed Houston edition of Monopoly from 1996 (that producer Michael Hagerty borrowed from the recesses of a closet at his in-laws’ house).

An officially licensed Houston Edition of Monopoly, circa 1996.

The game is adorned with beloved Houston landmarks and attractions including the Astrodome, Space Center Houston, and Children’s Museum Houston.

The Astrodome and Space Center Houston spaces on the Monoply Houston Edition board game.

But some of the spaces on the board are places and things that have changed names or are gone completely, including Foley’s department store, The Wyndham Warwick Hotel, and Houston Lighting & Power.

The Foley’s space on the Monopoly Houston Edition board game.

In the audio above, you can listen as Michael (using the shoe as his token) sits down in the studio to play Monopoly Houston Edition with Craig Cohen (playing as the thimble), Joshua Zinn (the car), and Troy Schulze (the dog).

They reflect on their memories from playing the game over the years and the lessons learned from playing this version of the game now as adults — all while riffing on the Houston elements of this particular game.

  • Members of the Houston Matters team play Monopoly Houston Edition. (Photo Credit: Houston Public Media)
    Members of the Houston Matters team play Monopoly Houston Edition. (Photo Credit: Houston Public Media)
  • The Houston edition of Monopoly from 1996, featuring many familiar Houston landmarks and attractions -- along with some that are now defunct. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
    The Houston edition of Monopoly from 1996, featuring many familiar Houston landmarks and attractions -- along with some that are now defunct. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
  • Houston Matters host Craig Cohen lays the ground rules before playing Monopoly Houston Edition with the rest of the team. (Photo Credit: Houston Public Media)
    Houston Matters host Craig Cohen lays the ground rules before playing Monopoly Houston Edition with the rest of the team. (Photo Credit: Houston Public Media)
  • Houston Matters producer Joshua Zinn ponders his next move as he plays Monopoly Houston Edition. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
    Houston Matters producer Joshua Zinn ponders his next move as he plays Monopoly Houston Edition. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
  • Producers Troy Schulze and Michael Hagerty share a laugh before playing Monopoly Houston Edition. (Photo Credit: Houston Public Media)
    Producers Troy Schulze and Michael Hagerty share a laugh before playing Monopoly Houston Edition. (Photo Credit: Houston Public Media)
  • The Astrodome and Space Center Houston spaces on the Monoply Houston Edition board game. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
    The Astrodome and Space Center Houston spaces on the Monoply Houston Edition board game. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
  • The Foley's space on the Monopoly Houston Edition board game. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
    The Foley's space on the Monopoly Houston Edition board game. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
  • Houses and Chance Cards litter the Monopoly board. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
    Houses and Chance Cards litter the Monopoly board. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
  • Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty plays Monopoly Houston Edition
    Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty plays Monopoly Houston Edition
  • Michael Hagerty's Monopoly cash and properties pile up. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
    Michael Hagerty's Monopoly cash and properties pile up. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
  • The Houston Edition of Monopoly, circa 1996, in the Houston Matters studio. (Photo Credit: Houston Public Media)
    The Houston Edition of Monopoly, circa 1996, in the Houston Matters studio. (Photo Credit: Houston Public Media)
  • An officially licensed Houston Edition of Monopoly, circa 1996. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
    An officially licensed Houston Edition of Monopoly, circa 1996. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)

For instance, for quite some time, no one lands on the Astrodome, nor buys it and so nothing is done with the property. Sound familiar? And Craig contributes to the ongoing issue of overcrowding by continually going to jail.

As the game stretches into its second hour, Michael remembers to build houses and hotels on his light blue restaurant properties, and, over the course of that hour even as the rest of the team secures an odd Monopoly here and there, it becomes clear Michael has taken control of the game. He has a ton of cash, houses, and hotels galore. And everyone else keeps landing on them.

While no one's gone completely bankrupt yet, properties are mortgaged as everyone tries to tiptoe thier way around an increasingly unfriendly board. Eventually, we remember we all work for a living and need to wrap up. So, we proclaim Michael the winner.

Michael Hagerty’s Monopoly cash and properties pile up.

Satisfied we've experienced as much of Houston Monopoly as we can stand, we consider what we've learned from the experience.

Michael notes this particular version of the game is a reminder of how much Houston has changed over the years, and he’s forgotten how long the game takes to play.

Troy offers this simple advice: “Maybe don’t buy the Dome.”

But Josh probably sums it up best.

“The idea of playing Monopoly is more exciting than actually playing Monopoly,” he said.

He said, once you have to set up the board, divvy up the money, and experience the length of the game, the excitement is long gong.

“So, yeah, it’s almost like eyes are bigger than your stomach when it comes to playing Monopoly.”

Houston Matters producer Joshua Zinn ponders his next move as he plays Monopoly Houston Edition.