- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 18, 2003

NEW YORK (Agence France-Presse) — It’s a far cry from the Monopoly board game you grew up with.

Playing pieces include a pimp and an Uzi submachine gun. The hottest property on the board is “Smitty’s XXX Peep Show,” and one game card directs you to collect $50 “from each playa” for successfully addicting your neighborhood to crack cocaine.

The game is “Ghettopoly” and its stereotyping of gangsta rap culture has attracted a cult fan base in the United States along with outraged protests from black groups.

Played like Monopoly — but with no affiliation to the original game or its manufacturer, Hasbro — the aim of Ghettopoly is to become the richest player by stealing, cheating and fencing stolen property.

The banker of the original game becomes the “Loan Shark,” and instead of building residential homes and hotels on their properties, players set up crack houses and slum projects.

The normal playing cards — or in this case “Hustle” and “Ghetto Stash” cards — are doctored along similar lines.

“You and your boyz just spotted a rapper at Weinstein’s flashin some Bling Blings. You decided to jack da fool. Collect 150 dollars,” reads one example.

One property on the board, Martin “Luthor” King Jr. Boulevard, has a caricature of the civil rights leader scratching the front of his trousers and proclaiming “I have an itch.”

The game’s creator, David Chang, 28, whose family immigrated to the United States from Taiwan when he was 8 years old, acknowledges the stereotyping but insists that the charges of racism miss the point.

“Ghettopoly is controversial because it’s both fun and real life,” Mr. Chang says on his Web site www.ghettopoly.com.

“It draws on stereotypes not as a means to degrade, but as a medium to bring people together in laughter,” he said. “If we can’t laugh at ourselves and how we each utilize the various stereotypes, then we’ll continue to live in blame and bitterness.”

A hot seller on the Internet, the game proved equally popular when it was temporarily stocked by national clothing chain Urban Outfitters.

But not everyone was amused and black leaders organized angry protests outside stores in Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle, saying the game poked fun at serious social problems such as drug addiction and poverty.

“Images do count and it’s disgusting,” said J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “He’s bastardized a family oriented board game and used the worst stereotypes that have become associated with African Americans.”

The protests prompted Urban Outfitters to pull the game from its shelves. “Due to customer concerns, we’ve decided to recall and no longer sell the product,” the company said in a statement.

Hasbro, meanwhile, has threatened legal action at what it sees as a degenerate Monopoly rip-off.

“We want to make it clear that Hasbro has absolutely no connection to the reprehensible ‘Ghettopoly’ game,” said Frank Bifulco, president of Hasbro’s U.S. Games.

“Mr. Chang’s game violates our Monopoly game intellectual property rights and Hasbro plans to bring suit against Mr. Chang if he does not immediately stop selling the game.”

Mr. Chang was not directly available to comment on the level of protests, but stressed on his Web site that Ghettopoly does not single out any minority group.

“The graphics on the board depict every race in the country and both genders,” he said, stressing that one playing square depicts a Chinese restaurant owner selling dog meat.

Mr. Chang said his research for the game included watching MTV, studying the lyrics of rap and hip-hop music and playing video games.

And his plans don’t end with Ghettopoly. A new game called “Hoodopoly” is already in the design stage and the Web site also promises “Hiphopopoly,” “Thugopoly” and “Redneckopoly.”

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