Monopoly spoof sparks race row

Forget hotels in Mayfair - grab your Uzi and head for the crack den on Cheap Tricks Ave

Playing Monopoly used to be simple, safe and certainly uncontroversial. You'd be the dog or the boot, try to snap up Park Lane and Mayfair while you still had the money, cram your properties with houses and hotels and generally outdo your opponents by becoming the biggest, most ruthless capitalist pig around the table. Perfect family entertainment.

Now comes Ghettopoly, the latest spoof variant on the old favourite, and everything is suddenly a whole lot more incendiary. The game remains fundamentally the same. The pieces - or "playas" - are a basketball, an Uzi, a pimp, a whore, a rock of crack cocaine and a bottle of malt liquor. The idea is to buy stolen properties - a peep show, a gun shop, a massage parlour - turn them into crack houses, get the neighbourhood hooked on drugs and charge protection money to anyone who lands on your space.

Instead of "Go" there is a square called "Let$ Roll". For Chance and Community Chest read Hustle and Ghetto Stash. Typical instructions read: "It's past midnight and you're feeling horny. Go straight to Cheap Tricks Ave. If you pass Let$ Roll, steal $$$."

Ghettopoly is the brainchild of David Chang, a 28-year-old Taiwanese American from Pennsylvania who was inspired by hip-hop videos on MTV. If gangsta rappers could make money by peddling black urban stereotypes, he thought, so could he - and make it a lot funnier. However, he went way too far for the sensibilities of civil rights groups, black church leaders and middle-class liberals, all of whom have spent the past week denouncing him as as grossly insensitive, if not an out-and-out racist.

It's not hard to see what kindled their ire. The game's mascot is not the monocled tycoon of the original Monopoly but a bandana-wearing black muscleman with an Uzi in one hand and a bottle of malt liquor in the other. Among the icons it mocks is Martin Luther King, depicted here scratching his genitals and declaring: "I have an itch."

In Philadelphia, where the game first went on sale, there have been marches in the street and a boycott organised against Urban Outfitters, the chain that first agreed to stock Ghettopoly.

Hasbro, which distributes Monopoly in the US, is threatening to sue Mr Chang for copyright infringement. But one online retailer noted she had sold all sorts of previous imitations of the game: "We didn't get one phone call when we sold Gayopoly."

Mr Chang, meanwhile, has gone into hiding. His sales have soared since the row became public, but his personal safety is far from assured. The fate of his future projects - Hoodopoly, Hiphopopoly and Redneckopoly - is unknown.

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