When asked to describe the app “Make it Rain: The Love of Money” to a friend, I think I said it was something like Karl Marx’s Kafkaesque nightmare. I say that I think that’s what I said, because I had to have a few drinks before I could truly open up and discuss what has become my number one way of wasting time and not thinking about anything. The app is truly the most pointless and wonderful thing I can think of in my life right now: less a game, more a test of “How much non-money do you need,” the entire point of the app is to watch the money that you can’t really do anything with pile up. How do you make more of it rain down faster? In this Thomas Piketty-era version of Monopoly, you can do a few things: “buy things” from political power to pork belly futures, so every time you swipe the screen, you make thousands, millions, billions, and trillions more. And even while you do nothing, the money still piles up.
I’ve been thinking about money lately because I’ve been reading about it, and not because I don’t have a it or want more of it (both cases are true). I opened Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, but have’t picked it back up. I’ve been leafing through Benjamin Kunkel’s Utopia or Bust over the last month or so, and focused really long and hard on the first paragraph of Sheila Heti’s recent London Review of Books review of Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.:
There was a time when artists and writers flocked to inexpensive cities to allow themselves the trials of making art over the trials of making a living. In North America today, the main site of literary activity or literary business – which more and more amount to the same thing – is Brooklyn. Yet it’s probably one of the toughest places for a writer to live cheaply and noodle about, wearing rags. What happens when artists gravitate to places where they can make art only with great financial effort; where writers have to be journalists, adjunct professors, or work in cafés to pay the rent, leaving little time to write their novel, while learning every few months that one of their herd has secured a six-figure advance for their first book? What do their relationships and values look like, and how do their love stories unfold?
I’ve been thinking about money from all sides, and not just how much of it do I have in my bank account. And I think of “Make it Rain” a lot, and what I’d do with the money I see accumulating on the screen if I really had that much. What do you do if you have that much money? If I woke up tomorrow and the thirty trillion dollars I’ve made by really doing noting at all suddenly showed up in my bank account, what would I have left to really do? Would I leave where I live (the place Heti is talking about in her review) and retire to some castle where I’d write all day for pleasure? Would I have anything left to care about? These are the kinds of stupid questions the free app got me thinking deeply about, exploring my soul as the numbers climbed higher, and I still had enough change in my pocket to buy a cheap cup of coffee from the bodega down the street. It wasn’t what I expected when I decided to see what all the fuss Chris Hayes was making was about. But, alas, here I am, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there really never is enough money. That’s what I’ve come away with from mindlessly watching the fake dollars accumulate. Even if you don’t want it anymore, you still sit there as you make it, lose it, and spend it on things you don’t really need. That’s sort of the genius of this game that isn’t really much of a game.