As an inherently flawed ideology in theory and application, there are many right and wrong ways to represent capitalism depending on what your intentions are. While games like Monopoly have tried presenting capitalist aspects to kids as an integral part of the culture, they often trap themselves in their own arguments. In a similar vein, Lemonade Stand abstracts capitalism but also reveals its shallowness through a problematic two-pronged approach of an idealistic capitalist fantasy devoid of any competition and one where all the agency is purely in the hands of those who have the money.
The premise of Lemonade Stand is as harmless as games can get. You are just an anonymous someone wishing to be the Good Samaritan and sell lemonade in your neighbourhood. The problems emerge from the moment you make your first few purchases and begin selling lemonade. In the modernized Flash version, you merely see the stand at the centre of the screen, a lone business in an unusually busy suburban neighbourhood. No matter what you do or how rich you get, you are always the only person selling lemonade. Nobody in the neighbourhood bothers to build a stand next to you and start selling lemonade at cheaper prices than yours. Capitalism talks about “laissez-faire” or free-market in theory but in practice, it dislikes competition as evidenced by the numerous corporations controlling governing bodies, lobbies or performing hostile takeovers of rising start-ups. Your solitary business at the centre of the game’s screen in Lemonade Stand indirectly communicates the capitalist fantasy of functioning in a competition-free environment where they have to worry about one less “unpredictable” factor.
In the frame of the world that the game presents to us, we are the only business working in isolation and nothing from the outside affects our business. The weather forecast can be seen as an abstraction of predicting economic conditions, but therein lies another problem of capitalism. Lemonade Stand considers those conditions as an abstract factor – one that’s predictable and that the businesses can adapt to. No matter how unfavourable the weather is, there will always be people wanting lemonade. Supply & demand aka Reagan-era “trickle-down economics” always assumes that there will always be a demand given enough supply. Even on a 50F rainy day, if you put the price of lemonade low enough, Lemonade Stand will always ensure people will want your icy-cold lemonade on a chilly day. In that process, the game robs agency from the people. Those walking on the streets are potential customers first and people after that. They assume their role of interested buyers when they appear on screen and they become unimportant when they go out. The game tells you that they will always want lemonade, no matter what the weather conditions. If they’re not buying, then that’s because you’ve set the price too high or the lemonade tastes bad.
The agency and responsibility is always in the hands of the business owner, never in the hands of the consumer. Nothing summarizes a capitalist market better than such a seemingly harmless abstraction.
To top it all, Lemonade Stand presents the workers at the stand in the most fitting manner when viewed from a capitalist lens: as mascots. They just need to have a constant smile pasted on their faces and you’ll get business. Because Lemonade Stand presents a problematic capitalist fantasy devoid of competition and one where agency rests in your hands. People want lemonade no matter what, the real question is how much of their money will you be getting?