The Game of Life

When you saw this title, you might have thought, hey, this is going to be a post about the meaning of life, and how it’s a game, and like we’re actors on a stage flopping around like fish and getting bad reviews in the New York Times.  Or something.  But then you may have looked and seen this was written by Alice and gone, oh nevermind, she’s just going to talk to us about the actual game of Life and how goofed up it is.

Crap, I am so lost.

Crap, I am so lost.

And you’d be right!  See the game of Life is supposed to mirror real life and it totally does cause most of us look like tiny pegs.  Pink if you’re a girl, blue if you’re a boy.  If you’re not sure there are no green pegs, sorry.  And no one cares if you hate pink or blue, deal with it.

First off, you have to decide if you want to go to college or get a job.  Just like in real life, it doesn’t really matter what you choose.  When it comes time to get a job, you’re just as likely to make more money without college as you are if you go to college.  So it’s just whether you want to borrow the money or not. Or you can always rob the bank while the banker isn’t looking. That also works, and it’s a possible career track.

The job of my dreams oh yay.

The job of my dreams oh yay.

Not really.  Well, not in this game anyway.  You’re thinking Grand Theft Auto.  Anyway, if you go to college, you can land on stuff like “make the Dean’s list” or “Spring Break vacation” or “Cheat on your exams.”  In the case of the last one, you get to move ahead two spaces, or you would if it was an actual option, which it really should be.  The other two can get you Life tokens, which have different money amounts on the back.  You get to add this to your total.  So if you write the “Great American Novel” you get something like 100,000 bucks.  On the other hand, if you write the “Great Shades of Crap” you get like a couple million.

I got the swindle thousands in a pyramid scheme card!  Not bad.

I got the swindle thousands in a pyramid scheme card! Not bad.

There is a theme to this game.  See, to succeed in the game of Life, you have to be the player with the most money at the end.  Yups. Not the player who cured Cancer, or gives food to starving people, or even just raises a nice family.  No, this is an AMERICAN game, folks, so he who has the most cash wins life.  It’s best to teach this to kids early.

Winner in life!

Winner in life!

Whether you go to college or not, you eventually end up on the “Get a Job” space that so many young people try to avoid.  But unless you are born wealthy (in which case you’ve already “won” hoorah!) you have no choice but to stop here.  In fact, the game makes you stop, which sucks.  Then comes the part where you get to randomly choose jobs and salaries.  Because you have different cards for your job and your salary, this means you can be a really bad rock star making 20,000 a payday or a really dirty cop making 100,000.  I like being the cop because I can fine people who spin 10 even though I almost always spin 10 because I speed through life.  See how REAL this game is?

Pick a card, any card . . .

Pick a card, any card . . .

After you get your randomly selected job – and this will be a job you didn’t want but were stuck with (so familiar) – then the next step is to get married.  Again, you don’t have a choice on this one.  You MUST stop and find a spouse.  When I played this as a kid, I had a friend who resented having to get married, so she’d sometimes put another pink peg in her car, or put multiple pegs in her car (future polygamist).  This annoyed me because that was NOT the proper way to play the game.  Did she not see the happy nuclear family (who is probably getting drugs from the dirty cop) on the cover?  Sheesh.

I want what those guys are smokin'.

I want what those guys are smokin’.

So you get married to a random peg and hooray hope you’re happy because there is no divorce space in this game.  You and spouse peg continue on a few more spaces and you get to buy a house!  Once again, this is completely random.  You choose blindly from three cards and MUST buy the house listed on the card whether you can afford it or not.  Sometimes you go into major debt doing this.  If you don’t, you’re stuck with something like the “split level” house that is actually built on a fault line – get it?  Actually it kind of reminds me of the first house my husband and I lived in.  Anyway, either way, you’re kind of screwed.  This is so true to life it’s a little scary, isn’t it?

I'm building a log cabin in New York City!

I’m building a log cabin in New York City!

Once you have a house you can have a baby at any time.  No birth control in this game, guys, so I guess everybody is Catholic.  There are eight baby spots, one in which you have twins, and another in which you adopt twins. You don’t get to choose to adopt either, it just happens.  When I was in high school, we played this game in Economics.  One of my classmates ended up hitting every single baby spot.  Since there are only six spots in the car, he ended up stacking his kids up on the top of the car like cordwood.  He named each one something totally bizarre just for fun.  Another classmate was sad because she never landed on a kid spot, so he was kind enough to offer to sell her his son Lightbulb for 50 dollars.  A real steal.

On the plus side, he saved the kid a lifetime of therapy.

On the plus side, he saved the kid a lifetime of therapy.

My children (I landed on two pink pegs!) and I continue this tradition and name our husbands and children names with a theme like say toilet paper (Charmin, Angel Soft, Store Brand, etc).  It makes the game more interesting.  You need something to keep it interesting because trust me, after a while Life gets very, very dull.  You keep doing the same old thing, spinning your wheel and collecting pay days as the days of your life diminish one by one, or by tens, if you play like I do.

Good thing real life is totally different in this case, right?  Right?

Moving on, sometimes you lose your job and have to choose another.  It’s a real pain going from being a cop making 100 grand to a crappy basketball player making 20 grand.  Talk about your midlife crisis.  Sometimes you have to exchange salary cards with other players, which I think is called extortion, but whatever.  I rarely care much about the money thing because then I’d have to count my pretend cash and bo-ring.  The girls and I estimate because this game is educational enough without adding Math to it.

One, two . . . heck with it, you win!

One, two . . . heck with it, you win!

As you get to the end of your life, you may become a grandparent, which is really weird if you didn’t have any children earlier.  This is the point where you kick the spouse peg out of the car if you’re smart.  Also you should really kick the kid pegs out too, but the game never gives you a chance to do this, so I guess they stay with you FOREVER, which is an incredibly frightening prospect.  At last you end up retiring – you can either go to the lousy old folks home, or you can go to the posh one.  But if you go to posh one, people can steal your Life tokens.  So lesson learned – don’t go to a nice home, because people will steal your money while you’re playing shuffleboard.  Best to stick with something like in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  No one will think you have anything to steal if you go there.

So now your Life is over, and you count up your money and see what you’ve done with your Life.  Is that it?  I think you’d be better off playing Sorry.

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47 responses

  1. My life right now is more like Kerplunk.

    1. I LOVE this comment. Sooo true.

  2. Oh, how you make me laugh, Alice! Thanks for the morning funny and a very good look at life itself. 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading it! Glad I made someone laugh.

  3. I just play Angry Birds. I can relate to their anger…

    1. Me too, except then I get angry cause my birds just fly off randomly and hit nothing.

  4. This really was one of the games where halfway through you had to ask if it was done yet. That Life sucked the energy out of me every time; it was worse than not popping a “6” to get a piece out on Trouble.

    1. I know it. I would spin 10s and go past all the halfway interesting spaces then I would just spin ones and twos and it would drag and drag until I got a grandchild after having no children. WTF.

  5. Always hated that game. I was much more interested in Trouble. Figures, right?

    1. Haven’t played Trouble in ages. I might have to get that one. I’m sure Thing Two would be most awesome at that game.

  6. My grandparents had the old infamous Art Linkletter endorsed version of The Game of Life from the 60’s, and me and my sisters played it all the time. It’s the only version I am familiar with. Sounds like a few things have changed since that version… but I guess that’s Life.

    1. Art Linkletter endorsed a LIfe game? What was that like? I’ve seen Simpsons versions of Life. Like what?

      1. It’s just an older version of the game… he was kind of their spokesman back in the day when people actually knew who Art Linkletter was. Here’s a picture of the LInkletter version, and this is exactly how I remember The Game of Life.

        BTW, Linkletter was on the game’s $100,000 bill…

        1. LOL. I think we have that version at the library (people brought up games for students to play.) I knew it was a pretty old version. Will have to check it out now.

        2. Hi, I know it’s kinda late to reply here … but I just want to know how much money does the old life game has. I mean the pcs/per dollar 🙂

  7. Ha – it is a great game. Mostly because I always win 😉 (I don’t steal *too* much from the bank! haha)

    1. My girls have figured out it is best not to land on the baby spaces because they cost money. Good early lesson there.

  8. I think Sorry may be a more accurate metaphor for life.

      1. Or, maybe…. any board game is a metaphor for life, in that someone might flip it over in anger if they start to lose.

  9. This was hilarious — which is especially impressive because you were writing about something so excruciatingly boring.

    1. Thank you – I’ve used humor to get through a lot of parenting challenges, like boring bored games. I guess that’s why they are called board games?

  10. Excellent post Wonder Twin…I always hated that game, much prefer Clue.

    1. I’m still trying to find one. Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with the Candlestick . . .what is he doing with the candlestick NOOOO.

  11. This sounds too much like a real thing, so why would I want to replicate that in my spare time?

    1. Maybe I’m hoping for a better Life? I like winning the Nobel Peace Prize and writing the Great American Novel when I’m not a Police Officer selling Drugs.

  12. Wonderful post. I never liked that game. I could leave a long reply here about all the great connections you make but suffice it to say the biggest difference between the game and the real thing is that you have a much harder time folding up the board and putting it away. 🙂

    1. Yeah that board really sucks, the spinner gets in the wrong place, and there’s all those tiles and those teeny people that get in the carpet . . . I keep them in a medicine bottle. There’s probably a connection there too.

  13. Thank gawd I was introduced for the first time to this horror by the Lady Alice so I was able to laugh and not cry. 🙂

    1. You never played Life before? Did you play any other board games? I would love to play Scrabble, but no one plays with me because I majored in English. Like that means I can spell words?

      1. Not that you can spell them but know them… and since no one else knows them, they won’t know if they are spelt right, right?
        Played Monopoly a lot, which is all about acquiring things, I like the idea of scrabble – the acquiring of words.

        1. Especially fun when you are given no vowels . . .

  14. I remember playing this as a child. Fortunately I have since found an outlet for my anger with Life via Call of Duty 🙂

    1. That game sounds better and better all the time. Also Grand Theft Auto. My brother plays but never completes the missions. He just steals ambulances and mows people down.

  15. I’ve never heard of, let alone played, this game. For which I am thankful.
    My niece would love your strange names tradition. As she’s growing up on a Highland croft (bit like a smallholding) she gets to do it for realz. My favourites so far are Hairband the cow and Pilchard the cockerel.

    1. I like Pilchard. I feel for any humans with this name. Do they not have Life over there? What annoying board games do you play?

  16. If I play with you again, I’m starting with a blue peg. No pink! :b Though to be fair, since gay marriage is legal in so many places, this can be reflected by making one choose the spouse peg randomly with closed eyes.

    1. I like the polygamist angle where you just load up your car with pink pegs – or better yet, go the other way and load it with blue ones. I could have one husband to do the housework, and one to fix my car, and a couple to work so I don’t have to . . .

  17. Wow – this game has changed. When I played it a lot growing up the main goal was to be a lawyer with his $10K paycheck or the doctor with a $20K paycheck. But no matter what you did, how much money you had, you could win the entire game with a 1 in 10 chance to become a tycoon at the end. So all you do is pick a number and spin the wheel. If it’s that number you’re the automatic winner. I played 5 games once with not a care in the world just shelling out money everywhere and just got to the end – three times out of five i picked the right number and won the game outright. Too bad LIFE isn’t like that.

    1. That would be great. Woot, I just drew a six digit paycheck! Or the “change salary cards with any player” option would be good too. I would totally change with our University president.

  18. It could be worse. At least in The Game of Life you can’t get sent to jail just for landing on the wrong square, like in Monopoly…

    1. I’m always landing on that square.

  19. What do I do when I land on the your a grand parent

    1. Take the life token and win like 100,000 dollars for a famous novel. You don’t have to have children to become a grandparent – I love this game.

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