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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.