Rambling Dispatches: The Game of Life


Every Thursday in Rambling Dispatches, Quinn McGee talks about whatever he damn well pleases. This week: misleading board games.

So I have some of my best thoughts in the bathroom. I was in the shower and I started thinking about one board game we have all played, The Game of Life. I used to love that game, and I still do for the most part, but I doubt it is going to be a game that I let my kids play. I have a few reasons for this; the majority of them revolve around it being one of the most one-percent games on the planet. Let’s look at this seriously; what is actually real life in this game? Your players start off with no parents, and they start in college or trade school. How many people start off any school without hearing anything from their parents? Real life would have the kids being hassled by the parents to go to college to make the most money, or some scenario where the child is forced into a school they don’t like because they can’t afford schooling without the help of a parental benefactor.

It’s not just something personal in my life either, because I made my school decision on my own and chose my major. I knew I couldn’t do it without a little help from my parents. The game, however, teaches children that school only costs around $40,000 in loans, and then you can become a damn doctor. Name one person who has become a doctor on only $40,000? It’s someone who had a bunch of money to begin with, probably from mom and dad, which would be the opposite of the starting conditions of the game. Also, you can just start a career for free. Now, some of the careers can be started for little money, like the rock star, but that has the potential for like $100,000 a year.

These are things I would not teach my children at all. I guess I would be a horrible parent, like the one who would just dash my kids’ dreams while they are young. “Hey Timmy, you are legally blind and have to wear glasses, so you can’t be an astronaut because you can’t pass the initial tests. It’s a horrible profession anyway, since everyone who has wanted to be an astronaut is now lined up to be one and NASA has no money for them. Here is a book of math problems, because everyone needs an accountant because of rampant bankruptcy and tax troubles.” I guess that is a bad thing to say to children, but it’s more honest than a person starting off with a car that runs magically and never breaks down at the age of 18 before ending up a famous rock star or doctor with only a few thousand dollars in debt.

I’ve only talked about the first few spins of the wheel, too. There come two pivotal moments in the game that don’t get enough attention: marriage and childbirth. Marriage is something that should be celebrated, and it’s rare to find a person to be with forever, so The Game of Life is optimistic in awarding the person a partner, and you can choose male or female. It’s nice and liberal. Anyway, my problem comes in when it doesn’t ever take divorces into account. Let’s face it, around 50% of marriages in America end in a divorce, and I have played games with six people. That means that, statistically, three of the players should end up sad and alone somewhere in the game, probably losing a house or a kid in the process. I have never seen “lengthy divorce battle, lose one turn and half your salary” as a space on the game board.

Another thing it doesn’t accurately portray is childbirth. What happens in the game? You have a kid, and you are awarded a life card. You end up getting $50,000 to $250,000 dollars for having a kid, for some bullshit reason like an amateur photography contest. First off, not many parents get a chance to do things that would net them that much money while having a kid. You know what they do most of the time? They have a goddamn kid. You know how much kids cost? They cost way more than The Game of Life says they will. You know what? For every kid you have, you should get a chip on your salary card that means you get $10,000 less every payday. Kids are expensive, so if you are living in a van with all your kids till the day you retire and die, you should make less money since you chose to have all the kids in the first place.

Anyway, I just think that if you are going to have a game and be so bold as call it The Game of Life, you should maybe make it like real life, so kids don’t end up thinking that life is all about chance occurrences and amassing money. Kids aren’t collected like the game encourages, they are decisions with consequences. I guess I just would want my kids to understand how shitty life can be before it comes and makes itself known as shitty to the player. Like I said, I’m going to be a horrible parent.