Tag Archives: The Game of Life

All Board Games Are Bad

I’ve done quite a few pieces on underlying messages in movies, games, books and things of the like that are aimed at children. One of my very first blogs was on the Game of Life and examined how the game has evolved to reflect several liberal- borderline socialist- foundations. The criticism I presented was much different from that presented in a recent Huffington Post article analyzing messages in board games.
At first I REALLY thought it was a joke. The author of the article mentioned the damage caused to children when they find out the hippos in real life aren’t pastels like in Hungry, Hungry Hippos or that it isn’t ethical to perform open-heart surgery on a conscious patient.

But then! Then, the article starts in, stating, Monopoly teaches children “how to stifle competition, squeeze rent from squatters that stop by their properties and exert maximum profits at all costs” or that Guess Who focuses on “Is it a man? Does he wear glasses? Is he white? These are the sort of ways that kids are encouraged to categorize people” or even that the Game of Life “teaches us that you MUST get married (to someone of the opposite sex, of course), that purchasing insurance or pursuing a college education really have very little impact on your future, and that you should only help the homeless if you’ll get a reward afterward”. They even go as far to say that Operation will lead children to believe that a black market for organs is okay and that Old Maid shames unmarried women. What the…

This article is just a shameless attack on conservative values. I can’t figure out if the author is angry at the companies who produce these games, the people who play them or just herself because all she ever turned out to be in her ‘Game of Life’ is a writer for the Huffington Post. To imply that a daughter will assume it’s ‘okay’ to sneak out and meet her ‘motorcycle-riding boyfriend’ in the middle of the night after playing Don’t Wake Daddy is absurd. If your child is sneaking out or selling organs (or drugs) or is racist or values money and nothing else it is simply a reflection of your parenting and the values you instill. If you feel attacked by the game Old Maid, you may have some self-esteem issues to work on yourself.

It ends with asking whether or not children are better off playing video games…What do you think?

Take a look at the generalizations they made for the corresponding games.

Game

Claimed Message

Monopoly “How to Be the 1%”
Guess Who? “How to Profile”
The Game of Life “How To Equate Lifelong Success With Money”
Operation “How To Perform A Live Dissection”
Oregon Trail “How To Laugh When Your Kin Die Of Dysentery”
Where’s Waldo “How To Stalk People”
Don’t Wake Daddy “How To Sneak Around Your Parents”
Hungry, Hungry Hippos “How To Overestimate Dangerous Animals”
Mall Madness “How To Develop A Shopping Addiction”
Old Maid “How To Shame Unmarried Women”
Candyland “How To Get A Sugar Habit”

The Evolution of “Life”

I have the privilege of spending a significant amount of time with two very brilliant children. They teach me a lot. More recently, I learned how perceptive children are to minor details and subliminal messages that often times go unrecognized by adults.

A trip to Barnes & Noble yesterday was a real eye opener. My 6 year-old friend noticed the game display in the window as we pulled into our parking space. “The Game of Life!!” she shouted, “But that box is different…” Indeed it was. It was the original box, the version from the 1960’s. Mind you, these children have the game at home, the 1970/1980 version. What she said next was nothing new to me, but disturbing nonetheless. “It’s good we have the version we do because the new one is full of lies”. Hmm. I thought back to my recent trip to visit my brother and his family and we played the newest version of the game. It was, in fact, much different from the original and even the 1990’s version I grew up playing. The new one was filled with applicable lawsuits, entitlement tiles and “Share the Wealth” spaces. It really got me thinking, so I did some investigating.

“The Game of Life” has changed entirely since it’s original release.
The 1960’s version was basic, a bit bland but straightforward. You could take a “business” route or a “college” route into the real world. Not much changed in the 1970’s version, but the money values nearly doubled to reflect inflation and the original car model of a convertible was traded in for a minivan. The 1990’s version is where we start to see some solid changes: Rewards for people recycling trash and helping the homeless, stock cards are limited and the there is no longer a “business” route, but a “career” route. College loan debt increases in 2005, and investments become more risky. Finally, the newest version. The ‘Share the Wealth’ cards, the ability to withdraw insurance policy options and the fact that no occupation has “special abilities” anymore, with the exception of the police officer, are among a few of the new aspects of the game.

So, where shall I start?? Inflation, okay, I get it. But when in real life are you rewarded for recycling or helping the homeless?? The game suggests a monetary reward, but all I’ve ever received from recycling is an extra bin to drag to the curb and a pat on the back. Further, “Life” is a game based on American values and the American Dream, which are in turn formed from democracy and capitalism. At what point did the makers of this game think socialistic tendencies and special abilities of a certain profession, A.K.A. a union, fit this criteria? And why would we instill the idea of investments being “bad” into the minds of our children who will one day have to put their own money somewhere?

A seemingly innocent game, one that’s been around forever, but has been secretly evolving. So much so that my brother has cut construction paper out to cover the “Share the Wealth” tiles on the board. So much so that children born in the 2000’s are playing a game from the 60’s, because even though the lifestyle may be dated, the values are correct.

So it seems that the overly analytical, thought-provoking 6 year old is right, once again. “The Game of Life” is full of lies…and not just when applicable to the board game.