When I think of the best board games of all time, Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life comes to my mind first and perhaps most often. Forget the inane picture on the front of this 1992 edition (the closest to what I remember playing as a kid) because this game isn’t all sunshine and Cosby sweaters. Any family game where you can royally screw over others by simply flashing ‘share the wealth’ cards at opportune moments is probably going to end in flipped over tables and tears. In fact, repeated use of these cards will certainly not guarantee a happy, Last Supper of Christ, family photo.
While it doesn’t have the same asshole tomcockery that is allotted to certain slumlord players of Monopoly, the fun side of opportunistic capitalism is still present as everyone races to the end with the most money possible. Don’t get me wrong, I fancy a good game of Monopoly as much as the next red-blooded american, but there is something in the presence of a distinct ending to LIFE that I prefer. I also remember enjoying this as one of the few games that didn’t require the use of dice, which always managed to somehow fly off the table creating the inevitable argument of rolling again or keeping the numbers you found somewhere under the table or couch. I suppose one could say the spinner has a similar disadvantage in that if you spin too hard, the entire wheel will lift in true UFO fashion and ultimately crash, sending cars, plastic people, and little white houses everywhere.
Spin the Wheel
The Nuclear Car
The Portland Car
The Big Love Car
Monopoly comparisons aside, the real question is–do I play LIFE more conservatively or viciously as an adult than I did when I was child? I am not sure I immediately know how to answer that, but one would think that as an adult player, I would purchase and utilize the conservative features inherent in insurance and stock market certificates.
Although the truth is, the OCD case in me as a child was always far more interested in lining up those colorful slips neatly under my section of the board than I was with the safeguards they provided. Today I still enjoy that aspect, but I think winning has become more important. If I can win and control my fictitious board game LIFE, maybe I will have more say in the progression of my real life. Not to mention, there is nothing more frustrating than getting your pink plastic car handed to you by your considerably younger competitor.
In the end, the Game of Life is unique. For children, it provides a great adventurous sense of a life where earning money is as easy as driving your car over Paydays while discovering lost pieces of art. For adults, the game provides an imagining of just how different you could be if given a series of either fortunate or unfortunate events. For both, it shows just how truly unfair life can be when, despite playing everything safe with your neat little rows of paper, you can still find yourself bankrupt and struggling to feed two sets of multicolored twins. But that is the great thing about this LIFE, you can start all over again. Throwing caution and fake paper money to the wind, a few well placed spins and a whole hell-of-a-lot of luck might just be all you need.