Saturday, January 26, 2019

the game of life

At our old school board game night yesterday I wound up playing LIFE, a game I had not touched pretty much since I was a teenager and would play it with my parents.   Like Monopoly, it was somehow a contentious endeavor, and I just remember games ceasing over arguments.  These were the years I was quick to fight with both parents, but especially my mother.  It seemed like we played board games a lot, it being the late 80's early 90's, having no cable, and there being no such thing as, ya know,  the internet.

The version I was playing today was a little more updated, but I was amazed at how strict and stringent the path and how few choices you actually had.   You did get to choose whether or not you went to college (and were saddled with student loans as such), but nonetheless, you had to get married, children weren't mandatory but you usually landed on one, and you had to not only buy a first house, but also a bigger one at some point., whether you actually had the money or not.  I think what gave me a little bit of vertigo was the thought that at 15, I played this game having no idea what actual life would bring. It probably, given what I saw around me, would not have seemed odd. Of course, you'd get a job, get married, have children. Get a house.  A bigger house.

Nearly 30 years later of course, my LIFE game path would have been immensely different from anything found in a board game. I would have went to college, then grad school,  but I would have chosen a career in the arts, and therefore, not the cozy salaries of the card options--accountants, lawyers, doctors.  I would have bypassed marrying, purchasing a house, having children--things I neither really wanted nor, in the case of the house, afforded.  We joked that there should be more options, like keep renting a place to live or or fill your tiny plastic car with cats.  Or even start your own business.

The goal, the game being ever so American of course, was to rush to the finish line (retirement or death) with as much cash in hand as you could. Along the way, things like taxes and other players lawsuits, taking your money away.  Which seems like a sad way to live, and a sad thing to live for.  The most exciting square to land on might have been the ones that said you wrote a book or won a Nobel.

What I would love to see is something more realistic.  Like, yes, you choose to be a writer or artist and live on very little, but oops, the electric bill is late to the point of shut-off.  Or oops, looks like you over-drafted your Chase account account.  Oops, that dude you just fell for is married. But look, you wrote a book.  You probably won't get to retire, but you do get an an anxiety disorder and a closet of pretty dresses.  :)

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