Monday, March 24, 2008
How Life Gets It Wrong
I spent an exciting Saturday evening playing a new edition of The Game of Life.
I miss the Life of my youth. Mainly because, upon retirement, you could trade in your children for cash. I just loved the idea that procreation had a cash value of $2,500. Also, it was entirely possible to go bankrupt or lose your job. The Life of my youth was uncertain and somewhat challenging. Much like the real thing.
Today’s Life reflects a certain gimme-gimme bourgeois sensibility. For starters, the cars are now minivans instead of sedans. The game order is college-career-marriage-house-kids, with no deviations. I married a fellow pink peg, just to inject a teeny slice of counterculture. Nobody gets to stay single, nobody can say “screw you” to the housing market and rent forever, and there are enough “It’s a Boy!” or “Adopt Twins!” spaces that kids are virtually compulsory. My own pegwife was astonishingly fertile, spawning twice within three turns. If she’d had arms, I would have jammed some teeny-tiny Norplant in there.
Additionally, all of the career options are a child’s-eye view of prestige. Entertainer, doctor, teacher, policeman. The lone dullard is the accountant. I’m surprised there was no “astronaut” option. Nobody becomes a bartender, carpenter, or secretary (boo!).
It was all too easy and absurdly lucrative. You could earn upwards of $250,000 just for landing on a random space and getting a Life Tile. You could earn $90,000 a year as a rookie cop. Tax payments involved luck instead of law. Everyone retires a millionaire. I wonder if this game is warping children, convincing them that adulthood is a lockstep of success with little to no effort. Who am I kidding? Kids today think that way anyhow, without the influence of Milton Bradley.
So, after a round of Life on a Saturday night, I felt like a bit of a loser. Not because I should have been out at a swank club instead of playing children’s games on the floor of my little studio. Instead, I wondered why nobody’s ever handed me $90,000 a year, a house by random selection, a trouble-free fruitful marriage, or the ability to pay off my college loans within three spins of the wheel. Why does everything in my life happen out of sequence and take so much effort?
On the other hand, at least I don’t have to drive around in an orange plastic minivan.