So there’s this board game, you may have heard of it, it’s called LIFE…
The original LIFE game was created by Milton Bradley back in 1860. It’s original name was “The Checkered Game of Life”. It became America’s first popular parlour game and has had staying power (with a few revisions) for the last 150 years or so.
I was discussing LIFE with a friend yesterday and it occurred to me: LIFE is not at all similar to real life. In the original version that we have at our house, you can start your life and choose to start a career immediately, or go through college and collect $40,000 in student loan debts. While in college you collect LIFE cards for doing things like “going on Spring break” or “Study abroad” or “Get smashed at a mad kegger at your friend’s apartment” (Source needed). Each LIFE card you pick up through the game is worth $50,000 to $200,000 for doing things like “Winning a Nobel Peace Prize” or “Running for Governor” …which you apparently did in college on Spring break.
Regardless of whether you go through college or not, you are eligible for any wage ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 every pay day. Yes, if you don’t finish college you can’t become a doctor, but in the game of LIFE a police officer can make ten times what a doctor can make based on luck of the draw. Everyone has to stop and buy a house, everyone has to stop and get married, and kids are only by chance, if you never land on a kid square, then you are infertile and there is no way to pass along your seed.
Houses seem expensive at first, but depending on your wage, you can pay for a house after one payday. Ironically, Living expenses are never accounted for in the game of LIFE, nor are expenses like childcare, oil costs, rising and falling stock prices, college for the kids or loss of a job. You can change careers in the middle of the game, but you never go jobless. At about 60 you can retire with a pension that comes from nowhere. It sounds like a country where the government takes care of you through thick and thin.
Clearly LIFE is not very realistic. Heck, it doesn’t even make sense to pay for any kind of insurance in LIFE because the accident squares are so rare and such a small deal that it makes more sense to pay for the accident out of pocket! What would REAL LIFE look like?
You start out and you go down a “childhood road” where about half of the squares result in “You can’t go to college, skip directly to job” for reasons such as: “Your parents immigrated illegally,” “You didn’t get good enough grades,” “College is too expensive,” or “You must support a family”. If you make it through there, you can then decide if you want to go to college or not. If you don’t go to college then you can’t make more than $20,000 per year, (as opposed to “pay day”), the only jobs available to you are labour positions, you have increased risk of work-related injuries and you can’t afford adequate medical insurance.
If you go to college, it will result in $150,000 in debt (as experts are predicting will be the average in the not-so-far-off future). You have a couple random “drop out” squares that result in you having some of the debt and the same financial situation as the folks that didn’t go to college. After the four years of college you roll a dice. If you get a five or a six then you can get a decent job with a wage between $50,000-$100,000. If you roll below a five then you get the same job as everyone else. Roll a 0ne and you are unemployed.
Housing should be different in REAL LIFE. All the houses should take twenty years or more to pay off and renting should be an option. Homelessness should also be an option that can result in being mugged which reduces your next “yearly wage” by a couple thousand dollars.
Marital status should be an option as well. Either you remain single for your whole life, or you can get married which entitles you to some benefits in the game. (unless it’s a gay couple). Unlike previous versions of the game of LIFE you should have to pay a percentage of your wage to the government who will then pass the money on to companies that do things that don’t benefit you. LIFE cards should not just result in great profits coming in, there should be bad LIFE cards that can result in unpaid bills, a hospital visit, divorce, etc. The idea being that LIFE can hand you good things by chance, or it can result in financial ruin by chance.
And children! What’s the deal with children in LIFE?? You’re driving down the road and suddenly you have a baby girl or a baby boy, or TWINS! Now I know that there are actual reality shows about pregnant women who don’t know it, but in REAL LIFE I don’t want procreation to be so absurd. You should be able to choose, at any time, to have a kid. If you are married then there should be reduced pay throughout the pregnancy to replicate all the sick days for you or your spouse. Once a child is born you should have a permanently reduced income for child care costs. However, seeing as how not all children are planned, there should be random “Whoops” tiles scattered along the road of REAL LIFE. (REAL LIFE is an excellent tool when explaining to one of your children that they were not entirely intended…)
Unemployment is an exciting part of real life that should be featured in the game as well. Approximately 8% of the squares should be “Laid Off” or “Fired” and if you work in the labour force then there should be an increased risk that your job can be shipped over-seas by a self-centered, greedy CEO.
Emotion should be measured as well. Divorce and loss of family members should result in a lower quality of life and, as statistics show, an increased risk of health problems for you as well. Some of the emotional boosters can be things like, “Praise from your boss,” “You watch The Avengers in 3D,” or “Your kids made the honor roll”. Emotional tolls can be things like “Your neighbor has a hotter wife,” “You accidently ran over the family cat,” or “George Lucas”
Insurance needs to be a much bigger pain in the ass in REAL LIFE. Accidents should be just as rare, but the cost without insurance should be so high that you essentially lose the game if you don’t have insurance. That said, insurance for both medical things and physical things should take up a large portion of your pay and there should be a chance that the insurance company can deny your claim or refuse to treat you when you desperately need it.
Death should also be featured in REAL LIFE. Throughout the game there should be random squares that have things like “Fatal car accident,” “Heart attack,” or “Eaten by hungry bears” that appear with more and more frequency as you near retirement, and then a little further down the line every space is a death space until everyone dies except for a very rare roll which results in “Cryogenically frozen (If you can afford it)”
The idea is that REAL LIFE ends like real life ends. Once everyone is six-feet under you can count up your money to determine how elaborate your burial is going to be. Then you write up a will where you can come up with all kinds of crazy stuff people have to do after the game is over like, “Make a macaroni sculpture in my honor,” “Write a book on my exploits,” or “Train the boy”.
The end result of a game of REAL LIFE should be that a vast majority of the players die miserably in debt while a small percentage of players will end the game with tons of money in their pocket and nothing to do with it. It’ll be fun for the whole family! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll make mortgage payments and when all is said and done, the only thing that will really matter will be the fun times that you had.