The Game of Life: An Authentic Approach

Most of us played it as children. The game of Life – the one with the great spinny thing in the middle of the board. I played it yesterday with my daughter on the train – it is now available on the iTouch. As we played it dawned on me that the game of Life teaches some pretty rotten “life” lessons.

It plays into the primary source of misery for most people –it mandates certain life paths and doesn’t allow one to opt out.

Example: Marriage. In the game of life – you HAVE to get married. Even if you spin the spinny thing and could go past that space on the board – the game forces you to stop and get married. You can’t opt out. When I hit that space I told my daughter that I didn’t want to get married and was willing to forego the $5000 in presents. But that is not an option.

The game of Life also forces you to buy a house. Renting is not an option. And the wise person chooses the cheap Log Cabin because all houses only appreciate $20,000.

Interestingly, babies are not only an option – they are a matter of luck – you have to land on the correct space to get knocked up. So if the spinny thing doesn’t hit right – you don’t reproduce. I suppose that is realistic.

The one thing I do like about the new version of the game is that about half way through life – it allows the player to choose whether he or she wants to choose a “risky” path or a safer/family oriented path. For reasons that are still not completely clear to me- my children choose the risky path every time.

At the end of the game – you get rewarded for the children you have (not fair) with a cash payout, and the winner is the person with the most money. Oy. In general, with rare exceptions, unless you rack up gambling winnings – the person who chooses the doctor or lawyer career card always wins – and the people who pick the career cards that designate you as a mechanic or teacher can never keep up . In today’s economy that may be realistic. Early in the game, the player is offered the option of taking the quick fix of a career – which guarantees a lower income but quicker entry into “grown-up” life, or the more circuitous path of college which almost always leads to a higher salary, but a brief delay in the early part of the game. However, there is the option of attending night school later in the game – nice twist.

Perhaps it’s time for an authentic game of life. One in which all options are permissible – marriage or not, house or not, children or not, same-sex partner if so-desired. At the end of the game, the winner is not based on the sheer amount of cash – but some other indicator that captures the honesty, genuineness, empathy and authenticity a person brought to his or her life path. Alas – that is difficult to quantify – so it doesn’t translate well to a board game. Sadly, because it doesn’t quantify well – we also don’t use it as a measure of real life.

Forced options that really are not options often teach us to doubt ourselves and dance to an external song, rather than the unique tune that courses through our veins. Marriage as mandate, home ownership as gold standard, reproduction by agenda. By making the measure of the man or woman the amount of money he or she takes into the end of his life, are we teaching kids to be acquisitive rather than authentic? At the end of the day, the most important job of parents, schools and society is to teach people to honor themselves –and not blindly adhere to rules that fit a subset of a society and the current tax structure.

I still love the spinny thing – but beyond that – the game of Life is reinforcing “Life” lessons that limit us. We play by our own rules around my house, – there are no forced options – if the spinny thing allows you to bypass marriage – then so be it. And if you want to stop and take a chance on love – then that is ok too. I even allow my girls to change their minds during the game, and invite a partner in as they reach retirement. In our game, it’s about what feels right.


This entry was posted on Saturday, June 19th, 2010 at 11:53 am and is filed under Parenting, Relationships and Sex. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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