Trying to Figure Out the Game of Life

life

At the end there are only two options: “Countryside Acres” or “Millionaire Estates.” 

If you end up retiring at Countryside Acres you lose. Your life was unsuccessful. You disappointed that mini-van full of pink and blue children. 

If you end up at Millionaire Estates, then congratulations. You won. You managed to buy the right number of stocks, you protected yourself with home insurance and somehow became a millionaire off a teacher’s salary. You sly son of a bitch, you. 

It’s a crazy thing, this game of life. No, I’m talking about the actual board game, the Game of Life. At its core, it toys with the concept of our existence that we can never figure out for ourselves: do we have any control here or is everything ultimately left to chance?

In the beginning, you choose whether or not you go to college, but that’s pretty much the last decision you make for the rest of the game. You have to get married. You have to buy a house. It doesn’t matter what number you spin, when you get about five moves into the game it’s time to end this bachelor life of yours and tie the knot.

You’re going to need that significant other to hold you down in this crazy world you’re about to embark in. It’s a world with only nine career choices. Well, they aren’t choices; they’re assigned to you (cross your fingers for “superstar”). It’s a world full of corrupt cops (if your career is “police officer” then you get to collect $5,000 from anyone who speeds, i.e. spins a ten. Seriously, you just pocket the cash).

It’s a world where the right spin will allow someone to swap salaries with someone else. That’s right, at a moment’s notice some travel agent could come and take your doctor’s salary from right under your feet. Those bastards won’t think twice about stealing food right out the mouths of both your twins. When did you have twins? Oh, about two spins ago. You and the Mrs. had a little too much to drink after you signed the lease on that brand new log cabin you inexplicably bought for $80,000 and, well, nine months later…. 

“Writer” isn’t one of the career choices in the Game of Life. Not that I would consider myself well represented if it were one of the cards. Now, if there were a card for “Broke, confused college graduate managing a food truck park and spending every other waking second and half the night writing” then maybe I’d fit perfectly into Milton Bradley’s game. 

What’s ultimately terrifying is that I’m nowhere near being able to afford or accomplish anything that would be forced upon me four spins into the Game of Life. I mean, they threw us a freebie by not making us pay for the mini-van, but I assure you, I cannot afford a mini-van right now. 

You’re telling me I might have a kid, like literally any minute? Let me explain something to you Mr. Milton Bradley, the reason I don’t have pizza rolls in my fridge right now is very different than the reason you don’t have pizza rolls in your fridge right now…. I already ate mine. I think it’s safe to say I’m not ready for a kid.   

But here’s the part that really puts your mind in a pretzel: Is the “chance” aspect of the game silly and ridiculous or way too realistic?

The game doesn’t ever make reference to things like socio-economic dysfunction. It doesn’t let you know whether you’re born into a life of poverty or privilege. There are no cards that say “Your mom is back in rehab and you’re too stressed and preoccupied to finish high school” or “Your dad sold his company for $75 million. If you screw up five times he’ll bail you out six.”

The board game never makes mention of any sort of imbalance in the class structure. But, in a sense, does it account for that level of chance with the ridiculous things that are sprung upon you? The fact that at any given moment, someone could swap your salary, or your log cabin could get hit by a hurricane or a mid-life crisis could force you into a new career is indicative of the simple fact that chance is an overwhelming factor in life. 

Like I said before, you don’t get to choose your career in the board game. Oh, you wanted to be a doctor? Bummed out that you got salesperson instead? Well, don’t make the naïve mistake of thinking that medical school is available to everyone. It’s not. And on this particular set of spins, being a doctor isn’t available to you either. 

The truth is, the Game of Life’s not fair. No, I mean the actual game of life. It’s not fair. Some people are born into extreme levels of disadvantage. And others are only exposed to such disadvantages when they play a board game after their iPad, Xbox and iPhone all run out of battery. 

Really, I don’t know what course I’m on. It seems like I’m way behind. And when I look at the squares in front of me it looks like there are a ton of payments in my future no matter what I spin.

I’m going to be honest; right now it sure doesn’t feel like I’m on my way to Millionaire Estates. I guess that means I might lose the Game of Life.

Or maybe the real game of life isn’t about retiring rich. Maybe money is only a part of life. Maybe you can fulfill yourself more effectively through other means. Maybe if you’re 24 years old and even thinking about Millionaire Estates then you’re already losing. 

-Jonny Auping

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