Last week, the International Herald Tribune featured a fun editorial on the Game of Life Twists & Turns by Lawrence Downes. He was musing that if ‘life is a game’ he hopes it isn’t like the 120-year-old brainchild of Milton Bradley. It seems that the board game is getting another face-lift in August (the last one was about 1960). I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
His description of the ‘new’ Game of Life and of playing it with his young children, while as a game, sounds a bit more interesting and complex than the current version. It also sounds like something between cynical marketing and depressingly accurate insights into what is really happening to us as human beings.
While I can’t do it justice, the gist of the new game is that people have lots of choices and strategies based on a quartet of pathways—earning, learning, loving and living. The fact that one must make trade-offs between these dimensions of living is telling. The description goes on to say that no matter what you do, it’s all about borrowing and spending and having paid-for experiences. Retirement is no longer a goal, and the participants just keep playing until someone wins ‘the lottery’.
The most ironic part of the tale is that the whole shebang is built around a computer that keeps track of everything and that determines who the winners and losers based on using some seemingly random algorithm. Naturally, paper money is gone and the kids use credit cards to buy stuff in the course of the game. And finally (I love this part), you never grow older.
Well, maybe it is fun. And after all, it is only a game. Lawrence says the real messages are: “Don’t worry” and “Get on with life” and “God is a computer that can help you sleep without worrying about how you are doing…”.
Personally, I do think life is a game. However, I believe that the key to winning the game is knowing we have a choice at every moment, and that mindful living means nothing needs to be left to chance. I would like to hope that Hasbro will add some value equations to the next version of their Game of Life. You know, basic wisdom like:
- There are consequences for our actions.
- Relationships are central to everything.
- Money is not the point.
- Responsibility for others and our world is an important part of ‘winning’.
- We will all grow older and die.
The message could be that ALL of LIFE is a game worth playing and you can keep winning until the last roll of the dice.