In 1860, Milton Bradley, then a lithographer most recognized by his portrait of a pre-bearded Abraham Lincoln whose art quickly fell into the shadows when the 16th president grew his famous beard, invented a game called "The Checkered Game of Life."
In 1960, for the 100th anniversary of the Milton Bradley Corporation, executives commissioned game designer Reuben Klamer to come up with a new game. Inspired by the company's original game, "The Checkered Game of Life," Klamer come up with "The Game of Life," which was released in 1960.
I, like many people around the world (the game is produced in 20 languages) grew up with "The Game of Life" or "Life" as a staple at sleepovers, summer camp and the often-dreaded Family Game Night. Life was always my first choice when given a choice between other traditional games like Monopoly or Clue or card games. Monopoly always took way too long to finish and at the age of eight, the intricacies of being banker usually just elicited a lot of guesswork and accusations of cheating. Clue on the other hand was just boring (no offense Parker Brothers); and card games like War and Rummy were usually reserved when Great Aunt Ruthie came to visit. Life was perfect, it required minimal math, and could easily be played while talking about the latest sixth grade gossip.
Looking back on it all though, I guess I had some higher expectations for my own life, which can be partially attributed to "The Game of Life" but also in part because of my childhood naiveté. It never really occurred to me that I was going to have to purchase a car, or pay for college with real money. I mean, in the game you got to pick the color of the little plastic car that would move you around the board with no financial consequences to you and when the game started, you could just choose a career instead of college.
Don't get me started on the "STOP" signs placed strategically around the board meant to mark major life events such as getting married, or choosing a career or a house; these decisions were made by selecting cards fanned out from your opponent's hands. It was that easy! If by some chance you spun the spinner that made that really cool clicking sound and landed on an "it's a girl" or "it's a boy" space all you had to do was pop a little pink or blue peg into your car. That's it -- no contractions, no C-section scars. Nothing.
Quite frankly, I'm angry. Although I understand that games like Operation and Hungry, Hungry Hippos are completely beyond the scope of reality, "The Game of Life" had just enough aspects of "real life" attached to it's shiny cardboard box that I thought maybe life could be that simple. Maybe someone would just lay out a bunch of cars and ask me what color I wanted; or maybe someone would just fan out a bunch of cards and I could pick which house I wanted to live in.
Overall Milton Bradley, I'm pissed. Next time you think about making a new game, think about how much it will build up or expectations of "real life." Or at least you could put a warning label on the box.
The girl that thought life was going to be simple