It’s no surprise that kids look at life differently from adults, but that’s also true of the way we look at Life. You know, the board game.
I met with my friend Rita Rivera recently at Bean and Leaf to hold a farewell board game night as the coffeehouse moves to its new location at New London Harbour Towers. Her husband wasn’t able to make it, so we searched the collection at the shop and settled on Life.
Neither of us had played it since childhood, but we knew the general overview and a run-through of the directions refreshed our memory. There are plenty of ways the game isn’t quite true to real life—you only have to pay taxes if you land on the square telling you to, and getting married is mandatory—but in other ways it’s a little too true to life. Student loans, car insurance, stock market crashes…and they say this is for ages nine and up?
Of course, life’s twists and turns are a lot more fun when they’re just affecting the little peg driving a plastic car. Rita fell on hard times almost immediately, leaving college as a poor athlete saddled with debt that soon intensified under the purchase of a derelict trailer and the arrival of two sets of twins. Things stabilized once she lost her job, as she turned to a career as a teacher and moved into a quaint farmhouse.
By contrast, a bit of luck and some good spins carried me through Life quite quickly. I wound up becoming a doctor with a lucrative salary, paid off my student loans almost immediately, bought a house debt-free (and later upgraded to a mansion) and retired a millionaire.
We had a lot of fun joking about our peg avatar’s lives. Rita wondered why she couldn’t divorce her deadbeat husband, who wasn’t bringing in any money to raise their four children. I suggested that my focus on money was likely at the detriment of my son, who was probably being raised by a servant in the “Blithering Heights” manor.
Rita also posited that despite the somewhat dull aspect of loans and insurance, the game might be more fun for children simply because it’s all speculation. As an adult you can’t help but compare your own life with the one shaping out on the board. You’ve already gone through those opening bends of the game and more likely than not are in a situation more akin to Rita’s than mine, at least when it comes to cracking down on your loans.
We also played the game on the eve of my 29th birthday, when I’d already been musing on the outgoing stages of my third decade on the planet. Plenty of other friends are around the middle of the Life board by now, married with mortgages and maybe even a peg or two in the car. Me, I’m happy with how things are going, but I’m still a little jealous of that millionaire doctor. He won a Nobel Peace Prize and everything.
My goal is going to be to end my Roaring Twenties in style and spend plenty of time hanging out with friends, visiting family, and seeing the world (or at least a little corner of it). And one birthday well-wisher suggested that being 29 doesn’t mean I have to act like an adult all the time; breaking out the Game of Life seems like a good start.