No escape from reality

Illustration by Ed Appleby
Illustration by Ed Appleby

‘The Game of Life’ board game review

By Ed Appleby, Illustrator

“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” – “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.

The Game of Life (1960) is a spin and move board game designed by Reuben Klamer and Bill Markham, and is based on The Checkered Game of Life (1860), one of the first parlour games designed by Milton Bradley. In the game, players spin a wheel and move their piece along a board conveniently marked with their age, during which they come across several life events: get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house, buy another house, and retire. The winner is decided by who has acquired the most stuff by the end.

The gameplay is boring. You are railroaded onto a track with very little variation, almost no decisions, and—strangely—a bonus for being the first to complete things. There is also a very out of place gambling mini game. The whole game revolves around luck, just like life. Two out of five stars.

And now for what I really think: This game is nothing like life. Why can only one player pick each job? Why do I have to get married? Or buy a house? Maybe I want to move to the city and draw butts at 3 a.m.? Life is all about the poor choices you make. And why can’t my deadbeat spouse get a job?

This does bring up a few good things about the game. One is the fact that you are not forced to pick a wife or husband. The colour of peg you put in the car next to you matters very little. There have also been updates over the years that have made the game less brutal, and have modernized the kind of jobs you can get. So be careful which version you pick up.

That being said, Hasbro just released a new edition of the game called The Game of Life: Empire (2016) which adds brands such as Levi’s, Xbox, and the Food Network into the mix. So now, not only can you play a game where you’ve been forced down a life path you don’t want, but you get actual invasive corporate branding shoved right down your throat.

You know, just like real life.