For those of you who don't live in the Formerly Frozen but Rapidly Warming North, you are missing out. We are enjoying a nor'easter today, and if you are not fortunate enough to know what that is like, it is basically an introvert's dream: Being cut off from the outside world by copious amounts of snow, whilst the fire in the woodstove roars and the laptop beckons. And when one's offspring actually have actual friends over and are willing to go outside and leave one alone for multiple minutes at a stretch, it is sheer bliss.
But on to our topic today! Earlier this week, Warren asked the girls what they wanted to do after dinner. As one, they both asked for a family game night. Now, given that my children are truly reflective of their generation with their iThings and streaming TVs and whatnot, we are always willing to entertain any kind of non-device-centric activity. Until...
"We want to play Life!" India stated emphatically. "Yeah," Cici chimed in, "we haven't played that in forever."
Cue the heavy sigh.
Warren did his level best to weasel out of the proceedings: "Why don't you guys go downstairs and play with Mommy, while I get a couple things done up here?" I seized gently grasped his arm just above the elbow and hissed in his ear stated sweetly that family game night implies the participation of the whole family, and we wouldn't want to deprive him of that experience, would we? [An aside: Why are male parents so readily exempted from the more drudgerous aspects of parenthood? I know that's a stereotypically unfair statement to make, but it has a germ of truth in it. Who handles the endless rounds of bickering, the reading and re-reading and re-re-reading of the Splat the Cat oeuvre, the gathering of classroom party materials and permission form signing in your house?? But I digress.] So we all hied downstairs to the family room, there to participate in the capitalist brainwashing that is the game of Life. Okay, I'm joking. Kind of.
Anyhoo, here are a few musings and random thoughts about the game:
1) The choice of higher-earning careers is definitely stuck in pre-millennial times. Who are the big moneymakers? Doctors and lawyers, with accountants and computer technicians a distant second. Based on what I know from my professionally-degreed friends, JD and MD degrees are signifiers of a barely upper-middle-class existence nowadays, what with paying back high student loans and changes in the employment market place. They really need to get on that - how about adding a hedge fund manager who specializes in unethical tax write-offs, or a hoodie-wearing community college dropout who invents the next Twitter/Grindr/Tumblr/other-er thingummybob? And the car mechanic, I can tell you, is GROSSLY undervalued - at least it is, based on my experience with replacing every major system in my stupid car over the past eight months. Also, I think they need to add a few more professions, such as celebrity chef and reality-TV star, that might not have existed when I last played this game (in 1978). Just a thought, fellows, just a thought.
2) I realized halfway through the game that driving around endlessly whilst trying to grub for my living and make it long enough to see grandchildren doesn't feel like a game to me - it feels like my life.
3) I have decided that board games that require skill and intellectual prowess are allowed to go on for multiple hours if need be, but games that plug along on dumb luck and circumstance need to end after a maximum of 30 minutes. Let's take Chutes and Ladders as an exemplar of the latter: I have never participated in a game of C&L that ran over 25'ish minutes, and, with a little judicious nudging of the spinner, they often end more quickly than that. Now compare that to the endless, endless grind that is the game of Life. I've gone through labor and delivery in less time than it took us to play that game the other night (true fact!). No adult should have to spend over thirty-five minutes pretending to care if she's going to take Safe Street or Risky Road.
4) If you DO get suckered into playing Life, by all means, do NOT let your child play the role of the banker. Yeah, yeah, yeah, there's all that practical math practice, what with salaries and life insurance and probabilities and all that stuff, but they suck at it and the simplest actions take forever. Then you (by which I mean me) wind up in a situation where one child is still counting out the payday for the player who went two turns ago while the other one is hopping up and down, demanding her two paydays AND she gets $5000 for having a kid AND one of those paydays came with a raise. Needless to say, family dynamics get a little hairy at that point. And also, we don't have those problems with Chutes and Ladders, now, do we?
5) Speaking of having children, this game gives the youth of today a terribly wrongful impression of parenthood. First of all, *I* certainly don't remember five thousands clams showing up in our bank account after each of the girls appeared in our lives, and I feel fairly confident proclaiming that they've not been a profit center in this marriage. (Warren concurs with that assessment.) Second, once the game of Life kids are born, they simply fit into a slot in the car and sit in the back quietly and calmly for the duration of the game. If this were REAL life, each little peg of joy would come with an intricately complex car seat that takes forty-five minutes just to buckle and a stroller that takes up 97.295% of the available trunk space, not to mention the ensuing quarrels, expressions of hunger, and urgent need for bathrooming that make up most of OUR car trips. (Okay, I am exaggerating for effect here, but it is too much to ask the geniuses at Milton Bradley to simplify this game just a wee bit for us poor, tired parents who just want a glass of wine and a back episode of Master Chef of an evening?)
To be fair, I do have to offer kudos to the game of Life in one area: Marriage equality. Everyone is equally forced into wedlock in this game, and what's more, the makers of this game care not about the color of one's peg but the content of one's car. If you want your peg to represent a man, a woman, a polyamorous human of indeterminate longings, married to a same-gender spouse in an open relationship, whatever, you are welcome to it. Just make sure you block out a good 90 minutes to play this damn game, and while you're at it, be sure to make a couple long-term investments at the beginning of the game. Trust me, they'll pay off later.