Lileks: Reminder of our lessons in life


“What do you want to do with your life? An adult might have asked you when you were a kid, and you must have been thinking: do you mean cereal, magazine or board game?

I mention this because the inventor of Life just died, and no, I’m not recycling a quote from Nietzsche. I mean the Life board game. It was what we played when no one had the stomach for six hours of Monopoly.

The only thing I remember about the game was the plastic spinning top embedded in the board and the rough topography dotted with plastic houses. He presented life as an arbitrary collection of events that punished and rewarded without regard to effort or character, and led children to believe that when they grew up they would spend the modern equivalent of $ 124,000 on themselves. get out of a failed jungle expedition.

Believe me it is twice so much.

I found a copy of the original game online, and the board is full of special events. You can land on a box that says “Add a baby.” Collect gifts ”, then spin a two and land on“ Add a little girl. Collect gifts! Looks like the pregnancy took as long as Jiffy Pop.

When you press PAYDAY, you receive a salary. The professions available were physician, lawyer, teacher, physicist, and journalist, with the latter receiving $ 10,000 per pay period. Yes, I am suing the company for misleading an entire generation.

The demands were rather arbitrary: “If childless, donate $ 50,000 to the orphanage.” Nice thought, but there is no way for the lawyer to challenge the legality of the request. You only get children by landing in the right box – there’s no box that says “Spouse ovulates, quit work immediately.” The next box, you pay $ 500 for dentures because all of your teeth were removed. Two squares later, you’ve inherited a cattle ranch, and down the road, you pay $ 5,000 for a toupee, only to have $ 30,000 stolen from you later.

So, basically, you’re a well-paid doctor with rotten teeth, prematurely bald, and wandering the dark streets with envelopes of cash in your pocket. Life!

Whether you go to college is all a matter of luck. In the old version, you just got to college at no cost, depending on how many you got. Otherwise, you got into “business” where your salary was $ 3,000 less than a teacher. No option for a job, like plumbing or truck driving: you were either in the sacred professional class or a corporate drone in a gray flannel suit grinding its molars to dust in frustration, playing the stock market , then finding out that her aunt died and left her with 100 cats, costing her $ 10,000 to dispose of.

That’s $ 92,000 in 2021 cash. Apparently you’re getting rid of the cats by having them drive Uber into Barcelona.

In the end, you end up either at Poor Farm or Millionaire Acres. There’s no happy bourgeois place where you spend your golden years hiking, waxing the car, listening to the twins on the radio while you sip sips from a cold can of Hamm. You are part of the 1%, or you are in a state-run institution in a cinder block room, working every day in the county potato field, chatting with the other old men about what you have been doing.

“For me it was getting out of the jungle and then being hit by cats.” Whispers of assent: I’ve been there, my brother.

The following versions changed the results: the most recent iteration had no ending at all. You just played until you moved to Arizona, I guess.

The monopoly was better. He taught you some hard truths: you will have to pay rent and you will regret the day you did not buy a railroad.

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