The Game of LIFE: Leveling the Playing Field

March 28, 2017



 I'm a sociology nerd. I could discuss social theories all day and never tire of it. Have a few academic journals lying around? I'll take those off your hands to read for fun. What can I say? We are living during a pretty tumultuous time in history, and I guess I am just trying to find a way to make sense of it all.


Lately I have been binge reading articles pertaining to the global economic and demographic trends that determine the divergent developmental pathways of children. Spoiler alert: we have yet to level the playing field!!


Reading these articles, I cannot help but think of my favorite board game growing up: LIFE. It’s the game that simulates a person’s travels through his, her, or their life, from college to retirement, with jobs, marriage, and possible children along the way. 


As a kid I was always so excited to play this game. Every time I spun the wheel, I could not wait to see what would happen next. What profession card would I draw? Accountant? Teacher? Rock Star? I always secretly hoped I would draw the professional athlete card. As a kid, my dream was to be a professional basketball player. Little did I know I would only grow to be 5’ 2” tall with mediocre ball-handling skills. 

What salary would I draw? Everyone was after the ever-so-coveted  $100,000 card. 

Where would I live? Would I draw the Victorian house or the split-Level house? 

What would my life accomplishments be? Would I win a Pulitzer Prize? Discover a new planet? Or maybe even invent a new ice cream flavor?  The possibilities seemed endless to me, and I could not wait to see where LIFE would take me each round.

As I read these articles regarding global economic stratification and disparity, it dawned on me why exactly I loved this game so much: it got me excited about my future. How could it not when the picture on the box looked like this?


I grew up in an environment where the possibilities were endless. I grew up attending private school, participating in countless extracurricular activities, and being told that I could do anything with my life. Both my parents worked to support our family. I got my first job when I was in high school, not out of necessity, but by choice. When I was finishing up high school, it was not a question of whether or not I was going to college but, rather, which college I was going to attend. As a kid playing the game of LIFE, I wholeheartedly believed I could achieve any of those accomplishments I saw before me on that board.
In reality, the reason I believed that the sky was the limit was because of the positive economic and demographic trends that affected my life. Playing that game as a child, I never realized that I was holding the ace in my hand all along: privilege. 



But what if the board game of LIFE was culturally relative? What would the board look like for a girl growing up in Eastern Europe? Central Asia? Sub-Saharan Africa? Or even the poor side of town in your own city? Would those children be as excited to sit down and see their fate revealed to them? I don't think so. I think they would have more pressing matters on their hands.

Perhaps Milton Bradley should come out with a less ethnocentric version of LIFE. It can be the “Children In A Global Perspective” version, where individuals can learn what it is like to grow up in different regions of the world and different regions of the country. They can gain insight into the implications surrounding the increasing economic stratification, both among and within nations, and learn how this stratification threatens to further separate the developmental opportunities available to wealthier and poorer adolescents.


Although children might be less excited to play this version, maybe it would help to give them a better understanding and overall picture of the world they are growing up in. It would help them develop their worldview. Maybe instead of sitting down to play another round, they can stand up instead and help find a way to level the real playing field of life.


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