What's Wrong With the Game of Life

A few years ago, my brother-in-law bought the 50th anniversary edition of Life for the family to play at one of our get-togethers. I loved the game as a kid, and I’m a big proponent of teaching children about money from an early age, so I thought it was a great idea.

Until I read the revamped rules.

You're familiar with the game. You drive your car around the board, meeting financial challenges as you go.

The original game of Life included useful money lessons. The new game of Life does the opposite. As a result, kids will develop unrealistic ideas about money by playing this game.

For example, nobody ends up poor anymore. In the original game, you ended up a millionaire or broke at the poor farm. But in the new version, you end either at Millionaire Estates or Countryside Acres.

Do we want to teach kids that, no matter what choices they make in life, they’re going to end up rich?

The new game offers no way to protect yourself against risk. The original game gave you the option of buying auto, life or homeowners insurance. If you didn’t, you might later wish you had – just as in real life. But in the new game, insurance doesn’t exist. Accidents and other setbacks do, but you have no way to protect yourself from these financial losses.

In the old version, you had to buy a house. It cost $15,000 — a realistic price 50 years ago — and that was that. In the new game, you must buy several houses over the course of the game, ranging from an $80,000 mobile home to an $800,000 mansion, and all the homes always accumulate value. Did no one at Milton Bradley experience 2008? And by the way: there are no mortgage payments in this game.

Here's the worst part. Gambling equals investing in the new game of Life. The new version has a feature called “Spin to Win,” where you pick numbers. If the wheel lands on the number you pick, you win 10x what you bet. The game says, “Pay your investment to the bank. If the number does not match, you lose your investment.” There’s also a “long-term investment.” You pick a number, pay $10,000, and each time that number is spun, you win $5,000. This, of course, is merely a roulette wheel, yet children are being taught that gambling is an investment.

The game of Life has changed, but real life hasn't. You still need investments, insurance and a house you save for over time. Don’t let your kids or grandkids play the revamped game of Life.