When was the last time you played Life, Monopoly, or Risk? These are common board games that we all grew up with, and we seldom play them as adults. I played all three recently with my niece and nephew, and saw the programs they instill within us from a new light.
Of these three games, two of them are monetary based, while the third one is based on conquering nations by invasion. And I think the monetary ones cause the most upset in the house every time we play them. Inevitably, someone is going to be curled up in a ball under the table crying. But it is how we react to these games that gives us some insight into our perceptions of life.
I had not played Life in years, and only a few times as a child, so I really didn’t know what to expect when we pulled the game out last night. At the start of the game, you have to choose if you are going to college, or pursuing a career. If you choose college, you automatically incur a $100K debt at the beginning of the game, but you’ll have a higher income throughout the game. Different mandatory stops along the way force you to get married, buy a house, and later buy a bigger house. There’s no escaping it or getting around it (I do believe those were the exact words Al used when he proposed to me), thereby planting beliefs that you must do these things in real life. I even saw myself succumb to the trappings of the game when I had to choose a starter home, and took time to deliberately select a house that met my personal tastes and fit my budget. In doing this, I discarded the cheapest house, the motor home. I realized I had done so from a place of ego. I didn’t want my home to be a motor home, even in a game. This is very telling on a personal level since I currently live in a RV. But the fact that it came up in a game was astonishing to me, especially when it was all carried out on a subconscious level and I didn't realize what I had done until much later.
My nephew was beside himself and crying when his mom kept taking $100K from him every time she landed on the Lawsuit square. We explained to him that she kept taking it from him because he had the most money and can afford it. Had she taken it from one of the other players, they would have been kicked out of the game because no one else had enough money. But he was so distraught at what felt like being picked on, and losing all that money. It doesn’t matter that the money wasn’t real. There was an emotional attachment to that money. Once we got him out from under the table, and gave him lots of hugs and kisses, he spun again, and in the blink of an eye made back $300K and was all smiles, telling us how rich he is (my nephew is 8).
The game ends with you selling your home, paying off your debts, and then moving into a retirement home. You all know how I feel about that word “retire” from my last blog post. Then you count all of your money, and whoever has the most wins. So many horrible beliefs and ideas about life planted! The person with the most money upon death is not the winner in life. But we act like it’s true.
At the end, I asked my nephew what he learned from the game, and he responded “Life is hard”. We all laughed, but I hate for him to have this perception that this is what life is or must be. I tried to explain that we shouldn’t have emotional attachment to money. It comes and goes so quickly. You can always make more. I wish I could make them see that you don’t have to follow the rules society has set down. You don’t need to get married and have kids. You don’t have to buy a larger house. You don’t have to move to a retirement home. You can choose your own path, or create a new path.
Monopoly is another game that gets us all very emotional. It can take hours to get to the point where you have a true winner, so you usually call it quits at some point and count all the money to declare a winner. But we recently played to the very end twice, and this is how that usually plays out: Everyone tries to get a monopoly, and builds houses, and then hotels, so they can keep raising the rent higher and higher and collecting money. You have to do this because your neighbors are doing it, and if you land on their spaces, you cannot afford the rent unless you are collecting high rents too. So we are all charging high rents, and paying high rents. Inflation is ridiculous. One by one, players drop out as they land on a space with a hotel before someone lands on one of their spaces to help them supplement their income. Kids are crying as they are selling all their properties to try to stay in the game. Then there are only two players left. I felt like a monster telling my niece that she owes me $2,000 for landing on my Park Place with a hotel, knowing that it would wipe her out of the game. So in the end, you have someone who owns everything, but now no one can afford to buy their products. And the person with the most money in the end wins. Wins what? We’re all emotional and crying. I sure don’t feel like a winner.
Again, we’re all emotionally attached to fake money and fake possessions. And now we’ve taught the children how to price gouge.
And then there’s Risk. A game in which we teach our children that you only win if you invade another nation. While my niece and I try to expand peacefully, her father is attaching and invading our land, because the point of the game is to win. My niece is crying when her capital is taken. You do feel as if you are being attacked, and when you ask why, the answer is because you must attack to win.
Is it any surprise that my generation grew up to be consumed by corporate greed, and people who are profiting from warfare? We teach it to our children at such a young age. And don’t even get me started on the video games where the theme is kill, kill, kill.
But there is hope. Many new games I see, such as Concept, teach youth to think and see things differently, and encourage them to find new means of expression. They tend to be more educational, and don’t have winners and losers. Perhaps in this way, the programs from the old paradigms will be slowly eliminated.
Written by: Elizabeth DiPace
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