Monday, January 3, 2011

Life Sucks

As we continue along with The Twelve* Bloggers of Christmas, next up we have the Didactic Pirate wing of the museum!  This guy and his blog have a certain kind of magnetism, and if you don't already read him & love him, I'm guessing this post will win you over.  If the title doesn't give it away for you, today he shares a heart-warming story of how classic board games can really bring a family together.

And possibly leave you contemplating suicide.



My daughter received the board game Life from my parents for Christmas this year.  She was thrilled – immediately after opening it, she begged my wife and I to play it with her.  Sure, we said.  Why not?  Board game!  Good Time Family Fun! 

I vaguely remembered the game from my own childhood – mainly I recalled that it was easier than Monopoly, but more boring than Sorry.  But as my daughter set up the game, I started to remember the game’s not-so-subtle analogies: you drive a boxy, affordable station wagon down a winding road (the road of LIFE, mind you), steer through the twists and turns (of LIFE), over hills and valleys (of LIFE!), and as you motor merrily along, you navigate all of life’s super-fun challenges: marriage, family, career.  Kids love it.

Adults, however, play it and end up in a state of clinical depression.


Let me walk you through what happened last night.

The first task of the game is to establish a career.  My daughter started things off.  On her first spin of the dial, she discovered that she was to be a doctor.  Good money.  Highest salary on the board.  My chest swelled with pride.  A doctor!  My girl!  I told her all that studying would pay off!

 My wife, on her turn, discovered that life’s plan for her involved being a Journalist.   A perfectly respectable profession.  It wouldn’t make her rich, but it would keep her off welfare.

And me?  What career was I handed when I took my first turn in the Game of LIFE?


The lowest paying job on the board. Great.  Coincidentally, this happens to be my career in actual life.   Seriously, Hasbro?  Do I need to be reminded about the grim financial reality of my career choice?

Board games shouldn’t make people bitter.  It just doesn’t seem right.

But… whatever, I thought to myself.  If I could make my peace with it in real life, I can make lemonade out of lemons here. Moving on. 

With our jobs squared away, next came marriage.  See, according to the rules, all players have to stop at the wedding space, situated next to a quaint little white chapel on the board.  What’s that?  You’d prefer to live a hedonistic life of debauchery where you jump from partner to partner, devil-may-care?  Sorry, buddy.  This is Life.  And Life’s rules say you have to get married.  Sure, many of us want to get married, are even happy to be married; but on the Life board, it’s mandatory whether you want it or not.  Not only that, but the marriage must be officially sanctioned by the state of Hasbro.  According to the instructions on the back of box, players are required to place a peg of the opposite gender in their car’s passenger seat.  Blue gets a pink mate, and pink gets blue.    Even in the tabletop version of Life, Prop 8 trumps civil rights.

Ok.  So.  Life not only established the stratification of social classes by locking players into permanent careers without the option of mobility, but was apparently ruled by right-wing Conservative ideologies.   My wife and I exchanged looks after realizing this.  

Despite the fact that we now officially had political misgivings about this game, we kept playing.  And so we each married little pegs of our own.  I told my wife that I was imagining my little pink peg in the passenger seat was her.  She nodded vaguely.

The game proceeded.  Both my wife and my daughter chugged their little cars along as I lagged behind due to poor spins of the dial.  Both of them filled the backseats of their station wagons with several children-pegs, which may seem like a burden, but only until you realize that at the end of the game, you get to trade each child in for $20,000.  Apparently, having kids will pay off at the end of our lives.  Who knew?

I myself ended up with no children.  The backseats of my plastic car remain empty.  Looking at it made me sad.  My little blue peg apparently had a low sperm count.  Not only that, I was pretty sure my little pink peg-wife was acting distant as a result of our inability to have children.  And to make things worse?  After a few more turns, I started to suspect that my peg-wife was cheating on me with Mr. Moneybags from Monopoly.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The game continued.  My daughter received her exorbitant doctor’s salary every time she landed on a red Payday! space.  She was in the highest income bracket.  (Which means that she’d be receiving some awesome tax cuts in 2011, by the way.  How nice for her.)  Not only that, but the kid landed on virtually every windfall space on the damn board.  She won the lottery and got $50,000!  One of her oil wells turned out to be a gusher, netting her $100,000! She inherited a cattle ranch, and receives $102,000!!  Three moves later, she sold that same ranch for $160,000!!!

My wife didn’t fare quite as well, but even though she didn’t win any major sweepstakes, she managed to protect her assets.  She was wise enough to purchase Auto, Life and Fire insurance early in the game, which meant she avoided crippling payments each time she landed on the Tragedy spaces.  House burns down, pay $20,000 if you don’t have Fire insurance.  You total your car on the freeway, pay $30,000 if you don’t have Auto insurance.

I, by the way, was unable to afford any insurance at all when I had the chance.  I was a teacher, remember?  And it just so happens that throughout the game, I landed on every bad luck space on the goddamn board.  My house burned down.  My car was wrecked.  Twice.  Plus I ended up needing neck surgery for the whiplash.  All of which I had to pay for myself.  I was forced to take out several loans.

At the game’s halfway point, I wanted the name of the sadistic bastard at Hasbro who came up with this rotten, soul-sucking ordeal.  I decided I was going to track his descendants down and beat an apology out of someone.

My daughter’s good karma carried her through the game.  She invested in a stock tip that yielded $50,000, while, I got busted for tax fraud.  She invented the cure for a disease, and got the Nobel Prize, along with $100,000.  I inherited a skunk farm which costs me $30,000 to unload.  She won a third lottery.  I invested in a start-up business that went bust, costing me $75,000.
Thing just continued going downhill for me as we kept going:

“Big business deal goes south! Pay $20,000.”
“Stock plummets!  Pay $50,000.”
 “You purchase a toupee.  Pay $5,000.”
“You are laid off!  Pay $500 to drink away sorrows at a local bar!”
“You decide to start seeing a therapist twice a week to deal with chronic depression! Pay $30,000.”
“You drink too much!  After a long blackout, you wake up to discover a dead hooker in your backseat! Pay $80,000 to a local gangster to ‘handle the situation.’”

Basically, I spend the entire evening sitting in my station wagon, several spaces behind my wife and daughter, seething with jealousy at their good luck.  What the hell, Game?!?

I did get one triumph during the evening.  I wrote a best-selling novel, sales of which got me $80,000 in royalties.  After I landed on that space, I looked over at my wife triumphantly:  See?  I knew it would happen for me someday!  Those struggling writing years have finally paid off!

But… by the time I rounded the final curve of the game, all that royalty money was gone.   I have no idea how it happened.  I probably squandered it on drugs and whores.

In the end, my daughter became a tycoon and retired in the plush Millionaire Acres.  I wanted to be happy for her. 

As for me, how did I finish up this wondrous game we call Life, you may ask?

“I love this game!” my daughter crowed after we finished.  She had her money piled in front of her and was burying her feet in it.  “Let’s play again!”

Maybe later, Sweetheart.  First Daddy has to go check on all our insurance policies.  And then maybe put his head down for a while.


See?! What's not to love?!

Find this guy at his blog, The Didactic Pirate
Or at Dad Centric
AND at Culture Brats.
(and, of course, The Twitter @didacticpirate)

*It's more like eight, if you must have a number.


  1. A game which mimics real life. Seems par for the course. I imagine I'd get the same results. ;)

  2. Her new husband looks like a dickhead.

  3. Your pink wife-Peg was not seeing Mr. Moneybags on the side. She was into a threesome with Saucy Wench and Robert Downey, Jr. You may have noticed Robert was driving funny for part of the game.

  4. That's great - you're right, that game absolutely sucks. But at least it should make you feel a bit better about your real 'peg-free' life.


  5. My daughter always wants to play this game and I feel the same way the blogger does...even though I won the last time we played. I was making the most money and had a great career until she landed on change careers with anyone--of course, with the best career comes the stealing of that for or not!

  6. The one thing that game is missing that would make it even more like life would be the “Death Tile” that randomly appears at different points of the game. Not everyone makes it to the end to live in the poor farm, or millionaire acres. The game needs more realistic tiles, the wife dies, death of a child, the divorce square, son comes out of the closet square, the drug addiction of yourself/family square (these are everywhere), daughter is a feminist tile or found 20 dollars on the ground tile. The careers need to be more accurate, garbage man, or laborer, or even the Drug Dealer career. (Cannot buy insurance, property, or anything really but gets paid one third of everyone’s salary in the game that is addicted to drugs)

    The game is depressing enough why not go all the way.

  7. i never thought about the game that way. of course, i haven't played the original life game in many, many years. i bought the pirates of the caribbean version of life and find it much more satisfactory.

  8. Could've been worse. The original game was invented in the 1860's, and the board has some interesting spaces like "prison", "ruin", and "suicide".

    Hasn't changed much since the 1960s version. Time for an update I'd say, Hasbro.

  9. @Just Plain Tired: The game should come with a prescription for anti-depressants.

    @Sarah P: Best comment of the day.

    @unmitigated me: I KNEW there was something going on that station wagon!

    @Simple Dude: You'd think. Yet it just made me want to curl up in a fetal position for 8 hours.

    @mizzbizz: Wait -- there's a Change Careers space? I missed that one. I'd actually like one of those in life. And I'd like to land on it right now, please.

    @Not the Hero: You, my friend, are dark. I like that.

    @steph gas: Now that's a version I could get on board with. I know there's also a SpongeBob version of the game that I have to believe is a little less depressing.

    @Bret: Or "stock market crash." Or "bubonic plague outbreak."

  10. Didactic Pirate is always funny. I loved this.


  11. Great story! You'll have to write a follow-up in which you explain to Mini-P that the you can't play the game any more since it was recalled by Hasbro because the pieces were "accidentally" slashing people's wrists.

    I never played the game myself. We had it when I was a kid, but it was a German edition (we lived in Deutschland at the time) and, although I could ask for ice cream and Wienerschnitzel auf Deutsch, words like fire insurance (Feuerversicherung) were beyond me. So I just stared at the wheel and giggled as it spun around. It was probably for the best. If the American version is that depressing, I can only imagine how twisted the German one is.

  12. OMGOsh I am cracking up...almost pee-ed my pants. That is the funniest frickin' thing I've read in my "Life". (pun totally intended...hehehe) Sadistic? "Sorry"!

    Seriously, what a hoot!! I hate the game of "life". My hubby was a teacher, too, and Life sucked!!!!!! They might as well have paid us in gum...we would have gotten more use out of it!

    Ok, off to his blog- cuz he's just too funny!!

  13. d pirate always makes me laugh :)

  14. My family tried to play this game a couple months ago. We ended up giving up because it was too difficult and confusing. Imagine that.

  15. Dude, what if we're just pegs in somebody else's game of Life?

  16. Hi Kristine, nice to meet you, I hope it is okay to guest comment.
    Pirate, you did it again!
    The last time I was forced to play the game, I never ended up with my RL career, more children than I have the sanity for and kept that ugly piece of junk car my whole life. And what exactly happened to hobbies? WTF?

    I wouldn't donate this to charity, so out the window it went.

  17. to bad real life wasn't as easy as a game with do overs. great post

  18. You could have saved yourself this pain if you'd grabbed the iPhone version like I did in a fit of nostalgia a few months back. Worst $0.99 (thankfully it was on sale) I ever spent.

    Did the board version have the square or card where you lost your job and had to choose a new profession? The app had that, I went from doctor to teacher. Yeah, AFTER I bought the big-ass house.

  19. Good stuff DP.

    Couldn't agree more. The only thing that could make this game better is if they called it Misery.

    Then all the pegs would have to look like miniture Kathy Bateses.

  20. Hello Kristine
    Happy New Year!
    This is a very cool thing you're doing, with the "12 bloggers". I am loving your selections. These guys are great. Thanks :)

  21. I note (per the photo) that you are alone as you pull into the Poor Farm.

    This seems somehow appropriate.

  22. You'd think they would have changed the boy-girl marriage thing by now...huh.

  23. Quit whining like a little pussyboy. Everyone knows children always win family board games!

  24. Dude! You bought a toupee!? But you're a PIRATE! ROFL.

    Okay, so it's really sad when a game imitates life so well. MY life. I'm glad I wasn't playing or I might have stopped by the pawn shop and traded that toupee for a gun.

  25. I loved it.

    Fuck the rules! They might make me get married in the game of Life, but guess what? That asshole sat in the very back of the station wagon.

  26. My favorite part of the game was always setting up the board.

    LIFE seems like it's going to be a good time, it seems promising. But once you actually get going, it becomes a bit tedious and you kind of just can't wait for it to be all over and done.

    I mean the game, of course.

  27. This is why I refuse to let the kids play "Sorry".

  28. I'm sticking with Chutes and Ladders. Tchuppppp and tchuuuuuuum are pretty much all I can handly at that point.

  29. Ha Ha hahhhahhahhahhahaaah. That's all I have. : )

  30. Great, a game which makes you want to pretend to be Sylvia Plath. ;)

  31. I'll be back, man... hadn't realized what a mess Hasbro made of our generation. No wonder we can't accept our lot in life gracefully, we're still trying to get a decent break on the spin-thingie and watching lesser mortals fly by in their Ferrari's while we load groceries and little leaguers into the minivan.
    heavy sigh...
    I'm adding your site to mine, despite the fact that mine's a vulgar political humor site and sometimes includes humiliating stories about my childhood... and now I'm blaming Hasbro for it all!

  32. Ha Ha hahhhahhahhahhahaaah. That's all I have. : )

  33. Your pink wife-Peg was not seeing Mr. Moneybags on the side. She was into a threesome with Saucy Wench and Robert Downey, Jr. You may have noticed Robert was driving funny for part of the game.

  34. Quit whining like a little pussyboy. Everyone knows children always win family board games!

  35. Hi Kristine, nice to meet you, I hope it is okay to guest comment.
    Pirate, you did it again!
    The last time I was forced to play the game, I never ended up with my RL career, more children than I have the sanity for and kept that ugly piece of junk car my whole life. And what exactly happened to hobbies? WTF?

    I wouldn't donate this to charity, so out the window it went.