Life Is A Board Game

October 7, 2009

Life Is A Board Game

If life were a ‘game’ we would have clear winners and losers. While life may not be as simple as rolling a dice and moving from spot to spot, life resembles many of the games we played as a child for fun, but with slightly different consequences. From a very young age we learn skills that will later help us in life. For most of us we play games as a form of relaxation and fun, but in the end what matters is who wins. While the actual events during the game matter, winning is just as important to the game. Life is similar to this. Some may disagree with this, but the truth of the matter is that anything worth playing must have some sort of payoff.

As we get older, the time we spend playing games like Monopoly, The Game of Life, and Scrabble may shrink, but we are still playing these game in one form or another. If you reflect upon many of the games you remember playing as a child, you would most likely be able to pull a lesson or skill from it that you now carry with you today. Although computers and high-tech toys have nearly replaced board games, the need for skill building tools still remains.

What Monopoly & The Game of Life Taught Us


One of the most popular board games of all-time is none other than Monopoly. Since its creation in 1935, Rich Uncle Pennybags has become one of the most recognizable icons in pop culture. As a child, this was one of the first games that I played. Although I didn’t understand what a ‘monopoly’ actually was, I was still enthralled by what seemed like at the time just a giant blue board. From the metal tokens that baffled me because of their miniature size, to the property cards that I had no clue about, Monopoly would be my first introduction to the business world.

Based on the economic concept, Monopoly employed the basics of market domination by a single entity. To win, it was simple: own everything. Before I move forward, perhaps ‘simple’ is the wrong word to use. It was a ‘simple’ concept to understand, but a difficult task to accomplish as many of us have learned. Through many hours of rolling the dice to the minutes spent arguing over properties, Monopoly gave each of us the opportunity to be a millionaire (in Monopoly money of course).

Many of us may have grown out of playing Monopoly, but we are still using the same concepts we learned from playing it. Although we were all playing for play money, we were still applying the basic skills involved in the business world. From learning how to budget our income for future property development and spending, to negotiating with others, Monopoly helped us get a taste of the business world at a very young age.

The Game Of Life

At age 17 I was married, the proud father of 4 (3 girls and 1 boy), a doctor with $40,000.00 in school loans, lived in a home that I would never pay off, and drove an orange mini-van. Thankfully, I am referring to the popular board game, The Game Of Life. Although what I mentioned may sound outrageous at first, that is mainly due to the fact that I first mentioned that I was 17. Had I left that portion out, many would believe it was true. The Game Of Life is a simulation of the events that an individual goes through from high-school all the way to retirement. While from one angle it is a family favorite that keeps people excited in seeing what happens next, it is mirror of what life really is: unpredictable.

From the very start of the game, one must make a hard decision: skip college and start making money immediately, or go to college and take out a loan. If you look at the box for The Game Of Life, the game is geared toward those as young as 9 years old. At 9 years old, one is already having to make decisions that people twice their age are trying to make. While it is to a lesser degree, The Game Of Life shows how decisions can lead to a positive/negative result in the future. The game is so realistic that one of the elements that the game takes into account is how many children you have which leads to higher health bills as well as if you have home insurance for the times you get flooded (happens more than you think.)

While a few years have passed since the first time I played The Game Of Life, I still experience many of the ‘events’ from the game. From graduating from college and having to look for a job to deciding on what health insurance was best for me, The Game Of Life isn’t just a board game, it’s a dose of reality.

Where Did All The Play Money Go?

Most of the games that we played as a child revolved around the winner having the most of something. In most cases that meant having the most money. While I’m sure all of us would have loved to exchange that rainbow colored play dollars in for real money, the fact of the matter is that we can’t. Instead, we can enjoy the time we spent playing these games and apply the skills we learned and gained in real-life situations.

We can turn the lessons learned from the decisions made in The Game Of Life into a form of critical thinking and perspective decision making and can turn Rich Uncle Pennybags into a mentor to our business side. Just as a child we are given certain books to read to help nurture our development, board games like those mentioned have helped develop and inspire some of the great minds in our society.

As mentioned earlier, if life were a game we would have clear winners and losers. Winners would be the ones who walk away with all the money and the losers, the ones who made bad decisions. Life is not a game though. It is always changing, always unpredictable. We are not given rules, but instead given skills. What we do with those skills is up to us.

If Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Lawrence Ellison asked you to play Monopoly with them, what would you say? Would you turn it down or would you step up to the plate and win?

Photo by Dexell1827

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1 Comment

  • Reply Yu-kai Chou October 20, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    I’d step up to the plate and win.

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