Tabletop Game: Game of Life

The Game of Life, originally known as The Checkered Game of Life, is a game created by Milton Bradley in which you literally go through your life, from college to retirement. Along the way, you start a career, get married, and even have children, if you're lucky. The game has evolved drastically over the years; while play pretty much remained the same from the 1960's through 1990, dollar values were occasionally adjusted for inflation, with the biggest change to the game coming in 1991. In 1998, a CD-ROM version of the game was created for PC, and in 2005, the game was re-released with even further changes. As many as six (sometimes eight or ten) people can play the game, depending on how many game pieces Milton Bradley felt like putting into your copy of the game that day.

A typical turn of the game is as follows: Spin the multicolored wheel (numbered 1-10) in the middle of the gameboard, advance that number of spaces, and do what the space you land on tells you to (usually collect or pay money). Along the way, there are "Pay Day" spaces which give you a salary whether you land on or pass them, as well as spaces at which you must stop while participating in a major life event such as buying a house. You begin the game with two choices: go to college, which puts you at a financial disadvantage at first but gives you more career options; or go immediately into a job, but have fewer career options (in the original game, a flat salary lower than ANY job available on the "college" route.) Soon after that, you travel a bit before getting married. Then, you own a house. After that, it's pretty much free-for-all. You can land on spaces that cause you to lose your job, collect or pay money, have children, and more. The game ends with your retirement, the manner in which you do so determined by how quickly you ended the game, as well as how much money you think you ended with in comparison to the other players.

In the 1960-1990 version, milestones such as getting married and having children were celebrated by that player "collecting presents", small amounts of money from each of the other players. This was ReTooled in 1991 to the collection of LIFE Tiles, which had a much more significant impact at the end of the game (awarding large amounts of money for "notable events" you were a part of during your life).

In the current version of the game, upon retirement you can choose to live in Countryside Acres (more or less a "safe zone") or Millionaire Estates (a route that offers more chances to score large amounts of cash, provided you arrive there first). In the classic version, all cars ended at the Millionaire space unless a player who was knowingly significantly behind attempted to force a Non-Standard Game Over by risking everything on one spin of the wheel. Going for broke and failing resulted in that player being placed on the "Bankrupt" space, which would become the more forgiving Countryside Acres in the Re Tool.

This game was America's first popular parlor game. It shouldn't be confused with the cellular automaton "game" created by John Horton Conway.

Special editions of the board games have been created for various franchises, such as, Pirates of the Caribbean (2004), Pokémon (Japan only), and Family Guy (2008). Video game versions have been created for the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo Wii, and bundles with the game Hasbro Family Game Night, which is available for PlayStation and Xbox 360. There's also an iPhone app. A Game Show based on the board game premiered on September 17, 2011, but was canceled in May 2012.

The board game provides the following franchise tropes note :

  • Big First Choice: Rare non-video game example: going to college affects how much money you start with, your career options, and your earning potential (which will in turn affect your likelihood of retiring well-off). Currently, going to college puts you $40,000 in debt from the start of the game.
  • Bonus Space: The LIFE Tiles in the current version. In the original, "Lucky Day", "Revenge", and landing on a Pay Day.
  • Boring but Practical: The spinner.
  • Call Back: The 50th Anniversary edition of the game, which retains the LIFE Tiles and other elements of the 1991 reboot, while resurrecting and in places expanding on elements of the classic game such as Share the Wealth cards.
  • Calling Your Shots: "Lucky Day" and going for broke in the original. The original rules also allowed for one to place side bets on the wheel, which paid off 10 to 1 if the player spun the number you called.
  • Cherry Tapping: It's possible to be a doctor (the highest paying job in the game at $100,000) and live in a mobile home. Pretty embarrassing if your friend is a simple police officer and lives in a Victorian mansion.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Several examples of things taken out with the 1991 Re Tool:
    • "Share the Wealth" cards, which were earned by landing on Pay Day. "Collect" cards entitled the bearer to half of what an opponent received on a "collect" space; "Pay" cards forced an opponent to pay half of what one was penalized on a "pay" space, and "Exemption Cards" nullified a Share the Wealth card played against the bearer.
    • REVENGE spaces, which when landed on allowed a player to take $200,000 from an opponent or send them back 10 spaces.
    • The Toll Bridge, which entitled the first one to cross it the right to charge a $24,000 "toll" to any opponents crossing it thereafter, unless he was sent back over it via Revenge.
  • Double Unlock: Many of the highest-paying spaces in the original, which required you to own stock; therefore, you had to first buy stock, then land on said spaces.
  • Exact Words: "Split-level", the cheapest home; it's been through an earthquake. The PC "split-level", still the cheapest, is an adobe house.
  • Extra Turn: After you land on one of the three "stop" squares (Career Choice, Get Married, Buy a House) and follow its instructions, you spin again immediately.
  • Fictional Currency: Ranging from $1,000 ($500 pre-inflation) to $100,000 bills.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The Tudor house deed: "Tufloors, tubaths, tucar garage. Perfect for tupeople with tukids or more!"
  • Instant-Win Condition: Becoming a "Millionaire Tycoon" in the classic version; see below.
  • Luck-Based Mission: On par with Candy Land, but with less room for house rules that add strategy.
    • When it's time to buy a house, you draw just one card. It can be anything from the aforementioned "split-level" shack to a Victorian mansion.
    • You get children only if you land on certain spaces, which are distributed more frequently toward the first half of the game.
  • Min-Maxing: While there's little opportunity to exploit the rules of the game, from a purely mathematical standpoint...
    • The accountant is the highest-paying job. It has the most spaces where players must pay you, and you never pay taxes.
      • On the flip side, the police officer is the worst job. It has exactly one space on an optional path. Its primary source of income is from "speeding tickets"; anyone that spins a 10 must pay $5,000 to the police officer. It's a glorified stock option, but even those pay twice as much.
    • Children are bad. Their only purpose is to make you pay money on some spaces, and they give no benefits in return except for the LIFE Tile you gain on having one.
      • They had a more significant impact in the classic version, as each one was worth a significant amount of money ($48,000 post-inflation) at retirement.
    • The best house to get is the "split-level", because it is the cheapest. The worst house to have is the luxurious Victorian, because it is the most expensive. There are no in-game benefits to living in comfort - although which house you get is entirely up to luck of the draw. An "Enhanced Game" mode on the PC game remedies this somewhat, with the house gaining or losing value by the end of the game.
    • Never get auto or house insurance, because there are very few spaces which penalize you for being uninsured, and you have a better-than-even chance of avoiding all of them in any given playthrough.
  • Minigame Game: The Classic version had TONS of mini-games, each involving the wheel (the PC "Enhanced Game" retains some of these and even adds a few):
    • "Playing the Market" if you owned Stock; depending on your spin, your stock would go down, forcing you to pay; break even; or go up, allowing you to collect money.
    • The variant of "collecting presents" for getting married; the wheel spin dictated how much money the other players gave you for your "honeymoon".
    • "Lucky Day"; landing on one of these spaces allowed you to take a flat $20,000 or give it up for a chance to call two numbers and spin; landing on one of the two numbers awarded you $300,000.
    • Going for "Millionaire Tycoon" at the end of the game, when it was clear you had no other chance to win. You selected one number and spun. Landing on that number resulted in an Instant-Win Condition; any other number resulted in an instant loss.
  • Multiple Game Openings: Before you begin your first turn, you must choose whether to start on the College path or the Career (formerly Business) path.
    • If you choose College, you begin $40,000 in debtMath! , although this is peanuts compared to what you'll earn later. The College path is nearly three times the length of the Career path, and has two "lose a turn" spaces, but there are no disadvantages to lagging behind the other players. About three turns in, you can then choose from three randomly drawn Careers and three randomly drawn salaries.
    • If you choose Career, you do not start in debt, you get your career and salary right away, and you earn an extra paycheck right away. However, the career and salary you get will likely be worse than if you choose the College path. You are locked out of the potentially most profitable jobs, and you must take the first career and salary you draw.
    • It is FAR more advantageous in the classic version to go to College. It costs only $2,000 thanks to two back to back "scholarship" and "tuition" spaces. The Business salary is a flat $12,000 (post-inflation) with the jobs along the College route ranging from $20,000 to $50,000. If you fail to land on one of the career spaces, your salary is only $16,000, but is still higher than what you would have earned going the shorter Business route.
    • The two paths merge less than 10% into the game.
  • Nobody Can Die: The game ends at retirement. The worst final fate that can await you is going Bankrupt.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Going for "Millionaire Tycoon" in the classic version and losing, or falling victim to someone who goes for Tycoon and wins.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Men and boys are represented by blue pegs, and women and girls are pink.
  • Re Tool: The game's rules were significantly overhauled in 1991 to allow for the collection of LIFE Tiles. They also discontinued "Share the Wealth" cards, severely lessened the impact of the Stock Certificate, and removed many of the classic version's mini-games.
  • Spin-Off: The Game of Life: Twists & Turns
  • Variable Player Goals: Averted. Every player's goal is to get the most money at the end of the game. This is in stark contrast to "Careers", a more obscure board game with a similar premise, where every player can define their own winning conditions.
  • Whammy: Some of the bigger "pay" spaces, but the following in particular:
    • The "Save Polluted Lake" space in the original; landing on it cost a player a whopping $240,000 (over four Pay Days even if your salary was the maximum $50,000). Probably out of growing public emphasis on environmental awareness, changed to collecting a LIFE Tile in the reboot.
    • "You're Fired!" or "Mid-Life Crisis" in the current version, if you have a high-paying job; you must go through the job selection process again without the possibility of picking your old job or salary card again. Averted with "Night School", in which case the re-selection is optional but costs you $20,000 should you choose to do so.
  • Zonk: "Aunt Leaves You 50 Cats" and "Uncle Leaves You a Skunk Farm" in the classic version; both cost you $20,000.

The 1998 PC game provides the following tropes note :

  • Minigame Game: "Enhanced Game" replaces all of the LIFE Tiles with some of the mini-games from the 1960-1990 board game (including revamped "collect presents" and "revenge" mechanics) and adds a few called "Life's Little Games". In addition, the wheel dictates how much your house costs initially, as well as how much you are able to sell it for at the end of the game.
  • Whammy: Finding a Skunk in the mini-game "Skunk Money".