Life. The metaphorical game of all metaphorical games. Few board games are as didactic, and almost none as true to reality. Career or college? Kids or no kids? Retire as a millionaire or go bankrupt? Life paints life in absolutes, which, if you think about it, is pretty damn accurate, just so long as you don’t think about it too much.
In keeping with the changing times, Milton Bradley has been wise enough to release updated versions of the game on a fairly regular basis since Life’s popularization in the 1960s, when college didn’t cost more than an above-average Midwestern home and Art Linkletter was still a household name. In fact, the latest version was released just a few years ago, in 2005. Remember life in 2005? Life was peaches and cream in 2005.
Looming on the horizon, however, is 2009—and a few of 2009’s friends. These are the kind of friends who introduced your 13-year-old son to weed or got him caught at school with a dildo in his backpack. Recession, a weak U.S. dollar, high gas prices, and uncertain political climates at home and abroad add up to one gang you don’t want to front on. And Milton Bradley saw them coming—all despite his torn ACL and busy travel schedule with the Texas Rangers. Hence, a new version is in the works.
The forthcoming incarnation of Life, tentatively titled Life: 2009, retains most of the same rules and features, with slight tweaks designed to adhere to current standards of living. To prepare you for its momentous release, following is a glimpse at some of the changes players will encounter.
The game begins, as always, with a seemingly simple choice: career or college. The career choice is even less desirable in this version than in previous ones; now there are options such as teacher, fry guy, and something Milton Bradley simply calls “lumberer.” College is somewhat more appealing than a career, but each player must pass an officially administered SAT with a score of at least 1400 in order to truly reap the benefits of the scholastic option. Those who go to college must also sign a certificate of acknowledgment that, should they choose to pursue higher education, any future offspring will be automatically ineligible for college for obvious debt-related reasons. Players can always opt for the new community-college track; given the choice, however, they’d probably be better off just getting a job repairing sprinklers.
There exists a third option for beginning game play in Life: 2009: voluntary military service. This is tempting, as education is provided free of charge and a job is virtually guaranteed after discharge, so long as the player’s Humvee doesn’t land on the newly implemented “Deserter,” “PTSD,” or “Landmine” spaces strewn throughout the military path. On the downside, any children born to active-duty-military players must receive mandatory psychiatric treatment for attachment disorders and/or general behavioral problems, and a nonrefundable $10,000 fee must be paid for each. This also applies to spouses, of course, as does a fee for something Milton Bradley has dubbed “Alcohol Vouchers.”
Along the board path, differently colored spaces still signify certain events. The orange space signifying “Taxes Due,” for example, still exists, albeit more frequently (every two squares). Red spaces denoting major life events such as buying a house, getting married, and having kids are also still prevalent. One major difference, though, is that in Life: 2009 these red squares are referred to in the official rules as “Life Ruiners.”
Along the board path, there are still spaces marked with the Life logo, though the subsequently rewarded “Life Tiles” bear more modest returns than in previous versions. For example, tiles bearing highly significant accomplishments, such as “curing the common cold,” could, in recent versions, earn you a cool $100,000, whereas now tiles are adorned with more realistic events, such as “finding $10 in the Safeway parking lot,” which, incidentally, only earns the tile owner $5.
As previously mentioned, buying a house is possible in this version, although, to be fair, it is not required should the player land on such a square. In the official rules, Milton Bradley warns that players should wait until the release of the 2012 version of the game, at least, before attempting to buy a house, and even then they make no promises. Renters’ insurance is available, and strongly recommended, for any players residing in newly incorporated Life housing tenements.
Similarly, stock options and insurance, while available, are not wise purchases, as stock-market slumps are a given in the game’s current economic climate (bad), and Milton Bradley did not include the option to switch to Geico. Additionally, players may open a 401(k) account, though the chances of being able to leave these monies untouched until retirement are low, as are the chances of retirement.
If you do manage to reach retirement in Life: 2009, there are two options: Social Security or “the Cat-Food Diet.” For the sake of future generations of Life players, it is highly recommended that players go for the latter.
Finally, unlike in previous versions of the Game of Life, you cannot be a winner. In this version, there are none, obviously.