The Games We Played!
It is the first board game I remember playing as a kid. It had ladders and red chutes to take you up or down. Somewhere along the line no matter what your age you are bound to have come across the Chutes and Ladders game. It encompasses the ultimate highs and lows as you strive to be the person who reaches square 100 and win the game. I suppose for young kids the game is supposed to be a learning experience as the consequences for what you do either get punished or rewarded. I’m reminded of the giant ladder that happens when you rescue a cat from a tree! That ladder takes you way up to square 84 and in striking distance of victory! I also remember the extreme low feeling as after climbing the ultimate ladder of success you spin a three and land on the slide that takes you down to almost rock bottom. The culprit of the slide was trying to get a cookie from the cookie jar. Climbing up to get it you fall and break the cookie jar. Chutes and Ladders is a game of rewards and punishments although the crime or the achievement doesn’t necessarily relate to the amount of reward or punishment you get. For example that cookie jar episode slides you all the way down the board where other episodes such as eating green apples and getting sick or skating on thin ice and ending up in the water costs you much less. Whatever happens we are taught young to keep going and try to get to square 100 and win the game.
My sister had a game called “Life” in which players got a car and made their way around the board gaining money, fame, and a family. The object of the game was to get through life and retire in a wonderful retirement place. The ultimate loss was when you ended up after all of your efforts in the poor house. Throughout the game you were either lucky enough to hit the career of your dreams and raise the ultimate family, or you were unlucky and hit all of the wrong spaces. Players competed against each other to reach the ultimate prizes first. The game of “Life” was supposed to mirror how real life is and to a point I think it succeeded.
The game that I remember most as a child was Monopoly. My family played Monopoly often. The consistent part of the game for us was the game pieces. Each of us had our favorites and used them every time. My sister was the dog, I was the car, my mom was the thimble, and dad was the shoe. The game started out friendly and fun enough as everyone rolled the dice and moved their spaces from the starting position. At first it was just a matter of landing on properties and buying that property if it were available. As you went further around the board the properties costed more but their value increased too. After a few times around the board and collecting $200 each time around the ownership of the properties usually varied. It took three like properties owned to put up houses and eventually hotels on those properties. Usually ownership was scattered and deals were attempted between family members. I’ll give you two orange ones for the yellow Marvin Gardens I’m missing. That was the type of deals offered in the quest to at least have a matching set. As the game progressed houses and hotels sprang up. Hitting the space of your opponent at that stage could get costly. Staying at a hotel was a major cost and if you didn’t have the money you had to mortgage the properties you owned. The other option was that if you had houses or hotels up you could reduce what you had in order to raise funds to pay off your bill. To win the game you tried to achieve a monopoly of the whole board. This was created at your competitions expense as when they hit your hotel space they had to pay. Eventually the game gets serious as players can’t avoid hitting hotels and when they can’t pay they are eliminated from the game and their properties go back to the bank to be purchased by other players who happen to land on them. The game ended rather sadly for three of the four players as one has all of the money while the others have mortgaged everything and are forced to quit.
I remember many times I was on the brink of tears as I was forced to mortgage my properties and eventually leave the game. Monopoly was a game of reality I guess with hard consequences. I liked to play the game but my attention probably wandered some as kids will do. My sister was the same way. She could start talking to my mom about something and lose her train of thought. Mom played the game more as a family thing and encouraged us to have fun. Dad played the game seriously and was all about winning. There were certain things about Monopoly that was fun and entertaining. For instance there were a couple of decks of cards that you picked up after landing on certain spaces. One particular card stated “Go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. This card was one of the least desirable cards. What struck me about it though was the directly to jail part. I’m sure without it’s exact detail players would make a profit before reaching their destination.
The game of monopoly encourages dishonest play. If someone lands on your property or you land on theirs, they have to recognize it and ask for the house or hotel payment. If the next person rolls the dice it is too late to collect your rent or have them collect from you. Sometimes my sister or I may have gotten our minds off of the game and someone happened to stay on our property for free. This would happen to mom too sometimes, but I have a feeling she may have had sympathy on us sometimes. Dad would always collect his rent because he was always paying attention. Dad would also be the one keeping the game going along by getting the next person to play. This could work to his advantage if he happened to have landed on one of our hotels and we had become distracted. The lesson learned in our young minds was if you can get away with something (not paying the rent) then that’s OK. The object of the game was to have a monopoly of the board, not to be an honest Joe and paying what you owe!
The game of monopoly had one serious flaw in rational behavior. If I were poor why would I travel to some of the most expensive hotels around and spend money I couldn’t afford? I guess that in reality people do similar things. It may not be a hotel bill but people are constantly spending money they don’t have. I guess that is why the credit card industry is always flourishing! Maybe the lesson should be the exact opposite of what the game taught me. Be satisfied with what you have and don’t spend money you don’t have. Stay home more and enjoy the things in life that money can’t buy!
Looking back, these three board games tried to shape my little mind on how to be successful. Success in the games was derived by thinking only about myself and how I could get ahead of the competition. They emphasized retiring in comfort, monopolizing all of the property and money, and winning the race to square 100. In reality many of us live our lives with the same goals as the games we used to play as kids. The successful formulas of winning at board games doesn’t translate into success in the real world. Oh there might be a feeling of worldly success one achieves by owning material goods. Achieving that success usually results in emptiness as we realize there has to be more. Chutes and ladders teaches us to keep going no matter what other people are going through on the way. Perhaps we should stop our quest of getting to square 100 and help some of our fallen brothers and sisters along the way. Maybe someone has had a long slide down in life and it has broken them much like that cookie jar. By reaching a helping hand their way we are acting as God’s hands and feet upon this earth. Acts of kindness reflecting God’s love in us will never go unrewarded. Helping hurting people at the bottom of slides is far greater than achieving the worlds ladders of success. The peace and hope that God gives us far surpasses anything that square 100 has to offer!