Reflecting on the Power of Play: The Game of Life is Not a Game at All

Games urge us to look inward, examine our values, and prioritize what is important. Reflecting on his experience playing The Game of Life, one teen powerfully defines success in his own terms, naming what it takes to get there.

By iThrive Games
August 26, 2020

This is the third in our 'Power of Play' series of reflections by students from a Philadelphia-area high school. For extra credit in their sophomore English class, a few students shared their thoughts on questions such as, "How do games help you deal with life? What games are meaningful to you and how do they help you better understand yourself or the world? How do games help you question the way things are in the world?" To protect their privacy, their reflections are shared with initials rather than full names.

The Game of Life is Not a Game at All
E.S., High School Student, Philadelphia, PA

My name is E.S. I am a 16-year-old male from Philadelphia. Games changed my life. Growing up, all I did was play games with my friends and family, whether it was video games, board games, or even a card game.  There was one game that I played that really did change my life. It was called The Game of Life.

This was always my favorite game to play because I always thought that life would be as easy as it was in that game. Spin a wheel, move forward, get a car, get cash, and have a family. But I learned it is not that easy. I learned I cannot just spin a wheel and move forward in life. I cannot just keep on moving forward space after space because that is not reality. I cannot land on a space and earn cash or choose the career path or the college path because life is not that simple. 

I learned that if I want a career I have to work hard to get it. If I want to go to college I have to go through all of the stages that come before it in order to get there. If I want to make money I have to work hard for it. This game taught me that nothing in life is ever just handed down to you. It has to be earned through hard work and dedication. 

Another thing is family. In this game, there are spaces you can land on that allow you to get married and have children. What this game doesn't show us are the struggles many people face. What this game doesn't show us is how hard it can be to find real love in the world. It doesn't show us how hard raising a kid can be. Another space on the board is to buy a house, but again, this game doesn't show us the struggles many people face when it comes to moving out or finding your own home. 

In reality, you cannot just spin the wheel and hope to get the highest number. "The Game of Life" is a representation of a false reality, a utopia, and all the good things in life, but it doesn't show us all the struggles you have to go through to get to those coveted spaces. It doesn't show us how the more we try to move forward, the more we get held back. It doesn't show us all the pain and suffering that comes with life. It does not show us how life is not a game. 

Happiness is hard to find in the real world and I learned that the hard way. "The Game of Life" was the life I grew up always wanting, but I realized that what I want in life is to succeed the right way. No loopholes, no handouts. I want to make it through life knowing I earned it. This game changed my life but it changed it for the better.