The original Game of Life was incredibly dark


Ah, the Game of Life. It’s about as offensive as a bowl of Jello. But the original one from a hundred years
earlier? It had squares like…this. The first Game of Life wasn’t just a game. It was a form of moral instruction. And it says something about how society thinks
life should be lived then and now. In a way, the Game of Life started when this
chin disappeared. Milton Bradley was a young lithographer — basically
a printer — in Massachusetts when he made a thousand prints of this man running
for president in 1860. When Abraham Lincoln grew a beard, those prints
were worthless. So Bradley had to pivot. He took his printing skills and let them loose
on a young medium: board games. The Checkered Game of Life was his first game
— and it became a hit. Players started at infancy. They spun a teetotum — this thing — to
determine options for their move. You had control to choose your
move once you spun. The goal was to hit 100 points, through 5-point milestones like college, and Congress, or big ones, like 50 points for Old Age. The game’s patent shows that Milton
Bradley’s Life was more than just a social game. It was about great moral principles. Elizabeth Peabody founded the first English
kindergarten in the United States in 1860. Milton Bradley published this portrait of
her well after his Lincoln failure. He also volunteered to teach his own daughter’s
kindergarten class in Springfield, Massachusetts, after the success of Life. And he used his business, Milton Bradley and
Company, to publish games and educational tools, including more than 40 books about
the new Kindergarten curriculum. They made a wide variety of learning tools,
from educational puzzles to influential color wheels. Education became Bradley’s passion, and
the original Game of Life predicted that — it was a way to teach “the checkered journey
of life” to children — and adults. That weird spinner, the teetotum? That was originally to avoid cards and dice,
because they were associated with gambling. The location of each spot also taught a lesson. Old age was surrounded by many difficulties. “Poverty lies near the cradle,” but passing
through it didn’t hurt you in the beginning of the game. Setbacks didn’t earn you points, but most
didn’t kick you out of the game, either. Honesty led to happiness. Industry, to wealth. And perseverance led to success. “I made 50,000 in the stock market today.” “That’s Life”
In 1960, long after Milton Bradley died, the company — which by then was mostly making
games — dug Life from the archives, choosing it over a long list of other games the company
had once published. They adapted it to 1960s America with a candy-colored
spinner and stacks of cash and cars that could load up a full family of baby boomers to places
like Millionaire Acres. “I went to the Poor Farm.” “I’m on Millionaire Acres!” It centered around paydays, where the value
of winning a Nobel was the cash prize that came with it. The winner is the person with the most money. Today’s versions are almost identical, with
tweaks for jobs and hot brand integrations. “That’s life.” There was no more disgrace but there also
wasn’t bravery, or honor, or truth. Both versions are the Game of Life. Which one should we play? So when game night is over, you want your
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