Mike and I have been trying to get in the habit of reserving Sunday evenings for Date Night. Because both of us are self-employed and work from home, our irregular daily routines and Mike’s gig schedule have more or less eliminated the concept of a conventional weekend. We also spend a lot of time in the same space (we’re not complaining, I swear), so setting regular night aside to do something special with each other helps create a boundary between work and play.

It’s been fun so far. We’ve gone to festivals, dive bars and even to watch animals eat

If you're ever at a loss for what to do on a date, go to a zoo. Best date ever.

pumpkins on Halloween at the Potter Park Zoo. For about the last month, however, Sunday night rolls around after a busy week, and all we want to do is stay home for once. In order to stay to true to our date night model, we’ll think of something special to do at home. Last week we decided to play a game. We were sick of all the board games we have, so we looked to see what was available for download on my iPad.

I was so geeked when I found The Game of Life. It had been years since I’d played it, but I remember it being really fun and imaginative. I paid the invisible gods at the App Store $6.99 and we started to play.

At first I was wowed the whole thing. The animated spinner, watching my car drive through the game board at dashboard level, even the changing of the seasons on the board as we drove through “Life” was impressive. The graphics are fun, and let’s face it – everything that happens on a iPad is a certain level of awesome.

The game itself was not exactly the barrel of monkeys I’d remembered it to be. Maybe it’s because doing things like earning a salary or getting a student loan or becoming engaged are a little less exciting when you’ve been there, done that in reality. Playing store used to be my favorite game when I was little too, but I rarely ask cashiers if I can take a turn pushing the buttons on their registers anymore. (I admit this quietly so the little Natalie inside of me doesn’t hear and become disappointed in me.)

What really bummed me out was that with an adult perspective of what the real game of life is all about, the Milton Bradley version seems sad at best, and a little psychotic at worst. And not good, clean psychotic fun like Candyland. The goal of the Game of Life is to make as much money as you can. That’s it. That’s the whole kit and caboodle. You

It is really charming when it snows. And look at all the money I have! Money, money, money!

might pretend that getting married and having kids is important too, but getting married happens by default, and the only fun in it is spinning for gifts. You might stumble over some kids too, but they don’t benefit you at all except for another possible gift. You don’t get to fall in love or teach your kids how to read; you just add blue or pink people to your car.

The same is true with careers. You occasionally get to choose whether to be a doctor or a firefighter, but you’ll always choose doctor because you make more money. It’s not like you’re going to get the chance to play with a fire hydrant one way or the other. You also never spend any of your doctor’s salary on food, which seems troublingly misleading, what with all of those pink and blue plastic bellies to feed in the backseat. All of the creativity and fun of living is stripped from the Game of Life because the goal of ending up with the most money can’t be balanced with “having a good time along the way.” After you get over the fun touchscreen animation stuff, “the way” isn’t all that good of a time. The moral of the game is that life is a series of lucky spins, and when you do get a chance to make a decision, the best choice is always what will make you more money. It’s the only factor that matters.

It's all about the spinner, in The Game of Luck - I mean Life. Which isn't so bad because the spinner is the most fun part.

My point? I’m now $6.99 closer to losing my personal game of life. Or at least I’ll never get that money back. Obviously I was able to find the Game of Life fun as a kid without becoming permanently brainwashed, and I’m sure most others escaped the same peril. I’m still disconcerted that the popular board game meant to imitate life teaches what I would consider to be a roadmap to emptiness.

Though I imagine it won’t make much of a difference in their characters, when it’s my turn to plug little pink or blue stick figures into the back of my real station wagon, I’ll likely steer them away from The Game of Life. We’ll play games that enforce more nuanced morals. Like Sorry, where you ruthlessly knock everyone out of your way to win a race to the top of an upside down thermostat. Yup. We’ll play Sorry in the Vial household on game night, and we’ll have the fastest, luckiest most competitive triangular-shaped, primary-colored children of them all.

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