27 May 99

The chocolate castle and Sarah's cake were fantastic! Five towers and a central keep. The roofs of the towers had pink "blossoms" with dragee centers around the lower edge, ditto around the top; tinfoil pennons streamed from colored toothpicks. Nine medallions of hard candies-- fortuitously inscribed with "S" by the manufacturer-- surrounded with pink "blossoms" appeared on the keep and around the sides of the angel food cake the castle sat upon. And when the eight candles surrounding the castle were lit, the castle glowed-- magic! Sarah was quite pleased. (Me, too. I was impressed.)

But I still haven't regained full use of my thumb. It's much improved, but it continues to make some things difficult-- my reach exceeds my grasp.

For her birthday, Sarah got a computer version of the old boardgame Life. That's the game where each player gets a little plastic car marker (with tiny peg in the driver's position representing the player) and, by spinning a wheel, travels along the board's pathways encountering varous "life situations," such as "get a job," "get married," "have a baby,"-- (for those you get to put a little blue or pink peg in your car with you)-- "buy a house." There are opportunities for making money, spending money, and for buying insurance against calamities such as having your car stolen, or your house flooded-- to tell you the truth, I can't remember what the specifics on the board game were: it's been too long since I played. But Sarah had me play the computer version with her last Sunday.

I found the game very disturbing-- and not only because events were being reduced to chance (I was given no choice about getting married, nor about the birth of my first child-- was there a connection? You'd think the 90's version wouldn't harken back to stoneage customs-- however I was given a choice about having the second child.), but because it began with leaving high school and ended with retirement.

If the game is truly about life, it should only end for the player at death, not at retirement. Retirement is a phase of life, rife with opportunities and chance occurences, not an end. I got quite upset when I was shut out of the game just because I had reached "Retirement."

It also bothers me greatly that this game sends the message to kids that things like marriage, children, and career are matters of chance. The game would be much improved if a decision was required of the player each time one of these events surfaced.

The old boardgame was limited by its very nature and could not accommodate players making choices, but the new game on computer can accommodate infinite choice scenarios and consequence paths. It seems to me that the computer version could be much more interesting than the developers of the old board game ever dreamed. With a computer there would be opportunities to make decisions for all sorts of events, expected and unexpected, as well as consequences for each decision made. A game like that could give a kid a very good idea of just how life really works.


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