The Game of Life Doesn't Take American Express

Board Game Teams Up With Visa

By Published on .

Milton Bradley and Visa made a big, uh, splash today by revealing that a new edition of the Game of Life coming out in August will replace fake cash with a Visa-branded card as the preferred currency. The co-marketers' announcement was met with completely unsurprising wave of disgust from watchdogs worried that this will just contribute to our youths' ease with accumulating mountains of debt.

Visa, clearly expecting this criticism, said that the game will incorporate parts of it financial literacy program. But that did little to cool the jets of Robert Manning, who told USA Today: "Children need an understanding that five ones is a five," says Robert Manning, author of "Credit Card Nation." "The credit card confounds everything."

The Game of Life has been around since 1960 and has gone through numerous iterations that, among other tweaks, have knocked out some politically-incorrect elements of gameplay. For instance, retirement options have morphed from Millionaire Acres vs. Poor Farm in the 1960s, to Millionaire vs. Bankrupt in the 1980s to Millionaire vs. Countryside Acres in the '90s. Clearly, a bit of truthiness has been lost in the quest to be PC.

The new version does in the ol' spin wheel, replacing it with an electronic thingamajig called the LifePod, which besides deciding how players move around the board will also apparently function as a lil' financial superego. In its press release, Visa described the LifePod in this decidedly unfun way: It "acts like a personal assistant and serves as the electronic banking unit, storing each of the players' financial data as well as their status in the game."

You'll be happy to know that, despite the LifePod's all-business undertones -- which if nothing else should prime tweens for decades of enslavement to their FICO store -- it's not all about the benjamins. It turns out that the winner of the new edition isn't the one who has the most cash, but the player who accumulates the most "life points," a combination of wealth and life points. Disappointingly, the press release doesn't describe exactly how this calculus works. (Not that Out of Site needs help in figuring out how to be happy.)

Even more disturbing than the news that the credit-card marketer is corrupting our children's credit ratings is the game's new layout. Rather than just zip around a common route, players have to choose from one of four "quadrants": adventure, family, college and career. Sure, the press release says that you can switch from quadrant to quadrant, but we've all heard that one before. Can't we just have it all -- at least in our board games?
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