In summer 2011, the AU Library presented an exhibit on the history, theory, and practice of games and gaming. The exhibit highlighted a few of the important ideas and approaches that academics have brought to games within the United States and around the world. In doing so, the exhibit encouraged viewers to reflect on their own relationship to games, both on and off-campus.
The game of Life was first created in 1860 by Milton Bradley, a talented lithographer. The original game which was adapted from a checker board was called “The Checkered Game of Life.” Players began at “Infancy” on one corner of the board and gathered good points as they moved toward “Happy Old Age” at the opposite corner. A top or spinner was used instead of dice which were thought to have too strong an association with gambling. Looking at the illustration below, you may find it interesting to explore the values that are expressed in this immensely popular 19th century game.
In 1960 game designer Reuben Klamer created a new version of Life in honor of its centennial. This version, seen above, included three dimensional models. Players travelled around the board in cars and added pink or blue pegs as they got married or added children. One could earn or lose money along the way and find themselves in Millionaire Acres or in the Poor Farm at game’s end. This is essentially the version we know today, although it has evolved to respond to changing cultural values. For example, in the 1991 version, environmental and social values were introduced as players were rewarded for recycling trash, learning CPR, or helping the homeless. As with the game Monopoly, variants also emerged, as seen in the adjacent example of a Simpson’s version of the game.