Last updated: April 19, 2012 2:07 pm
The subliminal side of board games
Family game night teaches us some pretty skewed rules
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. (CUP) — Everyone knows that kids are a bunch of impressionable sacks of flesh. They're so eager to absorb new information that a lesson's content is often unquestioned. While in the midst of a recent board game session with my little brother, I began to realize just how many alarming lessons can lie within a game's instructions.
The most obvious example of this is in The Game of Life (made by Hasbro), which is specifically designed to walk you through the successes and failures one can expect over their lifetime. Nowhere else are society's basic norms laid out so blatantly for you. STOP! Get married. STOP! Buy yourself some real estate. Both are unavoidable in The Game of Life, even though real life quickly teaches us that not everyone has a ring and a mortgage to their name. The game enforces a traditional lifestyle, without much room for individuality. At the game's end, it doesn't matter how many kids you had, that you won the Nobel Peace Prize, or that you enjoyed everything along the way; the winner is whoever has accumulated the most wealth — because everyone knows that money is the most important thing in life.
The same can be said about Monopoly (Parker Brothers), everyone's favourite form of capitalism in a box. Your goal is to buy up as much real estate as possible, build up an empire on your monopoly of properties and force your competition into declaring bankruptcy. Sounds a bit like the Vancouver or Toronto scenes, doesn't it?
While we're on the topic of games that take an eternity to play, Risk, the game of strategic conquest (also made by Parker Brothers), revolves around players' abilities to dominate their opponents and wipe out armies until they've successfully conquered the entire world. I'm not a fan of war glorification and war in general, so that might explain why half of the times that I've played Risk have ended in myself and another player simply declaring world peace. Either that or the game takes an unbearably long time to finish.
My favourite board game of all time is 1313 Dead End Drive, a lesser-known game by — you guessed it — Parker Brothers. Rich Aunt Agatha has recently passed away, and your goal is to murder everyone else and escape with the most money. While everyone starts with $1 million, that's not considered a sufficient sum to be a winner. Greed is incredibly prominent in the game, while homicide is strongly encouraged.
There are a few games that actually endorse healthy habits and reward ethical qualities. Scrabble encourages proper spelling and rewards people with extensive lexicons, while Scattergories forces players to think creatively. Even Sorry found a way to incorporate proper manners instead of just having players massacre each other until there's only one person left.
People may argue that these are all just games and shouldn't be considered influential, but if violence and mature subject matters in other media are considered dangerously suggestive, then aren't board games also agents of influence?