If you've ever been excruciatingly bored on a rainy day during a statewide blackout, you might have resorted to playing Milton Bradley's The Game Of Life, a classic board game in which players reenact all of life's major milestones (buy a car, get a job, etc.) over 45 endless minutes.
But what you may not realize is that Life dates back to the Civil War -- and the game used to be much, much darker.
In 1860, Milton Bradley was a professional lithographer whose business was destroyed when Abraham Lincoln decided to grow a mighty beard, rendering all of his prized prints of a beardless Lincoln unsalable. (Seriously!) And Bradley's plan to save himself from destitution? A board game called The Checkered Game Of Life, which Bradley described as a "highly moral game ... that encourages children to lead exemplary lives and entertains both old and young with the spirit of friendly competition."
But the actual game was way grimmer than that sales pitch let on. In rules provided to the United States Patent Office, Bradley noted that some squares were fatal. "If a player moves into Prison, under any circumstances, he must lose one move. Whoever moves to Suicide is thrown out of the game." That's right, if there were more than two players, anyone who landed on the Suicide square had to quit immediately and wait for the rest of their friends to finish the dreary affair.
After depressing children for a century, The Checkered Game Of Life finally dumped its heavy-handed moralizing in 1960 and began to resemble the game kids today know and barely tolerate.
This sure sounds a hell of a lot like the plot of a certain Christmas movie.
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