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The Game of Life
Designer Reuben Klamer
Bill Markham
Publisher Milton Bradley Company
Players 2 to 6
Age range 9 to Adult
Setup time 10 minutes (approx.)
Playing time 45 minutes (approx.)
Random chance High (spinning a wheel, card-drawing, luck)
Skills required Counting, reading

The Game of Life, also known simply as LIFE, is a board game originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley, as The Checkered Game of Life (and later produced by the Milton Bradley Company of Springfield, Massachusetts). The Game of Life was America's first popular parlor game.[1][2] The game simulates a person's travels through his or her life, from college to retirement, with jobs, marriage, and possible children along the way. Two to six players can participate in one game. Variations of the game accommodate eight to ten players.

The modern version was originally published 100 years later, in 1960. It was created by toy and game designer Reuben Klamer[3] and was "heartily endorsed" by Art Linkletter. It is now part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. It later spawned a book, The Game of Life: How to Succeed in Real Life No Matter Where You Land (Running Press), by Lou Harry.


The Checkered Game of Life board

The game was originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley as The Checkered Game of Life. This was the first game created by Bradley, a successful lithographer, whose major product until that time was a portrait of Abraham Lincoln with a clean-shaven face, which did not do well once the subject grew his famous beard. The game sold 45,000 copies by the end of its first year. Like many games from the 19th century, such as The Mansion of Happiness by S.B. Ives in 1843, it had a strong moral message.[4]

Bradley's game did not include dice, instead using a teetotum, a six-sided top (dice were considered too similar to gambling).

The game board was essentially a modified checkerboard. The object was to land on the "good" spaces and collect 100 points. A player could gain 50 points by reaching "Happy Old Age" in the upper-right corner, opposite "Infancy" where one began.

In 1960, the 100th anniversary of The Checkered Game of Life, the first modern version of The Game of Life, a collaboration between Reuben Klamer and Bill Markham, was introduced. The game was re-published many times over the years, including 1961, 1966, 1978, 1985, 1992, 2000, and 2005.


The modern game consists of a track on which players travel by spinning a small wheel (in the center of the board) with spaces numbered 1 through 10. The board also contains small mountains, buildings, and other three-dimensional objects. Playing pieces are small, colored, plastic automobiles which come in red, blue, white, yellow, orange, and green; each car has six holes in the top in which blue and/or pink "people pegs" are placed throughout the game as the player "gets married" and has or adopts "children". Some "early modern" editions have eight automobiles.

Each game also includes a setup for a bank, which includes play money (in denominations of $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, and $100,000. The $500 bills were dropped in the 1980s, as were the $1,000 bills in 1992.), insurance policies (automobile, life, fire, and/or homeowners' insurance depending on the version), $20,000 promissory notes and stock certificates. Other tangibles vary with the game version.


1960s version[]

The Game of Life, copyrighted by the Milton Bradley Company in 1963, had some differences from later versions. For example, once a player reached the Day of Reckoning, they could end up at the "Poor Farm", or become a Millionaire Tycoon, moving on to Millionaire Acres.

This version had Art Linkletter as the spokesman, included his likeness on the $100,000 bills (with his name displayed on the bills as "Arthur Linkletter Esq.") and a rousing endorsement from Linkletter on the cover of the box. It was advertised as a "Milton Bradley 100th Anniversary Game" and as "A Full 3-D Action Game."

1970s/1980s versions[]

About halfway through the production of this version, many dollar values doubled. This description focuses on the later version with the larger dollar amounts. The late 1980s version also replaced the convertibles from earlier versions with minivans. Early 1960s-era convertibles were still used in the 1978 edition.

The "Revenge" squares were renamed "Sue for damages" in the 1978 edition.[5]

1991 version[]

The Game of Life was updated in 1991 to reward players for "good" behavior, such as recycling trash and helping the homeless.

2005 version[]

An updated version of the game was released in 2005 with a few gameplay changes. The new Game of Life reduced the element of chance, although it is still primarily based on chance and still rewards players for taking risks.

Other versions[]

  • Super Jinsei Game series
    • Super Jinsei Game Super Famicom video game (1994)
    • Super Jinsei Game 2 Super Famicom video game (1995)
    • Super Jinsei Game 3 Super Famicom video game (1996)
  • The Game of Life in Monstropolis (Monsters, Inc.) (2001)
  • Sailor Moon Edition (Japan Only)
  • The Game of Life Card Game (2002)
  • Fame Edition (or Game of Life Junior/travel version) (2002)
  • Star Wars: A Jedi's Path (2002)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (2004)
  • The Simpsons Edition (2004)
  • Bikini Bottom SpongeBob SquarePants Edition (2004)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
  • The Game of Life/Yahtzee/Payday Game Boy Advance game
  • Twists and Turns Edition (2007)
  • The Game of Life Express (2007)[1]
  • Monsters, Inc version
  • The Game of Life Wii game (2008)
  • Indiana Jones Edition (2008, Target exclusive)
  • Pokémon Edition (Japan only)
  • SpongeBob SquarePants Edition (2008)
  • Family Guy Collectors Edition (2008)
  • The Game of Life WiiWare game (2009) (Japan Only)
  • The Wizard of Oz Edition (2009)
  • The Game of Life - Haunted Mansion Theme Park Edition (2009)
  • The Game of Life Classic Edition iPhone game (2009)
  • Hasbro Family Game Night 3 for Xbox 360, Wii, and PlayStation 3 video game platforms, and was also later released as part of the Hasbro Family Game Night Fun Pack, which consisted as a compilation of both Hasbro Family Game Night 2 and Hasbro Family Game Night 3.
  • Rite Aid Pharmacy, The Game of Life Collect and Win game (2010)
  • The Game of Life High School Edition (aka "Pink Edition")
  • LIFE: Rock Star Edition
  • Game Show Edition on The Hub (2011)
  • The Game of LIFE: It's a Dog's Life Edition (2011)
  • LIFE: My Little Pony Edition (Announced for release late 2014) [6]

See also[]

  • Life as a BlackMan (board game)


External links[]