The Game of Life

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The Game of Life
The Game of Life 人生ゲーム DSCF2280.jpg
Japanese-language version of the modern edition of The Game of Life
DesignersBill Markham
Reuben Klamer
PublishersMilton Bradley Company (Classic)
Winning Moves Games USA
Hasbro Gaming (Modern)
Publication1860; 163 years ago (1860) (Original) 1960; 63 years ago (1960) (Modern)
GenresBoard game
Players2 to 4 or 6
Setup time5 minutes (approx.)
Playing time1 hour (approx.)
ChanceHigh (spinning a wheel, card-drawing, luck)
Age range8+
SkillsCounting, 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, the first ever board game for his own company, the Milton Bradley Company. The Game of Life was US's first popular parlour game.[1] The game simulates a person's travels through their life, from early adulthood to retirement, with college if necessary, jobs, marriage, and possible children along the way. Up to six players, depending on the version, can participate in a single game.[3] Variations of the game accommodate up to ten players.

The modern version was originally published 100 years later, in 1960. It was created and co-designed by Bill Markham and Reuben Klamer, respectively,[4] and was "heartily endorsed" by Art Linkletter. It is now part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and an inductee into the National Toy Hall of Fame.


The Checkered Game of Life board

The game was originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley as The Checkered Game of Life, and was the first game created by Bradley, a successful lithographer. The game sold 45,000 copies by the end of its first year. Like many 19th-century games, such as The Mansion of Happiness by S. B. Ives[page needed] in 1843, it had a strong moral message.[5]

The game board resembled a modified checkerboard. The object was to land on "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. Instead of dice – which were associated with gambling – players used a six-sided top called a teetotum.

Modern game[edit]

In 1960 the modern Game of Life was introduced. A collaboration between Reuben Klamer and Bill Markham, it consists of a track which passes along, over, and through small mountains, buildings, and other features. A player travels along the track in a small plastic automobile, according to the spins of a small wheel on the board with spaces numbered one through ten. Each car has six holes into which pegs are added as the player "gets married" and "acquires children". Some "early modern" editions have eight cars. The modern game pegs are pink and blue to distinguish the genders (blue for male, pink for female). Each player starts the game with one peg that matches their gender.

There is also a bank which includes money in $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, and $100,000 bills; automobile, life, fire, and/or homeowners' insurance policies (depending on the version); $20,000 promissory notes and stock certificates. Other tangibles vary between versions of the game. $500 bills were dropped in the 1980s as were $1,000 bills in 1992. The rules in all different modern versions of the game are generally the same even though they may have different cards and spaces.


1960s version[edit]

The Game of Life, copyrighted by the Milton Bradley Company in 1960, had some differences from later versions. For example, once a player reached the "Day of Reckoning" space, they had to choose one of two options. The first was to continue along the road to "Millionaire Acres," if the player believed they had enough money to out-score all opponents. The second option was to try to become a "Millionaire Tycoon" by betting everything on one number and spinning the wheel. The player immediately won the game if the chosen number came up, or went to the "Poor Farm" and was eliminated if it did not. If no player became a Millionaire Tycoon, the one with the highest final total won the game. In addition, there were spaces that forced a player to go back; in the case a player landed on one of these, they were forced to take the shortest route and pay no attention to any penalties and rewards in doing so.

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."

As of 2022, Winning Moves markets a classic 1960s edition.

1970s/1980s versions[edit]

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 "Poor Farm" was renamed "Bankrupt!" in which losing players would "Retire to the country and become a philosopher", and "Millionaire Acres" was shortened to "Millionaire!" in which the winner can "Retire in style". Like the 1960s version, there were spaces that forced a player to go back; in the case a player landed on one of these, they were forced to take the shortest route and pay no attention to any penalties and rewards in doing so.

The gold "Revenge" squares added a byline, "Sue for damages", in the 1978 edition.[6]

1991 version[edit]

Exactly seven years after Hasbro acquired the Milton Bradley Company, The Game of Life was updated in 1991 to reward players for good behavior, such as recycling trash and helping the homeless, by awarding players "Life Tiles", each of which was worth a certain amount[citation needed]. At the end of the game, players added up the amounts on the tiles to their cash total, and counted towards the final total. The spaces that forced players to go back were removed, starting with this version.

The 1998 PC and Sony PlayStation video game adaptations of The Game of Life by Hasbro's own video game production company are based on this version. Players could play either the "classic" version using the Life Tiles, or the "enhanced" version where landing on a space with a Life Tile allow players to play one of several mini-games. The PC version was later re-released in 2003 by Atari Interactive, under ownership from Infogrames Entertainment SA, as the result of a merger between Hasbro Interactive and the old Atari Interactive.

2005 version[edit]

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.

2013 version[edit]

The 2013 version removed the lawsuit square which was replaced by a lawsuit card. A new "keep this card for 100k" feature was added as well.

2017 version[edit]

The 2017 version includes pegs and squares for acquiring pets.

2021 version[edit]

Includes invest cards and 6 different peg colors. Also included a pets edition.

Other versions[edit]

Board games[edit]

Video games[edit]

Television show[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Game of Life History - Invention of the Game of Life". The Great Idea Finder. 2006-10-27. Archived from the original on 2019-09-11.
  2. ^ "The Game of Life". Hasbro. Archived from the original on November 26, 2018. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  3. ^ Some printings of the Game of Life are marked as two to six players; others are marked as two to four players[2]
  4. ^ "Hall of Fame Inductees". Toy Industry Association. Archived from the original on 12 April 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  5. ^ Lepore, Jill (May 21, 2007). "The Meaning of Life". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on October 23, 2007. Retrieved November 19, 2007.
  6. ^ "Game of Life - 1978 manual" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  7. ^ "LIFE - My Little Pony Edition announced to be for release late 2014". Archived from the original on 2014-03-02. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
  8. ^ "The Game of Life Jurassic Park Edition Game, Family Board Game for Kids Ages 8 and Up, Inspired by the Original Hit Movie". Hasbro. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  9. ^ "The Game of Life: 2016 Edition". Archived from the original on 2016-08-04. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  10. ^ "The Game of Life 2 - contemporary sequel by Marmalade Game Studio". Marmalade Game Studio. 6 May 2020. Retrieved 2021-01-24.
  11. ^ "The Game of Life 2 Coming to Xbox Soon". 29 Nov 2022.

External links[edit]