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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 Game of Life was America's first popular parlour game.[1] 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 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
Designer(s)Reuben Klamer
Bill Markham
Publisher(s)Milton Bradley Company and Winning Moves
Players2 to 6
Setup time10 minutes (approx.)
Playing time1 hour (approx.)
Random chanceHigh (spinning a wheel, card-drawing, luck)
Skill(s) requiredCounting, reading

The modern version was originally published 100 years later, in 1960. It was created and co-designed by toy and game designer Reuben Klamer[2] 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. (His most important product to that point had been a portrait of Abraham Lincoln with a clean-shaven face, which did not do well once Lincoln grew his famous beard.) 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 in 1843, it had a strong moral message.[3]

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 gameEdit

In 1960 the modern version, The 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 1 through 10. 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.

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.


1960s versionEdit

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 had to choose between moving on to "Millionaire Acres" (if they had a lot of money), or trying to become a "Millionaire Tycoon" (if they had little or no money) with the risk of being sent to the "Poor Farm".

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."

Winning Moves currently markets a classic 1960's edition.

1970s/1980s versionsEdit

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" is not present in this edition; however, players who were risking their cash (or car if they were penniless) on being a "Millionaire Tycoon" still ran the risk of losing all their cash and sitting out the rest of the game at Bankrupt if the number they bet on the strip does not show up when the wheel stops spinning.

The gold "Revenge" squares added a byline, "Sue for damages", in the 1978 edition.[4]

1991 versionEdit

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

2005 versionEdit

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 versionsEdit

Board gamesEdit

Video gamesEdit

Television showEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Game of Life History - Invention of The Game of Life".
  2. ^ "Hall of Fame Inductees". Toy Industry Association. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  3. ^ Lepore, Jill. The Meaning of Life "The New Yorker," May 21, 2007.
  4. ^ "Game of Life - 1978 manual" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  5. ^ LIFE - My Little Pony Edition announced to be for release late 2014
  6. ^ The Game of Life: 2016 Edition

External linksEdit