By jeffrud 6 Comments
Yū Yū Jinsei
Release: 22 April 1988 (JP)
The Game of Life is abysmal. It’s the dirt worst board game. I rank it worse than Candy Land in a walk. Both games are abominable, make no mistake. However, I can think of at least one way to make Candy Land at least slightly more interesting and game-like: draw two cards and pick the better one. At that point you’re at least working with the children (because to be clear these are both baby games) on some basic strategy like making the most of choices. What’s there to do in The Game of Life? It’s a series of random events. There’s little to no meaningful interactions between players. It reduces life to its most shallow metric, the simple pursuit of money, as the only real goal or end point. I think it’s one of the most dismal indictments of capitalism ever produced.
I’ve spent some time in therapy over the last few years. One of the most helpful things I’ve gotten from that experience is being reminded of how much agency I actually have. It turns out I have the ability to simply walk away from bad experiences if I want. There may be consequences, sure, but I can choose to take those consequences. As for circumstances beyond my control, I can frame these events as random chance, as natural consequence, or as the whims of fate (feel free to capitalize the F). As it happens, a lot of events in the “outside of my control” column don’t feel great compared to events I can influence. As far as I care, that’s just that lack of agency making itself known.
I bring all of this point because The Game of Life is one extended exercise in having near zero agency. Beyond a few basic choices, the player is a passive observer to a game of chance. Money simply appears and disappears. You simply wind up married and with kids based on a plastic spinner. Your quality of life in the game’s take on your end of life is a simple function of how much money you randomly wound up with at a point on the board.
This is not only a horrible game on its face, I would argue, but also a profoundly awful worldview to even insinuate to the younger audience toward which such a rudimentary game is targeted. I would rather teach young people about their own agency, that they have the power to make meaningful choices throughout their lives. Furthermore, I would rather work toward a society which does not have money in hand and money contributed as the barometers for the sort of end of life care you deserve.
Growing up, I played The Game of Life with family members a few times. The thought of that bums me out. I can’t honestly say I’ve made life choices based on my seven year old experiences with The Game of Life. But I can say that there’s a body of research to indicate that young brains are surprisingly sponge-like, and they’ll absorb the messaging around them. A bunch of middle aged people laughing because a player got sick and lost all their money, and had to retire to a farm in the middle of nowhere because That’s Just How Things Are, is not made better by the fact that some of these relatives were describing the guts of their own lived experiences. Maybe it’s actually a tragedy that people get kicked down the ladder for the rest of their lives due to events outside of their own control. Perhaps instead of spending hours of family time creating little pocket dimensions of people stuck in horrible situations while saying “Shit Just Happens Sometimes”, we could spare some time trying to improve society somewhat.
I don’t know man, I just don’t like The Game of Life I guess, anyway.
Suffice to say I find it puzzling to say the very least that the Jinsei genre of games has had a long life in Japan. At least the physical board version of The Game of Life has the single temporal merit of gathering a few friends or loved ones in a physical space, without the need of some screen or other digital abstraction to share in an activity. A Jinsei video game removes even that token appeal. This is a gripe I share with most digital board game stuff, to be fair. But at least most electronic facsimiles of board games are ersatz takes on things worth one runny shit.
I did not look forward to this experience. Then I had the experience. Was my mind changed by the playing of Yuuyuu Jinsei?
No. It’s just The Game of Life.
Here’s a list of things working in this game’s favor.
- By allowing you to designate the number of players, you can shorten the length of a game of Jinsei by playing the entire thing either solo or against one other player or computer.
- The music is okay.
There, all done.
This product is exactly what it advertises. You make a choice of whether to enter the workforce immediately or to attend school at the jump, then slowly progress across a board one roulette wheel spin at a time. You occasionally land upon a choice space where you can risk your money in exchange for more money. You occasionally land on a space where the game arbitrarily hands you money. You occasionally land on a space where the game arbitrarily takes money from you. You occasionally land on a space where the game decides to move your piece back to the start of the board. You occasionally get a holographic rookie Ken Griffey Jr. card by commenting on this blog post. You occasionally land on spaces which allow you to either rob your opponents of $100,000 or move them back a fixed number of spaces. You occasionally make it to the end of the board where you can gamble all of your money on a one in ten shot to become a millionaire and win the game automatically. You occasionally wind up close enough to a player who triggers a random event that takes half of your money. You occasionally have baby. You occasionally occasionally you occasionlolaksjdlajieaka;sdoiafe
What a fucking embarrassment to this entire medium. Did you know that this game has its origins in a board game from 1860? To think this species has allowed this fecal colony to fester and drip its pus all over the place for nearly two centuries makes me want to go smash some windows. God damn it. Not just the worst game I've played to date on the PC Engine, but one of the worst I've ever played to completion.
Amount of hatred I have towards Yuuyuu Jinsei: Immeasurable.
Turbo Ratio: Who cares. If you are spending money on this thing, get help. I’m probably not your friend either.