when i was little, back when we had a gigantic gateway desktop (it was the bomb) my brother and i had the computer game of life. i was always the brown haired lady with the pink shirt and i always married the brown hair blue-eyed guy. we would always end up, completely randomly, getting twins. i'd do my best to be a teacher because i've always wanted to be a teacher (except when i wanted to be a firefighter) and i'd always try to get a victorian house.
i have a thing for victorian houses.
i have played the actual board game of life. i did this two years ago with my oldest cousin, who is currently twenty-seven (or eight?) and a graduate of law school. we played with my brother. in the board game, you can choose a same-sex marriage and nobody will think twice. all i had to do was pluck a little pink girl out of the box and stick her in the passenger seat of my car.
when i played that day, i did not land on a square that said "have a baby!" i'm not sure how i feel about this piece of fate.
last night i played the game of life at RA training in a completely and utterly different manner. nobody quite knew how to play, only the facilitators, and they sat behind desks that were labeled with EMPLOYMENT, CAR DEALERSHIP, BANK, MARRIAGE, AND UNIVERSITY. we were each given a name tag with a code on it, and only the facilitators knew the code. when they read our name tags with the code, they were expected to treat us based on the code.
the object: go to each station and do the best you could.
as i found at the end, this is what my code signified.
Q- i was white.
7- i was extremely rich.
()- i was physically able.
#- i was a man.
$- i was heterosexual.
-- - i was literate.
so basically i had the best name tag in the entire game.
when i stood in line to get my degree, i had no idea what any of these symbols signified. i didn't want to push my luck, so i handed jenny my sheet and said, "i think i'll try for a bachelor's degree." she then smiled very widely and said, "oh i think you can get a professional degree, something above a PhD."
i wasn't going to say no to that.
and so it went. at every single station i did not have a single problem. the police, who patrolled around as we dealt with life, left me alone. i walked up and got a mercedes luxury car, no loan. i became a lawyer with a 200,000 salary no questions asked. i bought an expensive victorian house, no mortgage. my marriage was approved instantly. (as a heterosexual, i had a homosexual marriage because i always do that during the game of life, but nobody knew about it but me. my nametag had me as heterosexual, i just didn't know about it. i just wrote sarah's name on the marriage license. it turns out sarah was almost as high up as me but was homosexual and therefore denied a marriage in actuality.)
i got through the game in about ten minutes. i had everything filled out and i didn't know what to do. and then i started to understand exactly what was happening around me.
my boyfriend was trying to get employed and rai, who was behind the desk and manning it, was speaking to him extremely slowly and loudly. she kept saying, "how long have you been in the country? i'm not sure if i can get you a job because you pray five times a day. how do you feel about 9/11?"
my roommate mariah kept getting a form with gibberish on it everywhere she went. she came up to me and said, "i think i'm illiterate."
bobby was jailed permanently because he was disabled, asian, and possibly a terrorist.
the entire time this was happening, nobody knew why. we didn't know what our symbols meant. we were trying to figure out why we were being treated the way we were being treated, and it eventually began to fall into place when james informed me that he was a homosexual muslim woman. i learned that my boyfriend was a transgender muslim man, and the marriage licenser, bob, had told him that he needed a loan for surgery before he could get married, what did he possibly think about 9/11, and did anybody in his family own a gas station? anybody with a P (denoting being african american) was either ignored or asked about gang activity and theft.
and so it went on. i walked around and everywhere i went people were being asked the most ridiculous stereotypical questions and every single person who was illiterate was given a form of gibberish and sent away.
so i became what i was; a powerful rich white man with a law degree.
at first i stood around the jail and tried to bail people out. nate was nice in letting me bail people out, but he was very particular. i had to make sure that james had no terrorist affiliations, and when i threatened to get the DA involved, he let me release him. bobby was a lost cause. i think nate might've put him on death row. when i tried to barter rob out of jail with justin as the police, however, he threatened to throw me in jail for disturbing the peace. i went elsewhere to help people.
i latched onto mariah, who was illiterate. i told her that i would represent her to get a house and to get married. we were turned down by the real estate agent, who asked me if my house was everything that i dreamed it would be. she then handed mariah a gibberish sheet and sent us away. we then went to marriage and i crossed out the gibberish and wrote plain english. i told bob, the marriage licenser, that i had filled out of her paperwork as a literate lawyer, and bob then told me that i had filled it out incorrectly and threatened to throw us in jail.
then i met maggie at the height of my frustration.
nate came up to me and said, "i need someone to represent maggie here. the marriage licenser is accusing her of stealing a car and therefore will not let her get married." well i couldn't have this. maggie wanted to get married, damn it.
so i took maggie to car dealer, explained that i was a lawyer, and asked her to review her car licensing signature. she resigned it rather reluctantly and we went to bob, my new best friend and marriage licenser.
bob became aggressive the instant he saw me, claiming that whenever i showed up to defend people, the police were never around to arrest me. i then clearly spelled out that the car dealer had checked her signature, it had been resigned, and that maggie had not stolen the car. bob then proclaimed loudly that he did not think i was an actual lawyer, even though i showed him my credentials. i told maggie to wait and i hunted down nate.
nate, as a police officer, kindly explained to bob that he had asked me to represent maggie as a lawyer and that everything i stated was true, including my credentials. bob reluctantly let maggie get married.
at this point the game ended, and i was still angry. i had glided through life without any effort whatsoever, and i felt like i had not helped enough people. i could've grabbed somebody else to help with mariah's paperwork. i could've tried harder to bail bobby out of jail. i could've helped my wife get married by demanding a civil union. but i didn't.
so i had to sit down with my incredible salary, house, car, and lawyer status and participate in group discussion.
we learned what the numbers and symbols stood for and how the faciliators knew them. they had codes and cues to say unimaginable stereotypesthings to fit stereotypes to us. we talked about our setbacks and how we felt about our stereotypes. we talked about our frustrations. the biggest point that came up was this: who makes the society rules and stereotypes?
we let these things happen. we think these things. we sometimes speak these things. what happened to diversity? why do you have to be a rich, white, heterosexual male to get everything you want in life?
sarah, my wife, was a rich, white, homosexual female. she got everything she wanted in life except a degree (the college was religiously affiliated and would not accept homosexuality) and a marriage. annette was a rich, white, heterosexual woman. she got everything she wanted in terms of a degree and a marriage, but she was not allowed to buy a house or get a car without her husband present. whenever she said that her husband wasn't with her, she was denied and sent away for being a woman.
this stuff happens. we let it.
i honestly feel like i learned more out of this activity by being privileged than by being disabled, illiterate, and foreign. it opened my eyes to how easily everything fell into my lap and how everything else is a constant, constant struggle. the game of life was suddenly life altering.
i hope to get everything i want out of life. and i hope to help others get everything they want out of life as well.
post script: the best part of the game was when morgan came up to me and said, "i'm a teacher and i drive a ford." i told her, "that is my exact life plan in real life." because it is.