Picture this. We’re gathered for our usual Sunday night queer family dinner. We all stuffed our faces with various quinoa salads and homemade gluten-free baked goods and someone whipped out the hard kombucha. We’re all digesting, slumped on the couch, wondering what game to play since Sunday nights are always game nights. Instead of reaching for some tired classics, I throw The Game of Life on the coffee table. Sure, it’s usually based on a heterosexual version of life. But, for the first time in boardgame history, it’s not. It’s The Game of (Queer) Life that I, Em, have created for all of us to play.
As far as the setup goes, we still have the board with a beginning, ending, winding pathways, and that fun spinny thing in the middle. We’ll keep the cars, but make them Priuses with five slots for the stick people instead of four, because you can always fit more people in the car. Instead of the outrageously gendered people pegs, we have a pile of genderless multi-colored people-like pegs to represent us humans, and you can change them along the way. Then, there’s a pile of various animals on little pegs. Those will be the animals we adopt along the way (in addition to children if we choose) or any other type of companion we decide to bring aboard, like chosen family and friends.
None of us like capitalism, so why use real money! Instead of dishing out 10K bills and investing in stocks or paying the bank, we’re using emotional credits! Yeah, sure, it functions just like capitalism, but I honestly don’t have the brain capacity to think of an entire new system of economic and social functioning just for a game. So, emotional credits and trading/gathering it is!
Additionally, you’ll have “skills” cards. You can pull six cards and choose three. These will be in handy when you need work done on the apartment, a dog sitter, or a haircut. You can trade one of your skills for another player’s and do mutually beneficial skill exchanges. Skills include car expertise, handiwork, haircutting, makeup, baking, cooking, therapeutic listening, directional aptitude, herb specialization, agricultural knowledge, etc.
College or Career?
I feel like the default setup of choosing the college or career path is still pretty fitting. If you choose a career, you have a variety of gay jobs to choose from including hair stylist, farmer, non-profit manager, therapist, OBGYN, sex coach, construction worker, sex worker, spiritual leader, podcaster, TikTok lesbian, and astronaut. If you choose college, you’ll still owe emotional credits to the bank, but you’ll get to choose which queer city to go to school in. Pick two cards from the “city” deck and choose the one you want to move to for school. Options include cities like Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Ann Arbor, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Miami, Asheville, and DC.
Can any of us really buy a house in this economy? When landing on a space that says “house,” we’ll still pull from the house card deck, but the options won’t be as simple as “mansion” or “cabin.” Options include: living with your ex-girlfriend in her one bedroom apartment, sharing a communal house with other queers, living with your partner’s parents, living in your camper-van, renting a room from a random sketchy internet situation, and living in a celesbian’s house.
This is where the fun really begins. Every time you land on an action item space (one of the many blank spaces on the board), you pull a card and must perform that action. In the straight version of Life, these cards are usually about having yard sales or paying for a hospital bill, but here in queer life we have so many more things to choose from. Here’s what I got so far:
- You’re having a child via IVF! -5,000 for the stress of beginning the process but +10,000 emotional credits at the end of the journey
- You’re adopting! +10,000 emotional credits
- You and your partner adopt a dog or cat (you choose)! + 5,000 emotional credits
- You and your partner broke up! -10,000 emotional credits
- You’re splitting up with your partner and you lose custody of the dog -10,000 credits
- You started therapy! +5,000 emotional credits
- You ended a toxic family relationship +10,000 emotional credits
- Someone misgenders you -5,000 emotional credits
- You need a haircut; trade one of your skill cards for another player’s
- You’re going on a first date +1,000 emotional credits
- You get ghosted -1,000 emotional credits
- You need car help; trade one of your skills cards for another player’s
- It’s time to UHAUL (There are at least five of these cards in the deck)! Spin the wheel to find out if you earn +10,000 credits (1-5) or -10,000 credits (6-9)
- Start a banned book club +2,000 emotional credits
- Go to a local protest +1,000 emotional credits
- Deal with co-worker micro aggressions -1,000 emotional credits
- Learn a new homemaking skill, +2,000 emotional credits
Since everyone has different options on marriage, this one is tricky. We don’t want to push the heteronormative agenda on players, but we also love queer marriage! At the point in the game where you have to choose to get married, instead of a yes or no, you’ll need to choose the path that fits you best: intentionally single, casually dating for the foreseeable future, monogamous long-term partnership, or polyamorous partnerships.
At least in the newer original versions of the game, everyone must pass through a midlife checkpoint to see if they are doomed to a mid-life crisis or see if they’re thriving in their older age. Since us queer folks discover ourselves on different timelines throughout our lifespan, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to include this. Instead, the checkpoint will be about finding your life’s purpose. If you spin under a five, you are still searching for your life’s purpose and you’re sent down that path. If you spin above five, you’ve found your life path, and you get to settle into this established life.
In this economy?! I honestly don’t know how any of us under the age of 50 are planning to retire comfortably, so I choose not to think about it. However, in this game, I would love for all the queers to be rich and fabulous in retirement. Once you’re nearing the end of the game, you’ll get to a retirement checkpoint where you’ll choose your retirement situation: farming commune, suburban living facility, multi-family home with loved ones, beachside house with your partner, forest cabin alone in your peace and quiet, or gay resort living. The options are truly endless, so this isn’t an extensive list!
How does one win?
Typically the winner is the one who retires first/has the most money, but we don’t do that here in queer Barbieland. Instead, everyone will count up their emotional credits, which will roughly tell you how good of a life you’ve lived. The person most satisfied with the trajectory of their life wins! There can be multiple winners!
You’re now at the end of the game! Everyone at your queer fam dinner is living, laughing, and loving this intentional space you’ve created with such a phenomenally accurate game. Now, you can take it to your partner’s place for the holidays and play it with the fam! Good luck!