Wikinvest Wire

The Game of Life (Plastic Edition)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Anyone looking for signs of a top in the epic credit bubble that has swept across Anglo Saxon countries during the past few decades should look no further than game maker Milton Bradley Company and their recently announced plans to make the use of credit cards integral to the classic board game The Game of Life.

What next home equity loans and cash-out refis?

According to this story in yesterday's LA Times, parent company Hasbro Inc. has teamed up with Visa International out of San Francisco to not only introduce plastic money to game players but to remove the cash.

No longer will eight and nine year olds be able to feel the imitation currency in their hands or organize it neatly in front of them along with life insurance policies, home loans, and stock portfolios.

That's infuriating some experts on children and money, who say the update, scheduled to launch in August, will unravel the game's sage money lessons and inculcate the preteen set with a credit-card mentality.

"Oh, Lord. It's terrible," said Janet Bodnar, parent of three and author of "Raising Money Smart Kids: What They Need to Know about Money and How to Tell Them."

"It's bad enough for teenagers to have exposure to credit cards. It is really bad for a 9 year old," she said. "This is exactly the age group when you want to be teaching about cash money."

Beacham agrees. "To succeed in real life, our kids need to learn to manage money — starting with hard cash," she said. "The child who doesn't may end up back in their old room after college with nothing but a boatload of credit-card debt in tow.

"A credit card is a valid update. But I can't agree with the removal of cash from the game."

With the revised "Twists & Turns" edition of The Game of Life, players will get a Visa-branded card at the start of the game and an electronic "LifePod" that will keep track of players' financial data and monitor their game status. The player with the most accumulated cash and "life cards" — experiences such as having a child, inventing a product or earning a Nobel Prize — wins.
What a creative bunch there at Hasbro - a "LifePod". Maybe the LifePod somehow works with an i-Card.

To really bring the game up to date the company should somehow factor in inflation during the playing of the game. People are living longer and the rising price of energy and healthcare will play an increasing role in their lives and will play havoc with their finances.

Back in the 1970s, midway through the production of the then-current version, they felt the need to double all the dollar amounts for salaries and expenses in order to keep up with rapidly escalating wages and consumer prices.

Maybe in a new update to the game a player could pick up a card that says, "Core inflation remains at 2.4 percent, but your health insurance premium just rose 12 percent!"

That would be a real life lesson.

Aside from the obvious cash versus credit shift, the partnership also raises new questions about product placement and the assault on the minds of the young.

As if it weren't difficult enough to raise kids these days, parents will now have to explain credit cards and product placement to their kids before they get to experience the joys of puberty.
"Advertisers are looking for new ways to market their products because the 30- and 60-second advertising spots are not as effective as they once were," said Linda Swick, president of International Promotions, a North Hollywood-based product placement firm. "Recorders are allowing people to zap out their commercials. So wherever a company can get their brand name out there, they're going to do it."

Visa and Hasbro say that no money changed hands under their marketing deal.

"What Visa is going to do is advertise this game now in all of their different outlets," Swick said. "That's a lot of money for Hasbro. Even if it is not dollar transferred, they get a lot of advertising in all of their different venues."

A Hasbro spokeswoman said the game would still impart valid money lessons because it cannot be won without managing money wisely.

Indeed, the update may provide an opportunity to teach children to be skeptical about advertising.

"As a mom who is in the advertising world, I am constantly making my kids aware that they are being advertised to and that they have to be very careful about evaluating any messages they're receiving," Swick said.

"I have normal kids who say, 'We want this because they say this about it,' " she added. "I say, 'Wait a minute. What is the perspective that they are coming from? Is the information biased? What is best for you?' "
No wonder today's parents are more medicated than any preceding generation. Oh yeah, the kids too.

So what implications exist for other venerable board games?

One comes to mind.

After the world-wide real estate boom of recent years, just think of the possibilities for applying modern financial innovations to Parker Brother's classic board game Monopoly - bringing it "up to date".

Asset appreciation, subprime lending, negative amortization loans, mortgage backed securities, credit default swaps - the possibilities are endless.

Or, maybe those financial innovations are best suited for The Game of Life.


Anonymous said...

You'll know this insanity is over when the games have plastic gold and silver coins as money.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that there is no way you can trust anything on the Internet posted on April 1st. Are we sure this is true?

Speaking from a game-design perspective, this is a horrible idea. The LifePod is a single point of failure guaranteed to break very early. As it is a proprietary device it will be expensive (relative to the cost of a new game) to replace. It will also slow the game down as people cannot handle financial transactions simultaneously.

Tim said...

I wondered if it was a prank also, but it sounded like a typical story with all the requisite quotes from experts and such, plus, a quick search revealed a number of other stories on this subject last month.

Anonymous said...

Monopoly actually has been "updated". Go to the store and see for yourself. I was dumbfounded when I saw the "new" game alongside the traditional one. You can buy a ballpark for $600,000 etc. And the kicker? The traditional game was selling for $9.99. The "new"? $29.99. Too funny.

Anonymous said...

Core inflation notwithstanding, Blue Shield of California just raised my health insurance an even 25%. But I think the plasma TV I just bought is down in price about 25% from last year, so that should help balance things out. Gotta go gas up the SUV now...

Anonymous said...

It would be funny but it, like inflation is eating me alive, love the stadium idea also, do you get points for the screw the taxpayer part

Unknown said...

Actually the cooked CPI numbers are there to take care of the social security problem.
Did you ever notice how old people don't buy appliances and IPODS but mostly spend on utilities, food, and medical?

Inflate the entitlement away, and problem solved!!

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