Approximately 75 junior-high students got their first jobs and credit cards, took out multiple loans, played the stock market, bought cars and houses and got married. Many 12-to-14-year-olds even spent a few minutes in jail.
It's all part of Life — the game. The popular board game got a dose of reality on Saturday, Oct. 16, at La Cañada Presbyterian Church as the church's junior youth group played a real-life version of it. Jim Staniels, the church's youth pastor, put on the event for the third year in a row.
Kids learn life lessons through playing the game. As they play, they plan ahead to pay off their loans and credit cards while being encouraged to open their eyes to the true meaning of existence.
In the first year, 40 or 50 kids signed up to participate, but the game now draws about 100 competitors. Only one (or two, if the kids play as a "married couple") of those 100 will emerge victorious at the end of the four-hour event. The winner, or winning couple, receives a grand prize of $100.
"The winner is the person or couple who get the most assets or have the most money at the end," Staniels said.
All of this leads up to a question, once the game ends, about the meaning of life.
"After the game, we have a conversation and the message is simply, 'Is this really what life is all about, getting as much money as possible? What other possible things are out there?'" Staniels said.
Although there's nothing wrong with wanting to do well financially, life won't be too gratifying if that's where people invest all their happiness, Staniels said.
"Hopefully, this will get them questioning what it is that they believe about life," said Aaron U'Ren, a volunteer who has helped run the game after playing it for two years. "We're looking to take really ordinary circumstances and get the kids thinking."
This creative version of Life allows Staniels to connect with young adults on their level, presenting them with a familiar question in a unique way, said Camille Tucker, the director of communications at La Cañada Presbyterian.
"Kids are very concrete thinkers mentally," Staniels said. "They haven't crossed that threshold in their adolescence in junior high yet, so they need concrete things to help them make sense of things. We give them something concrete to attach to abstract thought and tie the message of life into this game."