My Inner Curmudgeon and The SpongeBob SquarePants Game of Life

I try to not to be a curmudgeon. Really, I do. Some authors fuel their blogs with nothing more than their “Inner Curmudgeon.” Like cars without gas, their blogs would cease to run without him.

I, however, show restraint—most of the time.

Last spring, my annoyance with the television show The Bachelor oozed out here. Today, I’m afraid my Curmudgeon spills out again. This time it’s directed at The Game of Life.

Over Christmas, my daughter was given the game. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not at all mad at the person who gave it. In fact, we enjoyed playing it together as a family. And besides being fun, the game teaches many helpful life skills.

PICTURE OF MY WIFE’S CAR. Apparently, after 4 kids, one has to ride on the roof.

PICTURE OF MY WIFE’S CAR. Apparently, after 4 kids, one has to ride on the roof.

There’s an aspect of the game, however, that drives me nuts. You’ll have to read my letter to the Consumer Affairs Department of Hasbro Games to find out what bothers me.

It’s not the best example of evangelism and, I’m not sure I’d send it again, but with only a little updating, I attached (below) the letter I wrote to them in the summer of 2006 after my Inner Curmudgeon was poked by The SpongeBob SquarePants Edition of The Game of Life.

(By the way, Hasbro Games did write back. They sent a form letter thanking me for the feedback.)

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Hasbro Games, Consumer Affairs Department
PO Box 200
Pawtucket, RI 02862

 Re: THE GAME OF LIFE in Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob SquarePants Edition

Dear Consumer Affairs Department:

Over Memorial Day weekend, my wife and I went to visit my family in Chicago. My little sister Katelyn (nine years old), asked me to join her in some board games. One of the games we played was The SpongeBob SquarePants Game of Life.

Because I noticed in the instruction booklet that it states that you would be “happy to hear any comments about the game,” I thought I would send a few.

I can appreciate some of the life skills that your board game teaches children, such as budgeting, making mortgage payments, dealing with unexpected expenses, and the importance of a college education. However, I did not appreciate the outlook promoted by the game, specifically what constitutes a “successful life.”

In explaining how a player wins the game, the back page of the instruction booklet reads,

After all players have reached the Shady Shoals Rest Home, cash out . . . . The player with the highest net worth wins! [Online here]

The question I want to ask is whether this the right worldview to portray how the real game of life is “won”? Are the biggest winners in life those who store up as much wealth and property and possessions and net worth before they “kick back and relax at the Shady Shoals Rest Home”?

I don’t think it is. Some of the richest people in the world are miserable. The person with the biggest house, most toys, and largest bank account can still miss the whole point of existence, thus not win the real game of life, but lose.

While I don’t expect this letter to represent a majority, I simply urge the one or two people who will read this letter to not throw it out without reflection. Real life is no game. We are only given one chance and we must decide whether or not life consists in the abundance of our possessions. I believe that life is more than amassing a large net worth.

Consider the weighty implications of the question that Jesus once posed: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). In other words, if a person arrives at Shady Shoals Rest Home with the highest net worth, yet missed the whole point of existence, what does he or she gain?

The answer to the rhetorical question is, “Nothing.” It is no advantage to gain as much stuff as possible only to have death rip it from one’s hands.

As an alternative way to go about things, Jesus taught,

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20)

We store up “treasures in heaven” not by climbing the corporate ladder or keeping up with the Joneses but by receiving Jesus Christ as our treasure. And for those who do this, their treasure will never be taken away.

Again, I understand that every board game must have a way for people to “win.” My encouragement is that you broaden your understanding of how winning is measured.

Benjamin Vrbicek