Today’s Illustration: The Game Of Life

Mr. Klamer in 2010 with the 50th-anniversary edition of the Game of Life. At one point, an associate said, the game ranked second only to Monopoly in worldwide popularity.

Who: Reuben Benjamin Klamer

  • Third of four children
  • Born June 20, 1922, in Canton, Ohio
  • Parents:  Jewish immigrants from Romania
  • Raised by his father and his new “mother” (Miriam) after his mother left.
  • The first child to attend college.
  • Attend George Washington University / Ohio State University, University of Michigan — joined the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941
  • Divorced twice
  • Inducted into the Hasbro Inventors Hall of Fame in 2000 / Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2005
  • “He received the TAGIE (Toy & Game International Excellence) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.”
  • Lived in the San Diego area of California
  • “My life has been one rocky road after the other, and every once in a while I get a hit,” Klamer told the Columbus Dispatch in 2012.”
  • Died at age 99, September 14, 2021obituary
    “He developed an estimated 200 toys and other items, including a phaser rifle for “Star Trek.” But his best-known product was a game for “literally everyone on earth.”
. . . . 

When: “The Game Of Life” was first produced in 1960

. . . . 

What:  “The Game of Life” board game

  • Produced by the “Milton Bradley Company” / now “Hasbro.”
  • It was featured at the 1960 International Toy Fair
  • Considered one of the best selling games of all time
  • “But Mr. Klamer’s best-known invention was the Game of Life, a board game in which, in its original incarnation, the winner was the person who accumulated the most money.  The game, introduced in 1960, reflected the values of the booming suburban culture: Players plodded along a conventional path that took them through school, work, marriage, children and retirement.

 It was a hit at the 1960 Toy Fair in New York and was soon translated into other languages. At one point, Jonathan Klamer said, it ranked second only to Monopoly in worldwide popularity.

By now, he added, the Game of Life has sold as estimated 70 million copies in 59 countries and has been the best-selling board game in Japan for more than 50 years. In the United States, it became such a part of the culture that it was inducted into the permanent Archives of Family Life at the Smithsonian Institution in 1981.”

  • “I saw the word ‘life,’ and it inspired me,” Mr. Klamer told the Columbus Dispatch in 2012. “What better name for a game than ‘Life’?”. . . . 

. . . . 

Key Biblical Thoughts:

  • salvation
  • life / living
  • meaning / purpose
  • money
  • worldiness
  • temptation
  • all that is in the world
  • gain the whole world
  • failure / loss
  • vanity
  • eternity
  • eye has not seen
  • success

. . . . 

Other Information & Links:


“The Warehouse of Broken Dreams

I was visiting Reuben at his home when he asked me if I would like to visit his warehouse. When we arrived I was astonished by its size and the number of inventions it held. Reuben turned to me and he said, “It’s my warehouse of broken dreams. It contains every toy I invented that failed.” Here was a man who had over 200 toys make it to market yet he had thousands that never made it. I found Reuben’s words to be a profound statement about how many failures it takes to be successful. It also speaks to Reuben’s sense of humor and humility when reflecting on his success.”  — RICHARD GOTTLIEB


“Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker in 2007, the redesign teams always had a hard time addressing the fundamental criticism of the game — that the only way to reward a player for virtuous acts was with money: “Save an Endangered Species: Collect $200,000. Solution to Pollution: $250,000. Open Health-Food Chain: $100,000.”

And so the company’s 2007 overhaul, the Game of Life: Twists & Turns, was almost existential. Instead of putting players on a fixed path, it provided multiple ways to start out in life — but nowhere to finish. “This is actually the game’s selling point; it has no goal,” Ms. Lepore wrote. “Life is … aimless.”


What is the goal of Life? To accumulate the most money.

That’s what I learned from reading the obituary of Reuben Klamer, the creator of the board game, The Game of Life, who died this week at 99.

When The Game of Life was introduced, in 1960, the purpose was to earn the most wealth. The way you got there was simple enough—by going to college, getting a job, buying insurance, saving for retirement. That was “indicative of what sold in that era,” a former Hasbro VP told the NYT.

“Over time, designers realized that the game didn’t reflect consumers’ changing views of #lifegoals. So they gave it a big update in 2007, allowing players to score points for virtuous deeds like saving an endangered species, opening a health-food chain, and recycling. And instead of starting the game at point A and finishing at point Z, there is no fixed path: You decide how you want to spend your time.”

—Neal Freyman


With The Game of Life, you were issued a little plastic car and you drove the road of life getting married and acquiring kids.

I don’t remember if the game had divorce.

That would be a wrong turn on the road of life.

Or maybe a right turn.

The kids were represented by pink or blue sticks, and I think you needed a husband stick and a wife stick to acquire the kid sticks.

You could not be two wife sticks or two husband sticks.

Or a single wife stick or a single husband stick.

It was a different time.

Bottom line, we were stuck.

You drove past green plastic mountains, which served no function and made it hard to fold the board. But never mind, it was a great time, and I can’t even remember why but I loved it.

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