TOADY 2016: The case for The Game of Life Empire

by: 

Kristen Strader, Campaign Coordinator, Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert Program

Each year, the Toy Industry Association gathers to present its TOTY (Toy Of The Year) Awards. In honor of the industry that has led the way in commercializing childhood, CCFC will present its TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children) Award for the Worst Toy of the Year. From thousands of toys that stifle creativity, lionize brands, and promote screen-based entertainment at the expense of children’s play, CCFC and our partners have selected six exceptional finalists for 2016. Below, Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert makes the case for The Game of Life: Empire.

Every year, toy companies seem to release a toy more egregious than the last. Corporations are constantly trying to find ways to reach children and turn them into life-long loyal consumers, with the hope that today’s children will spend their paychecks on brand-specific products as adults.

Commercial Alert’s mission is to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy. We are particularly concerned about the many ways that companies take advantage of young consumers through aggressive commercialism. That’s why Commercial Alert was thrilled to nominate a toy this year for Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood’s TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young children) award.

Commercial Alert’s nomination goes to The Game of Life Empire. You may remember the original Game of Life, or an older version, where players move around the board and spin a wheel to determine their destiny. The game has evolved over the years, but has always required players to move through a series of possible obstacles such as: finding a job, going to college, getting married, having a baby, and even inheriting a skunk farm. Some versions provide players with options to do good deeds, like helping the homeless and recycling.

The Game of Life Empire has instead evolved in a disgraceful way. It has scrapped the idea of doing good deeds and has made the ultimate goal of the game to “collect” six brands before your friends and family can, while collecting “followers” along the way. The lesson here for young children of course, is this: Your pathway to friendships is in direct correlation to the number of corporate brands you can collect in life. Players can also steal brands from their friends and family if the opportunity arises. Even worse, The Game of Life Empire is targeted at children as young as eight years old, a full one year younger than the original Game of Life! What’s next? The Game of Infancy: Baby Bling!?” Hasbro apparently wants children to believe that consumerism, corporate power and fandom are what matter most in life. Board games traditionally offer an escape from television and screen-based games, which are monopolized by advertisements. But this game integrates advertisements and product consumption directly into the ultimate goal by touting specific brands including XBOX, Puma and Burger King.

This year, join us in rejecting Hasbro’s attempt to ensnare our children towards endless commercialism by saying “Game Over” to The Game of Life Empire.

Commercial Alert became a project of Public Citizen in 2011. Commercial Alert’s mission is to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy. Since our founding in 1971, Public Citizen has served as the people’s voice in the nation’s capital, working to ensure that all citizens are represented in the halls of power. Public Citizen is a nonprofit organization that does not participate in partisan political activities or endorse any candidates for elected office. We accept no government or corporate money – we rely solely on foundation grants, publication sales and assistance from our members and supporters. To learn more about Public Citizen and its other work, visit www.citizen.org.

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