Games are a key part of the development of children. Children learn what is right, wrong, fun or boring through play. For many families, playing a traditional game is just a way to pass the time. However, many of these games have hidden messages or themes and are meant to reflect the values and traditions in a society. One of the most frequent themes is that of capitalism, which is utilized to justify the U.S.’s capitalist society. Through what is made to seem like innocent child’s play, children ingrain the workings of the class system into themselves before they even truly understand it.In the root of all children games, the purpose of the game is to manipulate other players to lose so that the child can win. This includes manipulating other players to do the wrong action. For example, in Simon Says the leader manipulates the other players to do the incorrect action.. Winning is only beneficial for one person and has to negatively affect others. These games normalize the actions of people in the real world and how manipulation is often used to ‘win’ against others by financial means, such as tax evasion or not paying undocumented workers. The people being manipulated are people who don’t know how to play the ‘game’, such as those who don’t know the ‘rules’ to the game. This mindset allows people to be more inclined to justify and understand the actions of the manipulators because someone has to lose for someone else to win.
The representation of many games show people of color as villains or less than white people, such as the game ― Cowboys and Indians. The name of game itself is already problematic because it politically incorrect-‘Indians’ is referring to Native Americans, a common and age-old misconception. The game makes the players who are playing “Indians” to hide from the cowboys. This follows the narrative of Native Americans being victims against ‘cowboys’, and sugarcoating the event of the mass genocide of Native Americans through a game is a clear example of perpetuating stereotypes and American values. In other words, The game is used to justify the rise of the United States and desensitizes the history of capitalism in the United States. A game similar to Cowboys and Indians is Cops and Robbers. Cops and robbers is also used to desensitize the idea of police brutality by having the “robber” always be shot at and killed due to being assumed as guilty. Today, we see this behavior continue with police and prisons; the outcome of police shooting is normally in favor of the police and doesn’t have a neutral point of view.
Money and status also play an important part in most children games. In Monopoly, players win by having the most money and property out of all the players. The game shows a connection to the value of capitalism, which says ownership and money is the key to a successful life. Also, the game gives everyone a chance to ‘spin the wheel’, symbolizing how in capitalist society everyone is given everyone a chance to financial growth which is an equal and fair system. Therefore, people who don’t succeed in this society are at fault by their own choices. This idea can be seen in other games such as The Game of Life, and Payday. In the Game of life, players are showed life is mostly about making money: everyone and everything has a cost. The cycle of life in the United States to provide for a family, then retire. The cycle doesn’t allow people to enjoy things in life such as traveling or take trips due to having to make money for a family or yourself. The cycle is one of the values of capitalist society. It says that money is the key to a happy life because it allows people to buy what they want and provide for a family.
Childhood is a sacred and important time. It is a time to learn and explore the world, but some of the games cause us to shorten our view on the world and ourselves. Messages like these should not be taken lightly. It is important for parents to understand that the games their children are playing are not just games but examples of real life. They are the building blocks to the actions and decisions they will make in the future. For America to move beyond its capitalist mistake, it has to try to highlight teamwork and fairness in children's games.
Baloglu, Seyhmus. “The Relationship of Demographics to Gaming Preferences and Behavior.” The University of San Francisco. 2008. http://repository.usfca.edu/hosp/4/.
“How to Play Cowboys & Indians.” Our Pastime, ourpastimes.com/how-to-play-cowboys-indians-13583059.
Hasbro. Monopoly Game Official Website | Monopoly Board Game | Hasbro, www.hasbro.com/en-us/brands/monopoly.
“Police shootings 2017 database.” The Washington Post, WP Company, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2017/.