Apples to Apples and Ayiti: The Cost of Life
By: Emma Natanzon
Not all games are the same. Some are computer games, card games, or board games played for recreational reasons. Others seem to be designed to educate the players. While some are played simply to pass the time. Whatever game it is, the goals are always the same: to win. Personally, I enjoy playing games because I am a competitive person and like to beat other people at games. Sometimes though, people get so competitive that they cheat, and then the game takes a sour turn. In all, no matter what types of games you play,it is a fun and in some cases, educational, activity to do with your friends and family.
I occasionally enjoy playing board games: clue, monopoly, and apples to apples are some of my favorites. Anything and everything that doesn't involve some overrated video game. I love to slap down my red card, knowing that the green card is as good as mine, feel like I can't breathe because I am laughing so hard, and most of all, make my friends laugh. I enjoy knowing that I'm one step closer to shouting "victory" every time I get another green card handed to me by the judge, to being a winner. If I happen to lose, I do what any other player would do. I tell myself that I don't really care. It's only a board game after all, but then the game pulls me back in. A game like Apples to Apples is just to fun to resist. It's your good friend who understands your sarcasm and wit.
Recently, I've been spending some time playing the game Ayiti: Cost of Life. This is a game in which you must care for a Haitian family for a four year time period. You must assign each family a role such as going to work, going to school, going to the hospital, or just staying home to rest. The goal of the game is to provide the best life possible for your family. You must keep the whole family healthy and happy, while also trying to scrape up enough money to send your family to school so they can get a better job then working at the local run distillery under dangerous condition. This is a goal easier said than done. Other then always living on the brink of extreme poverty, your family battles through poor living conditions and constant ilnesses from diseases such as malaria and cholera. If you are lucky, you will have enough money to let them go to the hospital when they are sick, but most of the time your only option is to let them stay at home where they will most likely die by the end of the season. Getting a good education for all of your family is no walk in the park either. Unless public school is available for the kids, a good education is pricey, but definitely worth it. By the end of the game, if you are lucky enough to make to the end of level 4, probably at least one of your family memebers is dead from either malaria, TB, or Cholera. Their quality of life is determined by how much education they received and how well their living conditions were.
The first time you play the game, you find it confusing and chaotic. Questions like "Why is the whole family crying?" and "How do I send the parents to work?" are only a sample. When you press the "start season" button, you see all these lights and notifications popping at you, but you aren't sure what you are supposed to do. You find yourself pressing random things and hoping that it works. But still even on your first try, with all your family dead from diarreha or on the brink of dying, you feel strangely motivated to try again. It really isn't until the third or fourth time when the game starts to get repetitive that you truly realize that there are people out there who's daily lives are like this. Those people's lives aren't just a game that is turned off and on whenever you have time for them. You begin to think hard before each season about who will do what and how you will spend your money wisely so that you will still have enough money to send one of the kids to schools or to the hospital if needed. You begin to treat the game as if it was someone's real life in your hands.
There are times when you are playing this game that you want to quit. You don't want to make the hard decisions for someone else's life. You don't want it to be your fault when one of the children dies of malaria because you didn't have enough money for medical treatments. But you keep going because you want to make the family happy for once and to prove to yourself that their life's dont have to end with one or two of their brothers, sisters, or parents dying. So you keep playing, keep trying. Trying to get closer to the last season of the and last year with your whole family still in tact. You want to provide a happy life to your Haitian family even if they aren't real. Strange as it sounds, you want to buy that expensive house from the store and even get that red bicycle for your virtual family because even if you don't know the ending to their story, you want to try to make it to be a happy one.