LIFE game teaches acceptance

On a normal day, LIFE is just a board game.

But on Nov. 5 and 6, it was an interactive game played with human pieces and simulated setbacks in the University Center Ballroom.

“The Game of Life is a hands on diversity experience,” said David Stetter, Norse Leadership Society president. “It allows people to spend 45 minutes in someone else’s shoes.”

The NLS gave each participant a colored and coded name tag upon entering the game. The tags represented a specific (but unknown) social class, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. The players were treated differently depending on their tags.

Participants who were labeled low-class ethnic minorities were targeted to be sent to jail and ordered to the back of the career, education, bank and housing lines. Meanwhile, upper class white citizens were chosen to skip to the front of the line and given special privileges throughout the game.

“The purpose is to talk about power and privilege and to show people how it would feel to live as someone unlike themselves,” NLS advisor Tiffany Mayse said.

Freshman sports business major Kory Hetzer was one of the unlucky citizens.

“Things have gone awful for me,” he said. “I apparently can’t read, so I can’t get a job, money or a house.”

The system consisted of six classes (including illiterate people), four ethnicities, an assigned gender and an assigned sexual orientation. But, of course, the coded information was kept secret from the participants.

Although most players didn’t know exactly who they were, they had much of the situation figured out by the game’s end.

“I think people are catching on to who they are by the way they are being treated,” Mayse said as Stetter pulled another player out of line and threw him in jail. “We try to be over the top and really push the stereotypes so they can feel how others feel every day.”

The Game of Life sensitivity and diversity session is held biennially during diversity week.

“We have the game every other year because if the codes get out, the game doesn’t work anymore,” Mayse said.

Stetter said he has seen people get aggressive, cry and even quit the game over the brash (although not intended to be hurtful) atmosphere of the session. Fortunately, none of that happened this year.

“At the end of the game, we talk to everyone about what their tags meant and why they were treated a certain way,” Mayse said. “We don’t want to leave anyone with their feelings seriously hurt or anything.”

But, even though the game was still just a game, it opened a few eyes .

“The game showed us how stereotypes are a big problem in our society,” said Theresa Poole, a senior radio television major. “We get to see what people face every day and how privileged we are to have the chance to get a college education.”

Stetter, although happy with the turnout and the message, was not surprised with the results.

“The Game of Life is one of the best activities we can do,” he said. “It is a symbolic representation of how our society treats people based on class, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.”