Long before pinball machines or video games, my first introduction to games was Chutes and Ladders, the game board picture above. It was a version of the game of Snakes and Ladders, toned down, I guess, for American children’s sensibilities. The game was simple; a roll of the dice advanced each player from square 1 on. If you landed on the base of a ladder you climbed it. If you landed on the top of a chute you went down it. The little illustrations showed meritorious behavior granting you a ladder and bad behavior punishing you with a chute. The goal was to reach the 100 square before your opponent.
I was the only child able to count, so at 3 my only opponent was my father. I had no idea that no skill was involved in this game. I remember feeling elated when I landed on a ladder and crushed when I landed on a chute. The game, supposedly fun, reinforced some suspicion of mine that life was somewhat random. I wouldn’t have phrased it that way, of course, but I still remember the mixture of excitement and dread whenever we sat down to play.
I was very relieved when my father brought home the next game, Uncle Wiggly. While this game was purely luck based also, it seemed less moralistic. I happily moved my piece forward and backward across the board, hoping to reach home before my father. Luck being luck we each won fairly regularly. I always chose Uncle Wiggly from then on.