June 9, 2013 -- If you thought you'd mastered the Game of LIFE, think again.
The American board game classic is being adapted into a real-life rat race on Japan's Southern island of Yoron, and participants need only pay a $5 entrance fee to join the month-long match.
The inaugural Game of LIFE will feature all the signature pieces of the board game – a life-sized roulette, 18 square foot boards, and a bus parading as a game piece, shuttling players from marriage to retirement…or in this case, one end of the island to the other.
A remote Japanese island and the all-American parlor game may seem like an unlikely fit, but Takanori Iwamoto, who is helping organize the event, says it only seemed natural, considering the eight-square-mile island bears a striking resemblance to the game's oddly shaped spinner.
The head of Yoron's Chamber of Commerce first noticed the similarities after spending days indoors, repeating the cycle of life during a particularly grueling typhoon season last year, that battered the island of 5,400 people.
"He had some guests with young children and didn't have power. They didn't have anything to do except play board games," Chamber member Iwamoto said. "At that time he realized that the piece of the game looked just like Yoron."
Iwamoto and his co-workers saw an opportunity to boost tourism in a creative and exciting way. They reached out to Japanese toymaker Takara Tomy, who agreed to co-sponsor the event, to mark the 45th anniversary of the game in Japan.
The real-life experience, which begins July 20, will be reminiscent of the popular show "The Amazing Race." Participants will be given a map and clues of their tasks using fake "Game of LIFE" money. The island will be divided into four sections, with a spinner and game board at each location.
Lest die-hard fans of the iconic game worry about its authenticity, staffers are paying close attention to detail. The local tourist bus, topped with cardboard pieces resembling player pins, will usher LIFE-ers around the island.
There's no million-dollar prize money to collect at the end, but Iwamoto says the game is set up so nobody walks away broke. Whether you have to move a few spaces back or pay your "mortgage," you come out of Yoron's event with at least $1 to spend on the island, he said.
The hope is, LIFE fanatics will bring tourism back to a region still reeling from three major typhoons last year.
"We are currently still repairing and restoring a lot of the area. Roofs were ripped off of hotels and other buildings," Iwamoto said. "The population has decreased and there are not enough people to help rebuild the area. So, this event isn't just fun, it is part of a larger restoration plan."
Tourists have until September 19 to get in on the game. It may not be as elaborate as the Hunger Games, but it's probably for the best – for the players' sake.