Reuben Klamer, Mastermind of the Game of Life, Dies at 99 – The New York Times

“He understood that the Game of Life was not just the game that he invented; it was a brand,” he added. “And for a brand to remain viable, it has to evolve. It has to reflect the market conditions of the time.”

But as Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker in 2007, the redesign teams always had a hard time addressing the fundamental criticism of the game — that the only way to reward a player for virtuous acts was with money: “Save an Endangered Species: Collect $200,000. Solution to Pollution: $250,000. Open Health-Food Chain: $100,000.”

And so the company’s 2007 overhaul, the Game of Life: Twists & Turns, was almost existential. Instead of putting players on a fixed path, it provided multiple ways to start out in life — but nowhere to finish. “This is actually the game’s selling point; it has no goal,” Ms. Lepore wrote. “Life is … aimless.”

Reuben Benjamin Klamer, the third of four children, was born on June 20, 1922, in Canton, Ohio, to Jewish immigrants from Romania. His father, Joseph, started a business called Klamer Barrel Company. He drove around to storefronts to buy barrels that had been used for items like jam and pickles, then resold them to a processor for a profit. Reuben often said that he inherited his father’s entrepreneurial drive.

His mother, Rachel (Levenson) Klamer, who worked in a factory, detected something special in Reuben from the start and called him her “million-dollar baby.” Still, she left her husband and family when Reuben was a small child. His father and his new wife, Miriam, raised the children.

Reuben was the first in his immediate family to attend college. He spent a year at George Washington University, but he missed his friends at home and transferred to the Ohio State University in Columbus, where he was taking business courses when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.

He wanted to join the Navy, but because Ohio State did not have a naval R.O.T.C. program, he had to transfer to the University of Michigan for training. He then attended the United States Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School in Chicago and graduated in 1943, after which he was sent to the South Pacific. He was granted his bachelor’s degree in business administration in absentia from Ohio State in 1944, while he was still overseas.

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