Fame. Fortune. Happiness. Those were the three goals that the player had to achieve, with a total of 60 points to be divided between them, as each player chose their own combination as their ultimate career achievement (if only real life was that simple!). The first player to reach their three-part goal won the game. Of course, being a Parker Brothers game, things get a tad more complex with other game elements, including special game board spaces and unique situations presented by Experience and Opportunity cards, that altered game play.
Careers was developed by noted sociologist Dr. James Cook Brown, who also happened to be a science fiction author (he wrote The Troika Incident) and inventor of the artificial language, Loglan. Dr. Brown designed Careers to be an answer to the what he perceived as the 1950s focus on greed and monetary-based self worth. Careers encourages players to think beyond just making money, and instead consider that being successful in life has many paths and aspects. He later redesigned the game to include “enlightenment”, “virtue”, and “power”, but these were not also adopted by the game’s publishers as it transformed Careers from a family game into a game for adults.
There have been several versions of Careers through the years, starting in 1955, with new versions coming out in 1965, 1971, 1976, 1979, 1990, 1992, 1997, 2003, and 2008. With each version came changes to the career choices, box art, contents, and even publisher, but the game mechanic stayed basically the same. (There have also been several non-North American releases, but this article will only discuss Careers games that were sold in Canada and the United States.)
The game was first published by Parker Brothers in 1955. The original version of Careers featured occupations in Farming, Big Business, at Sea, Uranium Prospecting (really!), Politics, Hollywood, or an Expedition to the Moon (space program). Players could also get college degrees in Law, Medicine, Engineering, Science, or a general College Degree. With luck, players could achieve a salary base as high as $19,000 a year! The 1958 version added reuseable score pads, but those vanished with the 1965 version, which also used the same occupations, but different box art. The 1955 box art was spectacularly gaudy, and the 1965 version was much more understated. The game board reflected the tenor of the times, with spaces like “Gorgeous Secretary 4 ♥” in the Big Business path or “Shopping Spree” in the main path, where you find out how much your wife spent!
A few short years later, Parker Brothers released a new version of Careers, this time with slightly different occupations: Ecology, Big Business, Teaching, Politics, The Arts, Sports, and Space. The college education degrees were the same, as was the potential salary level. The box art changed once again, this time reflecting the spirit of the decade, as did the new look for the play money and Experience and Opportunity card decks. One look at a 1971 Careers game box and you know which decade it’s from! The 1976 release contained identical pieces and game play to the 1971 version, with a new yellow colored box. Of the two, the 1976 version is much more difficult to find. Incidentally, the “Gorgeous Secretary 4 ♥” square was replaced by “Lunch with Secretary 4 ♥”, while the “Shopping Spree” flavor text was removed altogether.
In 1979 the game was altered once again, with some of the occupations dropped, the game simplified, and new box art. This version of Careers had Sports, Show Biz, Big Business, Politics, and Space as occupations (what happened to Ecology?). Players earned University degrees – not college degrees – in Physical Education, Business, Science, or Law. The game board was much less detailed, almost as if Parker Brothers were attempting to “dumb down” the gaming experience. As an aside, any mention of having a secretary was removed from the Big Business path, and replaced with “Given Larger Office 4 ♥”. The times, they were a-changing.
A relatively unknown version of Careers was the 1990 release of Careers for Girls. This abysmal game failed both in its mission to prepare girls for their life career choices and to provide an interesting game to play, with choices of Super Mom, Rock Star, School Teacher, Rock Star, Fashion Designer, or Animal Doctor. This version is best forgotten, unless you’re in the mood to experience mind-numbing awfulness. But I digress.
The game disappeared of the gaming radar screen in the 1980s, but returned under a new publisher – Irwin Toys – in 1992. This version brought back Ecology as an occupation, as well as Big Business, Politics, Entertainment, Teaching, Sports, and Computer Science. The “Given Larger Office 4 ♥” was replaced with “Transferred to Hawaii 4 ♥” which you would think was surely worth more than four hearts. The whole presentation had a much cheaper feel than past incarnations, with poorer quality game cards and board art. I’d pass on this version, too.
Pressman Toys brought out a version of Careers in 1997 that was a mashup of several previous releases, with career choices of Big Business, Ecology, Entertainment, Expedition to Mars, Politics, Computer Programming, and Sailing. The board is a throwback to the 1971 version, and gameplay is the same. This is a good non-Parker Brothers release, and if you cannot locate a 1971 or 1976 copy, the 1997 version is a good substitute.
Hasbro picked up the Parker Brothers brand name in a corporate acquisition in 1991, and released a new version of Careers in 2003. This time the box was shrunk to half the original size, and the game board was much more colourful and laid out in a different fashion than previous versions. Career paths included: Entertainment, Politics, Conservation, Teaching, Sports, and Big Business. Not a bad version, but still not as enjoyable as the 1970s versions.
The latest reissue of Careers brings the game full circle back to its 1955 roots. Winning Moves Games has taken the original and brought it back to life, with career paths including Entertainment, Politics, Exploring, Farming, Expedition to the Moon, and Adventure at Sea. College degrees include Law, Medicine, Engineering, Science, or a general College Degree, which is exactly like the original. The game board is more colourful than the 1955 version, but it is not as gaudy as some of the other releases. This is a good version to pick up if you can’t find an original, but bear in mind that it calls for only 2 to 4 players, not 2 to 6 like its predecessors.
No matter which year or which version you play, the game is fairly straightforward to play. Although there’s a lot going on in Careers, there’s not so much that only adults would enjoy it. The game gives a minimum age of eight years old, which is, in my opinion, fine. Although anywhere from 2 to 6 players can play (excepting the 2008 release), this is the kind of Parker Brothers board game that begs for maximum occupancy around the game board. In other words, Careers is another highly recommended, classic board game. Enjoy!