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In the Jumanji movie, the players were all in danger (or were they?) when each new element came out. But not one death was shown in the movie. Even an 11 year old boy was able to survive 26 years in a "ferocious" jungle.

Can the game kill people? Or is it all just an illusion to teach the players a lesson?

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No. Jumanji does not kill. The artifact has plenty of opportunities during the game, if its goal was to kill, it certainly could knock off one or both players but it doesn't. The game forces compulsion to play to emulate real life's obligation to continue on despite adversity.

Jumanji appears to be an artifact designed to teach the players important values, as games often do, but with a far more sensory-immersion effect. Considering when the game ends, the lessons learned are lasting moral ones, learned under realistic conditions with examples of the consequences of actions fully displayed. These lessons teach about the consequences of choices, quality of relationships, ethics and expound upon the idea that bad choices made in youth could have long term effects on one's life.

And like the seminal Cat in the Hat, any damage done is reversed by the end of the game. A moral fable with a bit of faux terror to drive home the point.

  • Does this answer change with the new movie and its explicit '3 lives or you're dead' ideology? Of course, the possibility is that any deaths would be reserved if/when the final player completed the game, but it could happen that all players died. I don't know if we can say for sure that would reset everything. – Shisa Apr 9 '18 at 5:16

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