Chutes and Ladders, if you didn't know, isn't just a game of chance. It's a game of virtue. At the bottom of each ladder a virtuous action is depicted, and at the top we see its reward. Above each chute is a vice, at the bottom natural punishment. The world of Chutes and Ladders is the world of perfect immanent justice! Virtue always pays and vice is always punished, and always through natural mechanisms rather than by the action of any outside authority, much less divine authority.
Here's a picture of my board at home:
One striking thing: What 21st-century Anglophone philosophers would normally call "prudential" virtues and what 21st-century Anglophone philosophers would normally call "moral" virtues are treated exactly on par, as though they were entirely the same sort of thing.
In square 1, Elmo plants seeds. (Prudential!) Laddering to square 38, he reaps his bouquet. In square 9, Ernie helps Bert carry Bert's books. (Moral!) Laddering to square 31, we see Ernie and Bert enjoying soccer together. In square 64 Bert is running without looking (prudential) and he slips on a banana peel, chuting down to square 60. In square 16, Zoe teasingly hides Elmo's alphabet block from him (moral), and she chutes down to square 6, losing the pleasure of Elmo's company.
It's my first-grade daughter's favorite game right now (though she seems to like it even more when we play it upside down, celebrating vice).
Consider the Boy Scout code: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Wait, "clean"? Or the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. My sense is that cross-culturally and historically long term prudential self-interest and short- and long-term moral duty tend to be lumped together into the category of virtues, not sharply distinguished, all primarily opposed to short-term self-interest.
It's a nice fantasy, the fantasy of mainstream moral educators across history -- that we live in a Chutes-and-Ladders world. And in tales and games you don't even need to do the long-term waiting bit: just ladder right up! I see why my daughter enjoys it. But does it make for a good moral education? Maybe so. One would hope there's wisdom embodied in the Chutes-and-Ladders moral tradition.
One possibility is that it's a bait-and-switch. That's how I'm inclined to read the early Confucian tradition (Mencius, Xunzi, though if so it's below the surface of the texts). The Chutes-and-Ladders world is offered as a kind of hopeful lie, to lure people onto the path of valuing morality as a means to attain long-term self-interest. But once one goes far enough down this path, though the lie becomes obvious, simultaneously the means starts to become an end valued for its own sake, even overriding the long-term selfish goals that originally motivated it. We come, eventually, to help Bert with his books even when it chutes us down rather than ladders us up.
After all, we see the same thing with pursuit of money, don't we?
Update 6:38: As my 14-year-old son points out, one other feature of Chutes and Ladders is that there's no free will. It's all chance whether you end up being virtuous. So in that sense, justice is absent (note March 21: though maybe though it's chance relative to the player, that chance represents the free will of the pawn).
Update March 21: As several people at New APPS have pointed out, Chutes and Ladders originated in ancient India as Snakes and Ladders. According to this site, the original virtues were faith, reliability, generosity, knowledge, asceticism; the original vices disobedience, vanity, vulgarity, theft, lying, drunkenness, debt, rage, greed, pride, murder, and lust. (A lot more snakes than ladders in India than on Sesame Street!)