Yesterday I emailed off my proposal for my current ‘trait’ game to Patrick Otley, a previous designer of family board games at hasbro.
He has since got back to me today with some really good feedback that has made me rethink my current game –
Thanks for your thorough description of your project!
I think it’s cool that you are investigating gender in the Toy Industry, it’s certainly a topical issue.
If I were you I would have a good think about who you want to play this game, and why.
It’s certainly admirable to encourage girls and boys to look beyond stereotypes, but is that actually a fun subject matter?
Currently your proposal reads like an education product
These tend to not be financially successful products, and not particularly fun to play.
So, perhaps you need to decide what the end result is. Is this a product for schools? Is it a product you can imagine a manufacturer producing to make profit?
Or is it a social endeavour, perhaps linked to a charity or a project in a culture that is really struggling with gender stereotyping in society?
Knowing where this product is destined for would help my feedback, but for now I will give you my advice as a toy and game designer for the mass market.
I am firm believer that all such products for children should be primarily FUN. Boardgames are about creating an awesome social experience, to be enjoyed with friends and family.
Sure, education can happen, but that should be SECONDARY to the awesome experience.
I would suggests that rather than work on a second version for even younger children, I would make sure your main game is actually really fun and inspiring.
I think a good approach would be to create a really fun game with some exciting and new game mechanics, where you play as either a girl or a boy character.
All the characters could be inspiring role models that either a girl or a boy would love to play as. Maybe they are explorers, or scientists, or just kids with create personalities and attitudes.
In that way you gently encourage the consumers (children) to realise that it does not matter what your gender is when it comes to being kickass!
There are PLENTY of examples in the industry of brands that go into this area, especially in STEM/STEAM products aimed at girls, such as Roominate and GoldieBlox.
In both of those case the aim is show girls that engineering can be great fun. The products are desirable and girls enjoy playing them, the gender aspect is hidden behind the fun experience.
Once you have a really fun game, get testing. Test test test. It’s the only way to know if your game is good… do kids genuinely like it? Do they actually want to play it?
After reading this I have decided to go back at step today and stop working on my current ‘my first’ version and really perfect my main game as a more fun inspiring board game. I know that I want my game to be made for mass manufacturing so need to put the educational side of my game as the secondary function and focus more on the fun. My aim for today is to now go back to designing and try and think of a new approach to my trait game. Hopefully by tomorrow night I should have a better idea of what I want to achieve!