New Toy and Game Company
By David McGranaghan
Despite all our progress with gender inclusivity in recent years, kids’ toys are still pretty black-and-white (or should I say pink or blue). In major toy shops today, children still have to pick a lane based primarily on gender. The models featured in Amazon product images are boys for trucks and girls for dolls. Children are still often forced to conform: first, in their clothing and second, in their toys.
The only exception to this rule is games. Board games, card games, party games; the images used to sell these products have always been mixed in terms of gender and age. Is gameplay the only play that’s for all of us?
Games are fair; we all have to follow the same set of rules, regardless of gender. As a queer child, this is one of the very rare times you can feel truly equal: you have just as much chance of winning as your siblings; you can beat your parents; you can even play with the opposite sex without judgement or a raised eyebrow. Jenga, Clue, Monopoly, Twister—these games are top selling products decade after decade with little to no update required to the gameplay. How many gendered toys can say that? I believe good gameplay allows us to escape and go beyond ourselves, and interact with loved ones on a personal level, and that’s why these games are still on our Christmas lists year after year.
Subconsciously, I think this is one reason my husband Julian and I started developing party games with our company McMiLLER. In what other environment would you get different generations and genders all laughing and participating in the same activity? To give that freedom, entertainment, and inclusive feeling back to the world seemed something worthwhile. Whatever issues a family may be facing, they can let them all go and compete as equal—and hopefully entertained—people. Wits, luck, skill are great equalizers around the game table.
As we’re about to release our fifth party game, Fire In The Hole (our pillagin’ plastic-free pirate game), Julian and I are proud to put our queerness at the forefront of our company. We are all aware of the impact representation can have on society as a whole, and we believe it’s the least we can do.
Being lucky enough to have finally found pride in our queerness, and to work side by side with each other every day doing what we love, we know that us being vocal and present will not only let other queer people see themselves out there in the world, but also let the straight community know that we exist, we are successful, and they and their loved ones are being entertained by queer talent.
Having seen how successful this awareness has been with developing games, we decided to take on one of the most difficult categories of the toy business: dolls and action figures. Traditionally, these have been all about promoting specific gender stereotypes, gender roles, behaviors, and even values. What, we wondered, would happen if we created a line of toys with characters who were appealing, had a great backstory, and looked cool… BUT were designed to be open-ended so that kids could create and reflect their own unique narratives through play? We think we’ve found it, but you’re going to have to wait till 2023 to see it in “person.”
There is no denying that the gender stereotypes seen in our toys growing up, and still in many toys today, have a long-lasting impact on gender and our relationship with our bodies. How much have these unachievable ‘role models’ held us back? What could we achieve or feel if there was less conforming and more exploring? As a company, we hope to give the next generation the tools to think bigger, freer, and weirder. And have fun doing it.