Ah, Candy Land. Created by Hasbro in 1949, this simple board game has provided a fun, fantastical and sneaky way to both occupy kids for hours, as well as get them to practice their counting and color recognition skills. The object of the game is for players to follow a colorful path with green, red, blue, or yellow plastic gingerbread men by selecting cards with pictures of color squares, double color squares, and candy. There are “marsh pits” designated by the egregious black spot in the middle or the color block, where players are stuck, and lose a turn. The candy cards are also both a blessing and a curse to the young players, as they can either move a player far ahead on the path, or force them to move back several spaces depending on their location on the board at the time the candy card is picked. The game is won when the first player arrives Home Sweet Home, or in the later versions, at Candy Castle, the home of King Candy.
Throughout its 67 year history, the board game itself has seen a number of versions hit the market, and as Rachel Marleston points out in her blog post, The Cultural Evolution of Candy Land, the game changed dramatically from 1984 when the board game was “made in the USA” to 2010, now made in China. Players were suddenly treated to a new narrative that now included new Candy Land characters for players to meet along their path, and there was an obvious change in representative drawings of the players themselves, “1984’s kids are pleasantly rounded, 2010’s kids have clearly taken ‘Let’s Move!’ to heart” (Marleston). The illustration of the children on the board game for the first 40 years were initially two white twins, a boy and a girl, both with wide blue eyes and curly blond hair, dressed in matching blue rompers. In the revised editions, 2 more children were added, ostensibly to provide more inclusive characteristics, and absolve Hasbro of stereotypical bias, with the insertion of an African American boy, and an Asian girl. The white girl now has auburn hair, the blond boy wears glasses, and all the cartoon children are dressed in more “stylish” fashions. The newly included Candy Land characters of the 2000s have also become, honestly, more “sexualized” in their updated forms, “Friendly Mr. Candy Cane is gone, replaced by a reminder that men, too, have an idealized muscular form to which they should aspire” (Marleston).
There have been several changes made to the visual aspects of the game’s board, without changing the way the game is played at all. These changes range from an overpowering mix of rainbow effects and sparkles to, as Marleston describes it, the “2010’s game is so much BUSIER and full of candy than 1984’s. In fact, I find 2010 a bit overwhelming visually, whereas 1984’s seems like a relaxed stroll through villages with distinct characteristics. But okay.” The board has suddenly become a psychedelic freak show of almost 3-D proportions.
Ostensibly, these updates have been focus-tested among children and these enhanced graphics were well received, but the truth of the matter is simply this — is it really necessary? Are the parents of today’s children completely unaware of the need for dramatic stimuli for their children to appreciate the value of this game? I would argue that the answer is no. These changes are merely marketing, and rather than improve the game on any level, actually decreases the benefit that the child’s imagination brings to the game. The game would do well to pull back on the graphics, and return to the simplicity of the original game.