March 27, 2015

Candyland: a sweet little game for sweet little folks

A sweet little game for sweet little folks. Credit: John Morgan / Flickr Creative Commons

A dip into history…for a low-tech creation that came out of the mind of Eleanor Abbott, who was stuck in the hospital in 1948 recovering from polio.

At the time, tens of thousands of people were being crippled by the disease every year, and the vaccine was still a few years away. So, Abbott sat in her hospital room in San Diego - frustrated, bored, and with nothing for entertainment but her imagination.

She saw kids all over the ward struggling with the same sort of boredom, and her solution for all that boredom was a game, which became a huge hit in the hospital.

It was unlike most of the other games of the era: it didn’t have a lot of moving parts like Monopoly, or require sophisticated language skills, like Scrabble. In other words, kids could play it by themselves, without adult help.

Abbott brought the idea to Milton Bradley, with illustrations of how it should look and operate - written on butcher paper. Executives at the game giant were interested, and they came up with this tagline: “a sweet little game for sweet little folks.”

It makes sense:

What other games had a Peppermint Stick Forest?

Or a Gingerbread Plum tree?

Or Lollipop Woods?

Candy Land was an immediate hit, and has now sold more than 40 million copies. Eleanor Abbott had kids to thank; both those fighting polio who had tested the game, and those all around the world who had bought it.

So, despite the fact that she had the relatively modest savings of a teacher, she gave most of her Candy Land money away. She funneled it to schools, to allow them to buy supplies and give kids the tools to succeed.

A little bit of a saccharine ending, but, I mean, what else would you expect?

innovation hub, Culture, Candyland, board games, candy, Kara Miller

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