Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hasbro knows all about selling to kids - and nothing much about talking to them

 



Original Text
To:

CC:

Sent:
13.11.12 19:35:41
Subject:
Guess Who


Dear Hasbro,

My name is R______. I am six years old. I think it's not fair to only have 5 girls in Guess Who and 19 boys. It is not only boys who are important, girls are important too. If grown ups get into thinking that girls are not important they won't give little girls much care.

Also if girls want to be a girl in Guess Who they'll always lose against a boy, and it will be harder for them to win. I am cross about that and if you don't fix it soon, my mum could throw Guess Who out.

My mum typed this message but I told her what to say.




Dear R___,

Thank you for your email. Please find below an explanation which I hope your mummy will be able to explain to you.

Guess Who? is a guessing game based on a numerical equation.  If you take a look at the characters in the game, you will notice that there are five of any given characteristics.  The idea of the game is, that by process of elimination, you narrow down who it isn't, thus determining who it is.  The game is not weighted in favour of any particular character, male or female.  Another aspect of the game is to draw attention away from using gender or ethnicity as the focal point, and to concentrate on those things that we all have in common, rather than focus on our differences.

We hope this information is of help to you.

May we thank you for contacting Hasbro and if we can be of any further assistance, either now or in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us again.

Kind Regards,


ASK HASBRO
Hasbro UK Ltd



Dear ___,

Thanks for your prompt reply to R__. She has been anxiously watching the post box and checking with me to see if there has been a response to her email, which - I'm sure you understand - it was a very big deal to her to write.

Unfortunately, she is now no clearer as to why there are only five female characters for her to choose from in her favourite board game, compared to the 19 male characters her brother can pick. (Obviously, she could choose to be a male character, but as you know, that's not usually how children work).

If anything, your response has left her more confused than before. She is a smart girl, but she is only 6 and still in senior infants at primary school, so she is a long way from being able to grasp concepts like numerical equations and weighting.

As a company that makes toys for children, I would have anticipated you would communicate with your youngest customers in a more direct and child-friendly way.

But I must confess that, despite being 37 years of age and educated to Masters level, I am equally at a loss.

Why is female gender regarded as a "characteristic", while male gender is not?

Kind regards,

Jennifer O'Connell

Updated at 11.15pm: You can read the latest response from Hasbro here

Updated to add: Coincidentally, I wrote about something quite similar for my Irish Times column this week - sadly the deadline was earlier this week, so it isn't included.






284 comments:

  1. Love Mummy's response! Well done!

    That is a dreadful response from any company selling to children.

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    1. Thanks Margaret. It's outstandingly bad. I was really disappointed for her.

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    2. We love this game and that is the single biggest problem we have. I have 2 girls and they can each be quickly eliminated because they almost ALWAYS pick girls.
      The pure logic of weighting is one thing - being FEMALE as a characteristic is incredible. Makes me dislike Hasbro.

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    3. Did I miss something? Not so sure the letter ever stated that female was a characteristic a male wasn't. I'm all for equality as long as it's actual equality. So, women getting paid the same as men in tennis = no (they play best of 3 sets, men play best of 5, go figure). Equal number of girls on this game = yes. although I would like to say that the facial hair on the men does give an additional characteristic to define, therefore adding to the numerical equations they speak of.

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    4. I find this post to be rather confusing.

      Since when did having less characters of a particular group of people equate to discrimination? So what if there are only 5 women in the game? Do we see any Asians in there? Why are there only 5 black people in the game? Etc.

      The child needs to be told that, "there is just 5 girls in the game." and let it be.

      It seems you as the author only care about the position of women, which you take precedence over everything. The reality is that by implying women should take at least 50% of the characters in the game, you will destroy a function of the game.

      There is no discrimination in the game at all and you are making a scene out of nothing. Now if women were portrayed in a demeaning way, sure, fight for it, in fact, I'll be right behind you. However having only 5 women is not an offensive thing and I wouldn't care if there was only 5 men. It's there for the game to work, which you need to understand.

      I'm more offended by your post, which is suggesting that games or perhaps all creative media be made in a certain way, which equates to censorship, a terrible thing. It's like me complaining about a certain book that has more female main characters than men. Sorry to be harsh, but please find an actual worthy issue to post about, not tiddlebits like this.

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    5. Silly hysterical women should shut up and know their place!

      Sorry, I was just reading between the lines there.

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    6. You weren't reading between the lines, you were injecting something that wasn't there at all.

      By making the number of each gender equal you would make the only logical first question one about gender. It would always, without fail, eliminate half of the board.

      And to the OP's "point" that "female" is a characteristic and "male" is not; just no. By that logic you could say that "has glasses" is a characteristic and "does not have glasses" is not. That's simply not the case.

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    7. Calling people out for bad behavior or something terrible they said isn't censorship. Or would you rather we all be required to consume anything and everything anyone anywhere says?

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    8. @ Anonymous:
      >> By making the number of each gender equal you would make the only logical first question one about gender. It would always, without fail, eliminate half of the board. <<

      The first question is almost always about gender anyway. Answering 'girl' would always, without fail, eliminate all but 5 of the tiles. That's the whole point of the criticism. By your logic, the only way to workaround that is to make all of the characters male or all female. That's nuts.

      >> And to the OP's "point" that "female" is a characteristic and "male" is not; just no. By that logic you could say that "has glasses" is a characteristic and "does not have glasses" is not. That's simply not the case. <<

      It was Hasbro that suggested female was a characteristic. By their admission, there are five of each 'characteristic', and the fact is that there are five females. It's not a big leap to conclude that in their minds, the 5 females fill the quota for 'female' characteristic. There are more than 5 males; clearly 'male' is more than a 'characteristic.'

      The truth is that it's not that hard to take account of gender equality when putting together games for kids. And it wouldn't have killed Hasbro to say 'sorry, little girl, we screwed up. we'll put more girls in there for the next version, so that you enjoy playing the game more.'

      And any parent who tells their kid that 'that's just the way it is' should think carefully about the kind of characteristics they want to encourage in their kid. I, for one, would much prefer a bright, questioning kid than one who accepted everything without any kind of engagement at all.

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    9. @ Sinead:
      I don't think you understand how the game works...

      For each question or trait, there are two possible characteristics. One characteristic has 5 people, the other characteristic has everybody else. The game is not making a judgement about if those traits are "better" or not. If you make it so that half of the characters are male and half are female, that trait/question would no longer have the same probability of return that the rest of the traits have. Therefore, you would have broken the game.

      <<The first question is almost always about gender anyway. Answering 'girl' would always, without fail, eliminate all but 5 of the tiles. That's the whole point of the criticism. By your logic, the only way to workaround that is to make all of the characters male or all female. That's nuts

      Just because you think that gender differences are the most significant and should be the most obvious way to tell people apart doesn't mean that everybody plays that way. Any trait can be used as the first question with equal success.

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    10. @Sinead:
      Thanks for taking the time to explain this to "anonymous" (and the others who don't get it). I ran out of patience for talking to stupid people.

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    11. @ AnonymousNovember 17, 2012 7:43 AM

      Calm down dear! Making half of the characters female would not break the game, instead they would just need to remove it as a characteristic and add another, no biggie. Yes half characters would be removed on the first go but thats also no biggie, children will learn how to adapt to that.

      And what is the problem with making it equal? Why do you have a problem with that?

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    12. I though there was a rule in guess who that you couldn't ask "is it a man" because it wipes out so much of the board...

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    13. ya, she must be an amazing mum!way 2 go!
      love you and wish you all the best, from TEL AVIV city :)

      Another mum

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    14. I have an idea...If you don't like the fact that the game only has 5 girls, then don't buy it. It's just a game. There are to many idiots in the world that make something a big deal that shouldn't be.

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    15. I love that you wrote to the company about this game. I also found the American version of this game to be annoyingly limited. I created a whole new set of templates for my two sons to play with that had equal amounts of MALE and FEMALE superheros, and considered letting the company know. I think you have inspired me to start an underground movement selling these to moms who have a clue. Well done!

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    16. Its women that make This sexist. If it was 5 men they wouldnt look twice at Discrimination......

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    17. @Kyle Parkinson: Yes I would look twice if there were only 5 men in the game. Sexism works in both directions, and we don't make it up. It exists. We don't want a world in which men are treated less then woman, we want a world in which everybody is treated the same way.
      If I have kids one day I don't want to feel less or better, just because of their gender. I want them to feel just important for what they do and not what they're randomly born with.
      It's a fact that 50% of the population is male the other half is female. So why not show that in a kids game? They need to learn as early as possible that gender is not something that entitles them to treat other less. Or that their gender is something that will cause problems.
      "Guess Who?" might be just a game and of course I can decide to not buy it. But it is the favorite game of this 6 year old girl and she wanted to pick a female character and still win. What is wrong with that? Since she couldn't do it, she asked the company why that was. Is that wrong in any way? Asking questions? This little girl seems to understand, what you don't. That it's just unfair that there aren't more girls in this game. And to me that's a shame. But I also have high hopes for this generation. But I fear they will be put down by people like you.

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  2. They could learn a couple things from Sainsburys: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16812545

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    1. I saw that earlier on Twitter - hats off to Sainsburys. Brilliant response

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    2. Hats off to Sainsbury's for brilliantly cynical marketing?

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    3. Couldn't agree with you more anon. Let's not make out that Sainsbury's saw anything here but a positive marketing ploy. If that letter had been sent without the fuss then they would never have changed the name.

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    4. Sainsbury's sent back the nice letter before it all went viral...

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  3. Christ.

    Mammy wants to make a name as a"Blogger" . 6 year old probably didnt have any of those ideas passed into her impressionable mind by her mothers views?

    Empty tripe.



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    1. I don't need to make a name as "Blogger" thanks Si Jo, since I already get paid to write columns and features.

      Are you really so threatened by a six year old's desire to be treated as an equal that you feel the need to insult her?

      If so, I feel sorry for you.

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    2. Unlikely. As kid I was always annoyed by lack of female characters in my toys or cartoons. I mean there were Barbies sure, but with them there was a significant lack of male characters. Can we not have a nice balance between both genders?

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    3. Your response if childish, Si Jo.

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    4. If her mother is passing the idea that girls are equal to boys and constitute half the population of our world into her impressionable mind we call that, "parenting."

      It's what the grown ups do.

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    5. Wow what a smart kid, to be able to verbalise how annoyed she was at 6 about how she wasnt represented, or the fact that the game doesnt represent people around her - dont think that creators of the game would like a 80/20 male/female population split in real life. And how lucky is she to have a mother who encourages her to user her voice

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    6. Actually no one insulted your six year old. They insulted you. Also please don't use logical fallacy to dismiss the idea that writing is your job.
      I may only have my bachelors level degree, but I understood what they said. If your daughter had glasses would you be up in arms about how few people in the game have glasses? This is a game, not who can be drafted.

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    7. "A six-year-old couldn't possibly wonder on her own why her gender was under-represented" isn't an insult? I want to live in your world, orbofthewinds.

      As for glasses: roughly 51% of humans exit the womb female (whether or not their body matches up). Exactly 0% of humans exit the womb wearing glasses.

      Even if it were reasonable to have one gender as the "default" and the other as an "added characteristic" - and it's flatly not - given the percentage above, the obvious default is female, not male.

      Beyond that, turning gender into a game mechanic causes a gameplay problem! The first question out of the gate is always "Are you a boy or a girl?" If you've chosen a male character, the other person has a one-in-19 chance of guessing right without any further clues; with a female character, the other person has a one-in-5 chance of guessing right without any further clues.

      It's a bad decision, and a sexist one.

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    8. Noelle:
      In response to your fourth paragraph, that's exactly the point of the game. If I guess "Does your character have glasses?" and the answer is yes, then I have a 1 in 5 chance of being correct after that as well. That's the entire point of the company's response. The balance of discernible characteristics has to be a constant ratio between each type of characteristic or there could be inconsistent game-play.

      As a personal aside to Jennifer O'Connell, I find it depressing that you think your daughter can't understand weighting or mathematical equations at the age of 6 while she is obviously recognizing it herself naturally. The mere fact that she noticed there were more men than women in the game, she has demonstrated intuitive mathematical ability. I would see this as an opportunity to teach her something about mathematics, rather than dismissing the company's response as overly complicated.

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    9. Can we stop equating 'having glasses' with 'being female'? Even aged 6, I could work out that when I took off my glasses, I was still a girl. The kid wants to see some kind of fair representation of herself in the game. She It's not difficult to understand, folks.

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    10. I'm not sure I understand. I wear glasses, and according to http://www.statisticbrain.com/corrective-lenses-statistics/ about 64% of Americans wear some form of glasses at one time or another. Therefore, I am underrepresented in the game. Is it reasonable for me to be upset about this?

      If it is reasonable for me to be upset, then according to your comments above, we are equating glasses and gender, which is not true. Fair enough, I could switch to contact lenses, or simply learn to function without vision correction, but both of these would compromise part of my identity as wearing glasses is apparently worth getting upset over, and must be important to me.

      Otherwise, it is unreasonable for me to be upset. Then the logical conclusion is that gender (that I don't decide) is more important to my identity than glasses (which I can control). While in reality, my gender does have a larger effect on my life than glasses do, but isn't this the very problem that feminism combats?

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    11. Noëlle, I think the education system has failed you. "" are called parentheses, they are often used to quote things. Yet the "insult" (see I quoted your use of the word insult there) you used,is only used by you.
      I think the rest of the comments I thought to make are rather succinctly covered by Twitch, thanks on that. But I think a good point that people are missing here is it is a game.

      The mechanics of the game are made for the game (looking at you Sinead). It is not the most recent census poll.

      They could make people have purple skin. Would you be mad about the misrepresentation of purple skinned people in the game then?
      Noëlle I too wish you could live in my world. I worked very hard to not use any ad hominem fallacy in this.
      One last here. Who plays this game so that you choose your character!? I always played to the selection was random. "It is hard to win rock paper scissors if you only choose rock" -Internet friend

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    12. They're called "quotation marks", not "parentheses", which are these: (). They also have uses outside of direct quotations, for the record.

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    13. Yes your right on both accounts, and I apologize. I was rushing and not properly editing on the former and the latter I was simplifying to the use of this instance. I am sorry.

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    14. You're.*

      When attempting to insult someone's intelligence via their use of the English language, it's best to make sure your use is unassailably correct.

      IMO, the game is broken. They should just make each characteristic 50%. Though "facial hair" would have to go out the window, at that point.

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    15. As a child I always noticed when my sex was treated as an afterthought. Always. What's more, I was already quite aware of it even before I turned 6 years old, and yes, I absolutely do remember playing Guess Who and wondering why there were so few women. There is no reason at all to believe that this little girl wouldn't have noticed that there are only 5 female characters to 19 male ones. Frankly I'd be shocked if she hadn't.

      The game is also insulting because it follows along with the usual sexist thinking that men are the default human (and therefore have all sorts of different characteristics, body types, personalities, etcetera) and that women are a monolith, a certain "type" of human.

      Kudos to both the child and the mother in this situation!

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  4. si jo - I don't know if you know any 6 year olds but I have a 5 year old who is more than capable of coming up with that and more. all she's saying is there are more boys than girls. I don't think she needs her mother to tell her that.

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    1. Absolutely Grainne. Kids are the most indignant people I know.

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    2. How horrible that her mother is raising her to believe that girls are equal to boys!

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    3. I have a not-quite-4yr old who is already making choices about games, books and TV shows based on the gender spread. She rejects any without enough girls. Completely on her own. No mommy-influence.

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  5. Jennifer, were it not for your daughter you would be my number one new idol. Well done both!

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    1. You are most welcome. I hope they reply again! Keep us informed...

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  6. As a company aiming their products at children, it sure seems that they have no idea how to talk to them.

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  7. si jo If that's what you think you obviously don't know very much about this particular Mammy!!! She doesn't need to "make her name as a blogger" her name is already well made elsewhere. Jen I agree with you, that is appalling. I couldn't make head, arse nor tail of that explanation either.

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  8. That's astonishing.

    As the parent of two girls, I'd really like to see Hasbro's response to Mum's response. I was going to get Guess Who for Christmas for my eldest (also six) but now I think I might opt for a more gender-balanced copy.

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    1. Thanks. I'll be watching the page.

      It's depressing and infuriating that, of course, the *real* reason for the gender imbalance is that even in the modern day, more people will probably be offended by a gender-neutral toy than will be with this crap.

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  9. I hope you get a more satisfactory response. Playing with my six-year old daughter, I have often wondered why there are so many male characters.

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  10. Responding as a communications professional, that is poor practice - a great opportunity missed.

    As a feminist, I despair. But then I am cheered because your daughter asked that question and, as long as we're asking questions, there is hope. Well done and thank you to both of you!

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    1. Thanks MrsWalker2013. Their response really is a missed opportunity.

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  11. I suspect the real answer is "Because the game was made decades ago and we're too lazy to change it now" but since that doesn't really fly, might as well babble about numerical equations and whatnot :-P

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    1. I agree. They should replace the people with colorful, silly monsters.

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    2. What a brilliant solution!

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    3. The character mix has changed several times over the years. Wikipedia suggests that actually, the current version has equal numbers of males and females, though hasbro's response doesn't seem to follow through with this, and Jennifer/R don't mention if it was a recent purchase.

      For slightly older children I see the point the PR bod is trying to make, that by making skin colour and gender no more distinguishing than other physical traits they shouldn't be the first things you sort and judge people by. A bit subtle for the average player though, I suspect. Hard to pitch a response to the right level though, we'd be equally outraged if they sent a patronising response to a 6yo who understood the game mechanics.

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  12. This is why the term facepalm was introduced.

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  13. Ooh, I think I figured out what they're saying, though. They're counting female-ness as a characteristic like, say, blonde hair or blue eyes. So there are five females, and presumably five blue-eyed folks, five with blond hair, five with glasses, etc.

    Presumably if you can identify the male with the most common hair and eye color and no distinguishing features like beards or glasses, he'd be the hardest to guess, maybe?

    But man...that is all kinds of BS. There's no reason it wouldn't work just fine with equal numbers of males and females- the question would just eliminate half the board instead of eliminating only five/all but five.

    I recommend fixing the game-
    http://www.instructables.com/id/Personalized-Guess-Who/step1/Go-get-things/

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    1. That is exactly it. There is always a trait that 5 characters have while the rest don't have it. I remember spotting the pattern when I was a kid. I noticed it first because there was 5 characters with a hat and we were always using that question first. Then I noticed there was 5 big noses, 5 blondes, etc.

      Anyway it wouldn't work with half girls and half boys. The whole point is that no question can wipe half the board no matter the answer. If there was any question like that, everyone would be asking it on the first turn, and it doesn't make any sense to have such a flaw in this kind of game. So instead you always have 4 chances out of 5 to remove a little amount of cards and 1 chance out of 5 to narrow it down to only 5 cards.

      Also, you are supposed to pick one character randomly.

      But anyway, I totally agree that their answer was very cold and unfriendly, especially for a child.

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    2. Vachu, if your first question is 'Is your character female' and the answer is yes you've wiped more than half the board so I have to disagree.

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    3. I understand what you mean, but you have 1 chance out of 5 of this happening. The same can be said with any question that the game is designed around. If the first question is does he/she have a hat, there is also 1 chance out of 5 that the answer is yes and you wipe more than half the board.

      If there was an equal amount of male and female, any answer to the gender question would wipe half the board. There can be no answer that ALWAYS wipes half the board. This breaks the balance of the game. It's all about odds really.

      Anyway, what Hasbro should do is a version with more girls than boys AND the classic version with more boys than girls. This way people could choose which version they want based on their kids preference.

      As an aside, has any of you ever tried to play with 2 or even 3 characters? It makes the game much more strategic. You have to use questions like "Are both your characters girls?" or "Does your girl character has a hat?" Etc.

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  14. I love it! What a bright and thoughtful girl! Next step for the family: making a gender equal guessing game :-)

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  15. Maybe it's just because of my experience with game design, but I completely understood what they said. Gender is a 50/50 option in the game and making half the characters female would eliminate half the board with a single question. Having an equal number of male and female characters would completely unbalance the game and make the matches a lot shorter.

    It's an unfortunate reality of mathematics, but there is no easy solution. Regardless of whether we view this as sexist or not, the game requires a dominant gender if gender is going to be one of the guess options. Whether you'd prefer female or male to be the more prominent one is another debate altogether.

    Still, it's fantastic to see your kid making critical observations. Good for her!

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    1. There is an easy solution, several comments up from here. Stop using gendered humans and use non-gendered colourful monsters instead. Thus - no focus on gender, ethnicity, facial hair choices - just good clean fun.

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    2. LOVE this idea! We buy a lot of "monster" stuff.

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  16. " making half the characters female would eliminate half the board with a single question. "

    because as it is right now eliminating 80% of the board with a single question is better?

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    1. That's what I've been wondering too. I guess they expect that people won't ask if the person is male?

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    2. Or 20% of the board. The optimal choices in Guess Who are the ones closest to a 50:50 ratio. If You had perfect 50% ratios, the game ends on guess 4 every time. To prevent this, you have characteristics that are only available on 20-30% of people. That way you can end up with a varied number of guesses, and have it not come down to who goes first.

      If there where 12 men and 12 women, your first question would always be "If your person male/female?" because it would guarantee working off of a 12 person board rather then hoping you knock off 19 guess, but dreading that you only knock off 5 girls.

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    3. Exactly. As the game rules state, asking about gender is not allowed to be your first question anyway, so why would making more of the players female be harmful to the stats? If the player wasn't allowed to ask about gender AT ALL then the gender characteristic -and thus the need for only 5 females- goes away completely.

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    4. All questions eliminate 80% or 20% of the board. Each characteristic you can ask for is represented by 5 characters in the game. 5 wear a hat, 5 have blond hair, 5 have a beard, 5 wear glasses etc.

      And YES! Gender is a characteristic. You can either be male or female. And to keep things fair and all questions equal it should be an 80-20 split.

      The fun part of the game is that is doesn´t matter what question you start with as it would eliminate either 80% or 20% of the board. Deviating from that would alter the game in such way that the optimal way to win is to always ask the same questions in the same order.

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  17. I understand your daughters viewpoint but i have also understand the game designer who created a game to encourage children think logically. if you are this exercised, dump the game or better yet, make your own faces on the pc in the time it takes to write this post.

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    1. Or she could do all of those things and still let Hasbro know why.

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  18. Women have mustaches too. They should be included.

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    1. This is amusing, but also made me think - given that the there has to be 5 additional male characters that do not have facial hair, they could then be turned into female characters with all the same "other" characteristics. The gender skew would not be as severe, and there are still be the same subsets of 5 in the "other" categories.

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  19. I saw your post via the Mighty Girl Facebook page. Thank you for sharing this interaction. I have a curious 3.5 yo girl who is attracted to toys that seem to be historically marketed to/for boys, things to do with logic puzzles, science kits, dinosaurs, anatomy, etc. I get really grumpy when catalogs only have boys playing with those toys. My daughter has already said things to me like, "girls don't play soccer" and so I worry that only ever seeing boys playing with those toys will make her feel like she can't do that too.

    And even though I've never seen this game, I can see what some of the commenters are saying. But the simple solution is to have 50/50 male/female and have "is it a female?" or "is it male?" just NOT be an allowable question. Making "women" a characteristic like wearing a hat or having blonde hair is sending a subtle message that women are a sub-set of men. This would certainly be easy to work around if the game designers weren't so paternalistic.

    ~ From another Jennifer O'

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  20. This is a great post- and thank you. All those above looking at this from the game designer's perspective turning everything into logical subsets of five have clearly never played 'Guess Who' with a 6 year old: The first question asked is ALWAYS "Is it a man/lady?" because gender is the first way we define ourselves. Your daughter is spot on.

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  21. Warning: Don't buy Cluedo. Female murderers are over represented.

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    1. The characters in Clue are split 50/50 male/female (Green/Mustard/Plum v Scarlett/White/Peacock).

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    2. Well spotted Sherlock! But in the general population men murder more often. Does this not make you want to write to the manufacturer to correct this glaring mistake?

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    3. I think that you'll find that within the specific population referred to by Cluedo, that is, murders of the wealthy owner of a mansion by one of six people all of whom have a reason to profit from the murder and who may in the end discover that the killer is in fact themselves, the gender split is close to 50/50.

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  22. Well done to R______ for writing to Hasbro and well done to those who encouraged her. Changing the world for the better is a tough job, but someone's got to do it. Please pass on my congratulations to her.

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  23. What a disappointing response from Hasbro to a wonderful letter from a bright little girl. Good come back from her mother, though ;)

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  24. Their answer, while ridiculous for a 6 year old to grasp, is basic math and should make sense to any adults commenting here.

    Even so, isn't this a moot point anyway, as Hasbro offer alternative character cards that you can download for free on their web site, print out and slot into the game. It was one of the first things we did in our house - and yes the free cards include non-human characters like dinosaurs, pets and weird looking creatures. It even says you can do this on the box.

    For anyone who's not go their box any more: http://www.hasbro.com/games/discover/guesswho/

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    1. The answer is bullshit. The rules of the game are changeable, and can be changed to compensate for a different treatment of gender. The mathematical formula isn't so unflexible that nothing can be done to accomodate this request. The alternate character cards are helpful, and its good that they exist, but if you need to print them out in order to make the game's character-set equitable, they should just come with the game in the first place.

      Delete
    2. There are 2 options 1) Swap all the male cards to female and the female cards to male. Problem "solved" by changing bias it to the other gender. Or 2) Add a rule that says you're allowed to ask any question, *except* what their gender is. Then you can have a 50/50 gender split without screwing with the game logic.

      If you've got another mathematical solution I'd love to hear it, as swapping the cards for a different set is already catered for. The set of course has to be careful not to show gender, i.e. a set with a female looking cat and a male looking dog has just the same game logic issues as the current one.

      Delete
    3. With a 50/50 split, you could still ask the gender question. It's true that it will eliminate more suspects than questions on any other attribute, but that doesn't seem game-breaking.

      One could argue that it will encourage players to start with a gender question, since it's the "most efficient" question to ask, and that serves to emphasize gender differences. I don't see a way to address that without removing gender altogether from the game - maybe by using androgynous faces?

      Delete
  25. I love your daughters letter, a true early feminist! In a world in which many 6 year olds are already aspiring to things far removed from such thoughts as sticking up for women's rights, you must be very proud of her. What a disappointing and awful reply from Hasbro. I am very keen to find out how they respond to your email!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Wow, bad reply from Hasbro, and the characteristics in the game are unbalanced.

    There...is...a similar game which we graduated to when I was about 6 or 7 called Whosit? It was published by Parker Brothers and Denys Fisher in the UK. It is a bit like an advanced Guess Who, and support multiple players. It does have more closely balanced sexes, but you are also given your identity at random. There's probably a ton of them on ebay uk, and they'll be pretty cheap. The "downside" is the very 70's look of the characters.

    Another similar game is the 80's Electronic Detective. Instead of guessing each other's characters, the players are trying to guess the culprit based on those kind of characteristic set elimination.

    ReplyDelete
  27. As the mechanics of the game have been mentioned, I should point out that one of the rules of Guess Who is that players are not allowed at ask about gender on their first turn, precisely to prevent the massive imbalance in numbers unbalancing the game.

    It follows that there is both no reason why they could not simply make that a general rule and even up the numbers, or even up the numbers and dispense with the rule altogether as, without the 19-5 imbalance, players are neither advantaged or disadvantaged by asking about gender.

    ReplyDelete
  28. As has already been stated, you're supposed to pick your character at random, that's why there are all the characters in a separate deck of cards to use as your character.

    Of course children will want to pick their own. Of course that skews the bias if girls pick girls they are indeed more likely to lose. Somewhere along the line you play to win, and thus if you pick your own character you should learn to pick the hardest to guess based on common questions like boy/girl etc. Picking on affinity means losing, the girl has already understood that.

    All this notwithstanding, I mostly agree with another commenter - make the bias skewed to more girls, less boys. This makes other details trickier. You'd have to replace the obvious male facial characteristics (baldness, facial hair) which don't exist for females with less obviously illustrated characteristics that children are less likely to be able to define.

    Facial recognition is at the heart of the game, and sadly there are more variants in male facial characteristics because of facial hair & baldness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This isn't a game with hundreds of cards. There are only 24. Even without thinking I can come up with plenty of either gender-neutral or girl-biased characteristics: red cheeks, smile, freckles, eye color, hair color, eyelashes, earrings, necklaces, ears showing, hair length, lip color, dimples, bangs, curly/straight hair, glasses, band-aids, hats, hair curlers, nose size, earlobe attachment. If I put a day or two into thinking I'm sure I could come up with more. People are very, very different, and baldness and facial hair are not necessary to find characteristics that define people.

      Delete
  29. Their response makes perfect sense.
    It's a matter of mathematical set theory. Each subset of 5 characters has one unique defining characteristic. There is one subset of 5 characters that has it's gender as it's unique characteristic. The game wouldn't work with half female..
    This is a matter of your lack of understanding of gameplay mechanics, not sexism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But the bias toward male-ness is strange from a female's perspective. Why isn't the bias the other way? There is a way to work around this by not including gender as one of the defining characteristics. Working instead from an evenly blank gender-neutral pool.

      Delete
    2. Men have more facial features to work with (facial hair), thereby creating more combinations of characteristics.

      Delete
    3. What about rosy cheeks, freckles, dimples, braces on teeth, wrinkles etc? There are tons of facial characteristics which are gender neutral!

      Delete
    4. Their response may make sense, Coran, but the tone of language they use to respond to a 6-year-old is cold and unfitting. However, I can tell from your spelling mistakes that language is not your forte.

      Delete
    5. So what you are saying Coran is that all women look alike to you and only men have distinctive facial features ?

      Delete
    6. I can see from your lack of ability to see which post came from which person, that logic is not your forte. My name isn't "Anonymous".

      So really this is all about how they didn't phrase their email properly for a 6 year old? Despite her MUM writing the email and probably reading it too? Don't people think there are better issues out there to be concerned about than a 6 year old not quite understanding a board game... God forbid we should spend our time thinking about hunger, war, violence, racism, etc. Those are just boring aren't they... let's all coo around a cute 6 year old.

      Delete
    7. No Coran, it was you I was addressing and not "Anonymous". You don't know the difference between "it's" and "its". Language is not your forte and neither is logic by your own account. Communicating and engaging meaningfully with 6-year-old kids is precisely what is needed to confront violence, sexism and racism in our society. This is a matter of your lack of understanding.

      Delete
    8. I use "its" because I assume people are intelligent enough to understand the context. My mistake.
      "By my own account"? Are you sure you're reading the right posts? I didn't say, and thus "account", for anything like that. It's easy to debate when you can add fiction arbitrarily.
      You're forgetting the fact the email was sent to the mum. She could have easily read it, understood it, then phrased appropriately, as she knows best, for her child. If she could be bothered that is.

      Delete
    9. Coran, you used "it's" when you should have used "its". Not the other way around. Are you sure you are reading the posts right?

      So I'm adding fiction arbitrarily am I? According to you, 'logic' would not be my forte because I supposedly "lack the ability to see which post came from which person" and that your name is not "Anonymous". Where is the logic in this?

      Delete
    10. Ok, you got me... I thought I made some interesting points, but you picked up on that missing apostrophe. Call it stupidity, gross negligence, or the product of a damaged upbringing. Well done. You have single handedly, with the precision of a ninja, undermined every word I've said.

      By not being able to deduce which message came from which person, this appears to be a failing in logical thinking...Seems logical to me!

      You do realise this has devolved into spam don't you?...

      Delete
  30. There are a lot of 'grown-ups' commenting on this post. What do the kids think?

    I have two boys aged 7 and 5. Both love the game and have commented on the lack of girls in the game AND both think it's unfair.

    It's a kids game, it's meant to be fun and inclusive.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. As was stated there are ways to download cards to make the game more inclusive if you wish, but a 50/50 split would unbalance the game.

      Delete
  31. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  32. Does anyone care that there are only 5 black characters? And it looks like only 4 with red hair :-)

    It's about game balance and it was never an issue for my daughter. I guess they could do a card with 5 boys and 19 girls to even it up...

    I agree it's a crap response from HASBRO though.

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    1. Brilliant point VERY well made

      Delete
    2. Half the population is female, half the population does not have red hair. You don't have a point.

      Delete
  33. If people don't like the game then don't buy it, Hasboro can market what they like.

    Perhaps when this little girl is older she'll write to Curves Gym complaining about the fact no men are allowed or to the owners of a club who runs Ladies night. I also hope she'll complain to her University about the fact there are hardly any men on campus and the fact the few there are aren't allowed in the women's center. Though considering her moms sensitivity to these issues I am sure this has been done already.

    Life ain't fair, get used to it.

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  34. What a bunch of twits - both you and your daughter are more than a match for them - I've had a genius idea - why not create some stickers to cover half the some of the male stickers with female faces - you can sell them on ebay and your daughter can begin the foundations of a well deserved career in gender equal gaming :)

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    Replies
    1. Read up, Hasbro already offer a download to allow you to print other cards if you so wish via their website.

      Delete
  35. I feel really bad for hasbiro here. First, we all understand Jennifer's argument. That's the right brained argument showing how if the player doesn't follow the rules, as children are want to do, female players can be put at a disadvantage.

    Conversely from a mathematical perspective, should there be an equal number of men to women the game would consider gender to be a defining characteristic in a person. It would put a different amount of weight on being male or female than it would anything else. It would show gender matters, which, mathematically, is what hasbario is trying to avoid. Of course you could just say that you can't ask about gender at all, but seeing how this issue arose from people ignoring the rules in the first place all that would do would break the game mechanically. More importantly it would show that gender matters more than anything else, which goes against the intent of what hasbiro was trying to do.

    This is why i feel bad for hasbiro. if they don't change the gameplay then right brain people will think them sexist. if they do change the gameplay then left brained people will think them sexist. no matter what they do, one party will think them sexist even though it is clear that they went out of their way to try and show gender as something that should not be a defining characteristic of a person.

    -Jeff

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    1. In other words, the less sexist/racist/etc the player is the higher their chances of winning.

      Delete
    2. Someone pointed out on another thread that I missed the obvious...

      Example Male/Female, Blue Eyes/Green Eyes, Hat/No Hat....
      M/B/H, M/B/N, M/G/H, M/G/N, F/B/H, F/B/N, F/G/H, F/G/N

      -Jeff

      Delete
    3. I don't understand the mathmatics in this apparently. If gender isn't *supposed* to be a distinguishing characteristic in the game, why is does it appear as such? How hard would it be to take 5 of the male characters and make them female instead, but with all the same obvious characteristics that you're supposed to ask about; eye color/hair color/accessories/etc.?

      As a female who played this game as a child 20+ years ago, I'm a little outraged that this is still an issue. I was equally annoyed that there were so few females included, but I never thought to write to them about it.

      Delete
    4. That's a fair question. Let's start with the mentality of the creator and start from his frame of mind - "He was a classmate and friend of Anne Frank at the Amsterdam Jewish Lyceum and became executive producer of the documentary film The Classmates of Anne Frank. Costner survived World War II in hiding and has lived in Tel Aviv since 1955." -http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamedesigner/1576/theo-coster

      So you have soemone who went to the extreme of what happens when someone is judge by a trait - by any trait. He and Ora create a game that should you have any bias, you are penalised. Think of it this way, race shouldn't have any bearing in who a person is, gender shouldn't or anything.

      Now that we established intention of the game, let's look at the implemntation. The first part, and that's the part that's flawed, is to have a random baseline with only subtle diffrences in people.

      No diffrence from the baseline should have any more importance in a person than any other. If soemone think's gender is more important they will frequently lose becuase it will influence their decisions. If they think having a beard or what race they are is something to focus on, that will influence them the same way chosing a female would.

      Should there be more than 5 females than suddenly gender matters. Why? Because in the game female is no more diffrent or the same than anything else outside the baseline. If there are more females in the game then guessing if a characteris female could acutally mean something. The idea is that would give a child the idea that being a man or a woman influnces who a person is more than other traits.

      There are two things you have to take into account with all that said. First, the baseline being male, even if it's a random choice, causes the issues we are currently having. The core mechanic needs a baseline.

      Second, the choice in characters should be random. If you chose a specific character anyhow and you have an internal bias that one is better than another such as women or men, beard or not, etc then this choice will affect your chances of winning.

      So the intentions are good, but the implementation (mainly having a baseline) causes issues.

      Delete
  36. How about adding some transgender cards! (Neither male nor female). Although the earlier suggestion of having some dinosaurs and similar creatures who don't have a recognisable gender, does the same thing.

    Yes Hasbro missed a trick when they designed this game as gender unequal.
    Yes their answer was way off the mark.

    And it is refreshing to see such a positive, relaxed and sensible set of responses above, only one (by my count) hysterical anti-feminist rant, which is all to often the usual response.

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    1. That's not what transgender means. For all we know some of the characters could be trans.

      Delete
    2. Maybe they should include actual transgender and gay cards?

      Equal society and all that. Plus Jen can start introducing her daughter to those firstworld problems too.

      Delete
    3. Those are not just firstnworld problems, it's very much an issue for everybody. The mroe equality the more prosperity.

      I'm a citizen of a (fairly, but not even France-levels of equality) equal thir world country and we're doing good because, due to reduced iscrimination, there's a great pool of talented people to pick from as opposed to just male/female (depending on career).

      Delete
  37. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  38. Wow - Awful customer services from a company selling, and indeed responding to child customers

    ReplyDelete
  39. I love how no one ever acknowledges all of the commenters explaining the mathematics behind why there MUST be fewer of one gender. Lots of mother hens with poor math skills have some ruffled feathers here...

    There are real problems in the world; this isn't one of them.

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    1. I love how all the people looking at this from a cold mathematical perspective never acknowledge that, regardless of the gameplay reasons, deciding that being 'female' is a characteristic and being 'male' is the default is the problem, and children (who the game is targeted at) wouldn't understand that anyway.

      Delete
  40. I would hope everyone would see that the issue is that using (either) gender as a characteristic necessitates this imbalance due to the game mechanics.

    Therefore a sensible and uncontroversial change would be to have the male/female ratio be 50/50 and base all characteristics on something other than gender (no asking about gender)

    If that same 5/19 mix is important to the game then let another characteristic take its place.

    Then, there will be no more 'gender representation' imbalance and no change in the game mechanics.


    Actually i like the colorful, silly monsters idea!

    ReplyDelete
  41. That response makes no sense to me. How can they say that asking "is it a woman?" won't leave you with less options to guess from if it is than if it isn't?

    It's silly to compare it to something like the number of people with each hair colour, because if I remember correctly, there are a number of different hair colours on the board: brown, blonde, grey, red. So there isn't one clear one that taking it means that you'll be assured of leaving the other person with over 3/4s of the board left when they ask about it.

    Plus, the reality is that "is your character a man/woman?" tends to be the first question that occurs to most people. Questions like "has the character a hat?" tend to be reserved for when you've exhausted the more obvious ones.

    ReplyDelete
  42. My question is that what kind of world are we living in where we as adults are looking at a children's game designed to teach kids that there are more helpful ways to identify differences between people than race/gender [and that is the strategy here, if you focus on race/gender first and your opponent doesn't, you will lose more often than not] and all we can see are the hurtful dichotomies that separate and pull us apart.

    This should be a teaching moment for your daughter, that gender should not be the first thing you notice in a person. And if you help her through by showing her how she can win more often by ignoring gender first, then Guess Who will be accomplishing its goals. [and it should be, if you play often enough to develop a strategy, you will come to the same conclusions...]. The fact that adults can't look past gender is a very telling moment.

    BUT although this is true and I know why Hasbro has done this, I don't think this lets them off from not having a version of the game where the genders are reversed, or the primary race of the characters are reversed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a competitive game, you pick a card at the beginning and you hope your opponent will not guess it. If you pick a white male (non-ginger) character there is much greater chance that your opponent will not guess it snd you will win.

      So if you really want to focus on the Bullshit excuse that the game 'teaches you not to judge' then please accept that what this game actually teaches is:

      being a white male is the best way to win the game.

      Delete
    2. Exactly what I was thinking!

      Delete
    3. But picking a white male doesn't make you more likely to win. Every white male in the game also has characteristics that make them unique from the other characters. Glasses, hair color, facial hair, eye color, big nose, etc.

      Delete
    4. Gender_Inspecific_PhilNovember 20, 2012 at 8:07 PM

      My god Minkette! Did you not read ANY of the mathematical reasoning above? Where were you at age 12 when they were teaching Venn diagrams in school? Outside fighting the boys, maybe?

      Every single card, no matter which one, chosen at random, has an equal (do I need to specify "exactly equal" for you? I hope not) chance of winning the game.

      There is no prejudice here, apart from the one being applied by social misfits who have nothing better to do than over-magnify a total irrelevance.

      There is no worse comrade than an incompetent soldier. I question any feminist's motivation - I do not doubt it, I question it - is it the forward march of the female you crave, or is it equality? If it is the former, then you have no voice other than the voice of the fool. If it is the latter, then we are in agreement.

      Delete
  43. I hope you have returned the game and will demand a full refund from Hasbro. That is simply outrageous!

    ReplyDelete
  44. So funny reading this Jennifer - I remember playing Guess Who as a child and changing some of the characters to female with a marker - "Paul" became "Paula" etc. Then myself and my friend made up our own version of the game with 50/50 male/ female, I've love to remember what we came up with (probably more fun than the game itself!). Good memories (:

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  45. some of the ladies here should go to thailand were they see gender equality in action and women work along side men on a road gang raking tar in 35 degree heat - first world problems whinging about a board game

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you're really all that worried about it why are YOU wasting your time commenting on it and not doing something about it?

      Delete
    2. Like i said in my previous comment, the game was created in the first place to promote equality by someone who had more than just "first world problems" (friends with Ann Frank, etc).

      It's just that the implementation caused the issues above.

      -Jeff

      Delete
    3. Anne Frank, not Ann Frank. Apparently I can't type.

      -Jeff

      Delete
  46. congratulations to the young woman. may she never stop asking these questions.

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  47. I don't feel you can adequately judge if a character is male or female. Maybe some of the characters are tomboy girls or the reverse, princess boys.

    The answer for 'Is your character male/female?' becomes your choice, for there is no way to prove that in this game, the pictures are only from the neck up.

    Gender Identity is a spectrum including pink ribboned girls, rough and tumble boys, athletic girls in baseball caps, fashion forward boys with long hair and the androgynous ones smack in the middle.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Maybe Jen could write about how there is only one chicken on the cover of the logo game

    http://www.designinc.co.uk/design-blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/The-logo-board-Game.jpg

    ReplyDelete
  49. I couldn't be bothered to read all the comments so I apologise if this is repeating.

    I've worked as a board game designer and I've played this game as a child. We had a house rule that you couldn't ask the gender on the first question because it made it too easy.

    As a game designer, I understand their response about there being 5 of each attribute - and it shows that the game design is broken. If this 5:25 attribute split is true, then it should be possible to clear the board of 4/5ths at the start of every turn. If even a six year old can point out that your probability doesn't work, then it's clear that your game needs revising.

    However they are unlikely to do so - the game sells anyway. Why? Because it's so fabulously tactile, because it's yes/no game mechanism is so easy to get and because it's endlessly repeatable and impossible to end in an (unsatisfying) draw - exactly what a small child craves from a game.

    Hasbro has a long and illustrious career based on splitting things into genders (there wouldn't be Bronies if My Little Pony wasn't 'supposed' to be for girls only) and so to reply with such an ignorance of how a child will play based on their gender, just goes further to show that the answer given was nothing more than a dredged up excuse.

    Why is there really 5:19 gender split and barely and ethnic diversity?
    Because the characters were drawn up in 1979 and haven't been updated beyond a cosmetic level since. It was probably not even tested with girls playing back then.

    I'd be curious to see if the Disney/Mavel/other versions of the game (mentioned on wikipedia) have a better gender split...

    ReplyDelete
  50. I understand what you're saying but I think both of the issues you are raising are somewhat trivial.

    In regards to the game being split unevenly it's simply the way the mechanics of the game work. Gender is an obvious identifier and breaks the 5/25 rule. I'd bet that the reason there are more men than women instead of vice versa is based on societal conditioning rather than being random chance but in the world of the game there needs to be a 1:5 ratio of major characteristics. Would you have a problem if the numbers were reversed and there were more women on the board? If not then it's an issue with you rather than with the game.

    In regards to their response, I consider it perfectly appropriate. I don't think that kids should be spoken down to and they did suggest that you would explain it to her. They left the option open to you how to present the message. Remember it is not the responsibility of this company to parent your child for you. It is there responsibility to provide information, which they did in a clear concise manner. If you wanted an age appropriate letter for your daughter you could have written it yourself. She is six, you would have gotten away with it.

    In regards to gender being a characteristic, of course it is. It's not that being female is a characteristic in this game and being male is not. You are an educated adult, you are fully aware of this and you are attempting to twist the customer support worker's words to make an issue for no reason. Again, a 50/50 split would break the mechanics of the game creating a power question which always wipes half the board no matter what. This would always be the first question and arguably would lead kids to focus more on gender rather than see it as unimportant.

    I think your response was needlessly acidic. It is not their responsibility to parent your child it's yours. The issue with the game is one thing but the language in the letter is all you.

    Anyway, as an aside, while we obviously disagree on the issues in your article I see from having scrolled through the comments that you interact with and respond to your readers. I must commend you on this. Many people, especially at your level, feel they don't need to or are above commenting back and it's very nice to see you are not one of them. I realise with the slew of comments you may not have time to respond to mine and that's fine. I understand the amount of time taken up by correspondence. I just wanted to say well done for treating your audience well. While we may not agree on the topic at hand you come across as a genuine and caring person. All the best.

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    1. "If you wanted an age appropriate letter for your daughter you could have written it yourself. She is six, you would have gotten away with it."

      So I should have faked a reply to make Hasbro look better to my daughter?

      I haven't twisted anyone's words. The original response said: "If you take a look at the characters in the game, you will notice that there are five of any given characteristics." I simply asked why this doesn't apply to male gender, but it does to female.

      Thank God I am not relying on Hasbro to raise my children, but cheers anyway for the reminder whose responsibility it is.

      Delete
    2. You seem to be confused as to what a characteristic is. It's a yes no game and the characteristic is gender not "Being a girl".

      As for faking the letter, it's not to make Hasbro look good it would be to make your daughter happy.

      Delete
  51. The obvious solution for Hasbro is to make it 19 women and 5 blokes. Ladies happy, gents still not giving a shit either way.

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    1. I think little boys would give a shit!

      Delete
  52. Does anyone realize you're NOT SUPPOSED TO CHOOSE your character? You are supposed to draw a card, completely at random to decide your mystery person.

    http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/GuessWho.PDF

    Here are the rules from the original game.

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    Replies
    1. Not in the version we have, which is the version in the photograph above. You choose which character you want to be by moving the slider.

      Delete
  53. Give Hasbro some credit. They responded. They didn't have to. I first wondered why they wouldnt say there were downloadable cards, then I thought that they probably did but Jennifer decided not to tell us that important piece.

    Mark

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    1. Why would I do that Mark? What would I possibly have to gain from editing their correspondence?

      As it happens, I wondered the same thing myself.

      Delete
    2. So it seems we had at least one thought in common.

      By omitting some facts it would retain the focus on the gender issue rather than their recognition of the issue by providing other ways to play. The current version of the game also comes with extra cards with pets etc.

      That I thought that way is probably some distrust of columnists in general built over many years. Not letting the facts get in the way of a good story and all that...

      Mark

      Delete
    3. I hit the answer to this before and will do so again here in the hopes of your response. Your job is as a columnist, and as such need something to write about. Editing the letter to this result would have gained you this weeks column idea. Therefore you have the economic incentive of whatever you get paid per column (or per week since weekly column)

      Delete
  54. Children are egocentric. They always want things just like them. You give a white girl the choice of a white or black barbie and they;ll chose the white one, and a black girl vice versa. Not because these toddlers are mini racists but because they want to play with a little girl just like them.

    The first question in this game is ALWAYS are you a boy or a girl. I remember figuring this out when I was younger and then always choosing to be the male characters. I remember it so clearly, if my oponant chose to be one of the 5 girls I thought, "what are you, stupid?"

    Therefore, my main criticism of Guess Who? is that it teaches children that "IT IS ADVANTAGEOUS TO CHOOSE/BE A MALE".

    The argument against focusing on feminism "at the expense of racism/other prejudices" is simply annoying. If social progress had to be "all or nothing" I'd hate to think of how far back we'd still be.

    End of rant.

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    Replies
    1. The intent was to be more along the lines of ignoring the existence or relevance or any bias. It's advantageous to have no preference in any characteristic whatsoever.

      Delete
  55. It sucks that they didn't even bother trying talk to the 6 year old. They just pulled out a canned response and told 'mummy' to explain it to the kid. But I actually thought Hasbro's reasoning in that canned response wasn't too bad.

    Apparently they see this as a matter of game design rather than of social equality. Their reasoning seems to be that they've decided that all traits in the game should appear with a ratio of 5:19, and this female:male thing is just one such trait.

    Mummy's observation that "/female gender regarded as a "characteristic", while male gender is not/" is a bit off target. Hasbro's point was that they want to use the 5:19 ratio for gender just as they use it for every other trait in the game. Perhaps Hasbro would have done better to make it 5 males : 19 females, but that's not what they were talking about. Hasbro was only trying to justify the imbalance, not the particular lean of the imbalance.

    It sucks that this particular game balance decision is a bit loaded with social equality issues. Basically it means that Hasbro either has to cop flak for gender imbalance (and race imbalance, and mustache imbalance, and so on), or they have to trash their current schema of _game balance_.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Maybe we all think about it the wrong way. How about, "You are special if you have a moustache, you are special if you wear a hat, you are special if you have red hair, you are special if you are female... etc"

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't want to be 'special', thanks. I want to be represented, rather than being the Other to a male default.

      Delete
  57. Not going to read all of the above, because the over-analysis is ridiculous.

    Here's your answer

    There are five bald characters – men suffer baldness slightly more often than women. There are four characters with moustaches. Men choose to grow moustaches more often than women. There are five men with beards. Ditto. Then there are five men with none of those three characteristics and five women.

    If your child still needs help then tell her that if there were 12 women’s faces it would be harder for children to think of simple questions like ‘does the person have a beard’ based on appearance to whittle them down. Hence there are more men.

    That’s also what they were clearly trying to tell you, so you should return your Masters to the relevant Christmas Cracker company.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Is the person wearing lipstick?" "Is the person wearing earrings?"

      Delete
    2. Inevitable, laughable, response. If the best you can do is suggest that children will distinguish the presence of lipstick on a drawing as easily as the presence of a beard then Hasbro's point is well made.

      Earrings are used as a distinguishing feature - four out of five of the female characters have them. Or do you still not understand how the game works?

      Delete
    3. Make a silly argument ("men have so many more available distinguishing features than women!"), get a silly response.

      Delete
    4. I am glad someone aired the sensible view.

      I offer here a refinement:

      First, the game requires there to be more of one gender than the other because being male or female is a characteristic just like being bald or not.

      Making the dominant gender male is convenient because it allows for easily identifiable bald / moustache / beard characteristics.

      Making the dominant gender female does not offer any such conveniences to the mathematical model of the game.

      Hasbro say all choices were made for gameplay purposes.

      The game was broken when they changed it from "randomly pick a card your opponent must guess" to "choose who you want to be". The change makes it possible to slide new sets of characters in and out, but does lead to this "girls probably pick girls" roleplay-over-gameplay nonsense.

      The best solution is to sell this century's Guess Who and pick up an older version with cards from a thrift store.

      Delete
    5. Crude, but I agree with the sentiment that a Masters Level should understand the math involved. It's obvious that the game breaks if you can rule out 50% of the characters at once. It becomes redundant to differentiate between genders at that point and you might as well have ALL males or females.

      Delete
  58. While i would like to sympathize, i am too busy worrying about the more insignificant problems faced by the menz. You know, the education gap, the life expectancy gap, being murdered four times more often, higher suicide rates, higher incarceration rates and so on. How feminists can claim it's women who get screwed over when they have enough time to complain about such trivialities is beyond me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Men murder men. Women, on the whole, are not the ones murdering men. Not women's fault.

      Men have higher suicide rates, but more women ATTEMPT suicide. They just don't succeed as much because they choose less foolproof methods of suicide; men are more likely to shoot themselves, for example. Women also have much higher rates of depression than men do. Again, higher suicide rates for men = unfortunate, but not women's fault.

      Men have always had shorter lifespans than women. There's no conspiracy here other than the basic workings of biology. The other issue is that men are less likely to ask for medical help when it's needed, because men are pressured (unfairly) to be self-sufficient. Not women's fault.

      Men have higher incarceration rates because they commit the majority of crimes. Not women's fault.

      Delete
  59. As it has been stated before, a 50/50 gender split would ruin the mathematics of the game. I commend Hasbro for their response since it could give the child an early opportunity to learn something useful like basic algorithms rather than sheepishly following her mothers militant feminist tirades. I'm all for equality, whether it be gender, race, religion, sexuality or otherwise but the fact that this woman looked past a clear explanation for the matter is sheer arrogance.

    The only way this could be resolved is to make 2 different games, guess him and guess her, but of course what about people who are black, asian, gay, muslim etc, wheres their game? Where does it stop?

    ReplyDelete
  60. Funny thing is I actually get the PR first response. Though it had nothing to do with the original question, it was a politically correct one. Playing the game relies on the descriptive abilities & that's the response the rep gave to just to possibly avoid the question of the boy & girls issue. Great post, cool stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  61. 'Mummy's' response is fantastic !

    ReplyDelete
  62. Life is far too short. Is this the best way to spend your time?

    ReplyDelete
  63. Have your kids pick their characters at random(the way you're supposed to) and they probably wouldn't lose all the time. You should focus more on the rules of the game than filling your kids head with a problem that isn't there.

    ReplyDelete
  64. What the writer / poster and many commenters are failing to understand, is that there are SUPPOSED to be fewer people of "some characteristics" in this game, or it doesn't really work.

    There are fewer people with 'glasses' than WITHOUT 'glasses'. There are fewer people with 'red hair' than those with OTHER 'hair colors'. There are fewer people with 'big ears' and 'big noses' than those WITHOUT 'these features'. The game is based on ELIMINATING options to arrive at a final conclusion -- this doesn't really work if all of the 'features' you are eliminating are evenly matched. If everything is evenly matched, it takes away the strategy of "going for the long shot".

    Do you think men would be writing in and complaining if there were more WOMEN than MEN? And before you scoff that "no, men wouldn't and SHOULDN'T be writing in, because of this, this, that, and the other about how men are USED to being the dominant sex..." etc., just remember that what you are essentially saying then is in fact reverse sexism.

    Face it -- all things are NOT created equally, and it is those people who LOOK for the faults in places where they do not actually exist who have the REAL discrimination problem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed.

      If the game had less male characters than female characters and a young male and his father raised the question of why, everyone would undoubtedly toss out words like "entitlement" and "whining".

      When something like this is brought up, I want to care. I really do. But with the knowledge that if the reverse happened and I complained, I would be laughed at...I just can't.

      An earlier commenter brought up Curves Gym, quite humorously, but it's telling.

      A place where only women are allowed to go? Perfectly fine. Can you imagine if someone made a gym where only males were allowed? The (false) feminists would be running around and rioting, but the reverse is ok? I really don't get it.

      Delete
  65. Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb.

    It's Guess Who, who cares! It's a children's board game. This much thought isn't suppose to go into it. Are we going to attack Hungry Hungry Hippo's next?

    ReplyDelete
  66. Actually, I see how Hasbro's decision makes sense. According to what they say, for each characteristic, 5 of the 24 people have it and 19 don't. They elected to make "femininity" one such characteristic. If they had made 12 male and 12 female characters, everyone's first question would always be "is your person male or female?" because it would be guaranteed to narrow down your potential choices by half. (As opposed to having 5 women, in which case it would narrow it down to 19 or 5 people)

    ReplyDelete
  67. Jennifer O'Connell doesn't understand math.

    The game is not sexist. A player picking only female characters is sexist. Pick at random, like you are supposed to, and you have an even chance of winning every time.

    Every character has the same chance of winning, if picked randomly, despite there being more males than females, due to the distribution of the other characteristics. Get off your militant feminist high horse, and instead teach your daughter that even though there are only 5 women, they can still win just as easily as any other character.

    The key is to pick at random and follow the rules, and suddenly there is no sexism. Imagine that.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Hasbro's initial response assumed the little girl was intelligent enough to understand the mathematics involved. They could've pandered to a child and told some silly story, but they honored her by telling her the truth.

    ReplyDelete
  69. The girls got gumption! They should give female characters extra accessories to add to the statistical balance, ie, necklace, scarf, earrings, etc...

    ReplyDelete
  70. Haven't read all the comments here, but just wanted to write and thank you for posting about this! I wanted to buy this game for my daughter - but after reading reviews did not specifically because of the 19 men / 5 women imbalance issue. Gender imbalance weirdness aside - this imbalance really sucks for game play! The first question any food would ask when playing this game is: "are you a man or a woman" and the other player has chosen a woman - how hard is it for the opponent to deduce who they are from the remaining 5 options from there? As long as a player chose a woman the game will almost always be ended in a couple of questions - YAWN! Read the reviews on Amazon - it's not hard to figure out that for girls (who many times will automatically just want to choose a girl), this game could get real boring real fast. Apparently, Hasbro hasn't actually played this game much though, yawn!

    ReplyDelete
  71. As a guy who eagerly attends to displays of ignorance against any marginalized group, I am especially sensitive to such gaffs as they pertain to issues of gender. After reading your concern, and being 100% on your side of the gender debate, however, I suggest that, by authoring this thread, you have unwittingly reinforced a gender stereotype yourself.

    I appreciate your concern regarding the imbalance of sex representation in this game. In my opinion, the game should not have been released in a modern society that attempts to reduce our focus in sex differences. As has been stated above ad nauseam, the game could not include either gender as a trait in a proportional fashion. As such, the game is fundamentally and inherently compromised, at least from a social perspective.

    My concern is that you are pushing a gender issue over a statistics one. (I implore you to see why the game requires either disproportionate or unilateral sex representation prior to taking this to heart.) By disregarding the mathematical necessities upon which the game is based and making gender issues supervenient, you are reinforcing the stereotype that girls do not appreciate math.

    The only way to make this game "fair" is to offer two versions: one primarily female, and one primarily male, or to remove sex differences as a game trait. I think all available options are flawed. However, suggesting making the game 50:50 as a solution espouses a trite reasoning, one that I hope you might agree to be counterproductive to your admiral and heartfelt desire to prevail on the side of equality.

    I completely agree with your assertion that the release of this game is a display of ignorance on behalf of the game's maker; however, changing the balance of the sexes is not the solution. I am reminded of the caution that accompanies windshield wiper fluid: "This product cannot be made non-poisonous" — I'm afraid this same adage applies to Guess Who.

    Respectfully yours,
    M______

    ReplyDelete
  72. Silly little women.. if the game is based on five characteristics your would break it my adding more women..

    By making the game board have equal gender you lose the weighting of some of the question.. IE; does your character have a beard or moustache?

    You just asked two questions in one. you can deduce that if your character has a beard is it MALE..

    And to comment on this "But I must confess that, despite being 37 years of age and educated to Masters level, I am equally at a loss."
    Perhaps you should have taken some thing other than basket weaving if you can not follow simple mathematical logic..

    At the end of the day quit whining like a girl...

    ReplyDelete
  73. Obviously the answer is: make 2 templates for each gender. That way the question never needs to be asked. Some might argue and say, "well I can't ask if she has a beard." Of course you can't, but even a 4 year old can answer does she have long hair, or short hair, etc. There are qualities of both genders that can make the game diverse.

    P.S.: All guys that say "silly women, know your place" please realize this makes fellow men feel ashamed and embarrassed. Because you believe that women are trying to take over the world doesn't mean they are.

    ReplyDelete
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  76. I AGREE WITH THE MUM! Pretty BAD when THE SIX YEAR OLD FIGURES IT OUT! HASBRO FIX IT!

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  77. Why is your kid playing a game that you know to be flawed in the first place? Why not play another game that can have equal amounts of males and females in it? Or on the converse, why not play a game that's 100% female?

    ReplyDelete
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