I was close to five when I got my first board game. It was called Pretty Pretty Princess, a game challenging players to pick up jewelry along its circle path until they gathered a matching set, and, finally, the elusive plastic silver crown.
And while Hasbro does not currently make the game, it’s lived a few lives, most recently with support from the Disney Princess brand. When I think about being a kid in the '90s, those are the games I remember playing with my parents and grandparents. They’re the simple win-or-lose games of chance that are fun for families with young children.
I talked to Creative Kidstuff’s vice president of marketing Happi Olson about the resurging popularity of board games. Since its inception, Creative Kidstuff has made it their job to know what families want to buy for Christmas, and this year they’re betting many will enjoy the family board games of my youth.
“Our game category has really grown over the past few years,” Olson shares. Walking into any Creative Kidstuff lately will reveal a wall of games, most of which didn’t exist when my parents were children. Among them, you’ll still be able to spot the classics.
“People do get excited about new games, but around the holidays we sell a lot of classic games,” Olson says. Some of the games Creative Kidstuff plans to stock for the holiday season include Candy Land and Hi-Ho! Cherry-O along with classic toys like Gumby, Barbie and Hot Wheels.
The games and toys look like they’ve been retrieved from a time capsule until now, with updated marketing that appeals to our nostalgia at the holidays. It’s a throwback, a homage to the childhoods of millennials, many of whom are now grown and have become parents who want to play board games with their own families.
More than just board games are popping up in popularity. Retro video games like Space Invaders and Pac-Man are also in demand. You can buy miniature versions of these games at stores like Creative Kidstuff. They remind me of shrunken arcade games straight out of Minneapolis’ own Up-Down arcade bar.
Yet some of their most popular games are still those classic board games like Hi-Ho! Cherry-O. Games that don’t require a packet of instructions and 15 minutes of reading. “Grandparents want to get those games because they remember playing them,” Olson says. “As humans, memories are very important to us. It’s not necessarily the game, but more about remembering an experience.”
When holiday shoppers search for a classic Etch A Sketch or a Magic 8 Ball, they’re looking for an experience that can’t be replicated with digital apps. Our experiences are like muscle memory.
I’m occasionally guilty of replacing familiar games with more daunting games with haunted houses, trains and spies. But I’ll still pull out Pretty Pretty Princess now and again. While I’m nearing 24, I still have as much fun playing these old games with my family. And unlike with newer titles—playing classic games means never having to consult the instructions over challenged moves. Plus, there is something satisfying about winning by simply having the most apples in your basket, or putting that winner’s crown on your head.