Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kinder Gender

I've been a huge collector and follower of the Kinder brand.  The most famous Kinder items is the Kinder Egg, something that I've been eating for most of my life.  Over the years they've expanded, both in types of products, and is popularity around the world.  For an ever changing company I've always been excited about new Kinder candies hitting the shelves, and every place I travel I often pick up a new Kinder treat (often the egg) to see how it's different from other Kinder stuff I've tried before.  The other day however I came across something really different.
Most people around the world are fairly familiar with Kinder Eggs.  The format of a Kinder Egg is a milk and white chocolate egg that surrounds a plastic capsule, often yellow or orange.  Inside this capsule is a toy, the toys can range from small puzzles, plastic statuettes, or plastic game like toys that often require assembly.  Kinder Joy is another product made by Kinder that solves a problem that we often find in warmer climates.  Since the milk and white chocolate shell around the Kinder Egg capsule is very thin, in warm climates this shell can melt, and that would leave a box of melted chocolate on store shelves.  So Kinder developed an egg shaped replacement that you separate into two halves, with no chocolate shell at all.
One half of the egg contains a milk and white chocolate spread, with two crunchy chocolate balls floating in it.  The small paddle comes attached in the center of the egg so you can eat the contents.  The chocolate spread is pretty tasty, however the chocolate balls are just awkward to eat and not that flavorful.  They do add a bit of texture, but they're not spectacular.  Maybe if they added a hazelnut it would be better, but I digress since this isn't a candy review.  The other side of the egg contains a standard Kinder Egg prize, as mentioned above it could be a puzzle, a statuette, or some kind of game.  Up until recently, this was the only difference I'd ever seen between Kinder Eggs and Kinder joy, then I came across these...
On a recent excursion in southern Asia I came across some Kinder Joys that had the words "for Girls" written on it.  I've seen Kinder copies with themes for girls and boys before, most notably I remember seeing a Kinder like treat with Barbie logos all over it.  However this was the first time I'd ever seen an official Kinder toy that was labeled for a particular gender.  It took a bit of searching, but eventually I also managed to find a Kinder Joy that was specifically for Boys as well.
I was really shocked, in a bad way, that Kinder had come out with such a concept.  I was happy that they had Kinder for boys and Kinder for girls, and not just Kinder for girls while the regular ones were for boys.  However I've always looked at Kinder toys as crossing the male female barrier. When I was younger I used to collect Kinder toys with both girls and boys, and I can't remember any time when I felt that one toy was gender specific.  I never thought about it before today, but in hindsight I think that's something Kinder should be really proud of.  My next action was to pick up one of each Kinder Joy, and see what the difference is.
The chocolate half of the egg in both Kinder Joys was exactly the same.  I was really worried that there would be some kind of pink dessert in the girls and a "manly" dessert in the boys.  The prizes on the other hand had very different themes.  I'll start with the "girls" toy, it appears to be a put it together toy.  The instructions were very pink, and the toy itself is very much a "girls" toy.
After putting it together, this is what the girls would get.  There is a princess with long hair, and three frogs with loops on them. 
According to the instructions you're supposed to pick up a frog, using the princess's curled hair.  This part of the game was really easy, I mean it was so easy that it didn't seem like any kind of challenge at all.  It wasn't like Barrel of Monkeys where the challenge is to pick up as much as you can.  The idea was that for no particular reason you would use this princess piece to pick up one frog.
After you pick up your frog, you flip it over to reveal the image on the bottom.  Two of the images are of frogs, and one is of a prince.  I assume that when you pick up the prince, you win.  It's like some kind of shell game, but I'm not really sure the point.
Allison played a round of this game, and she pointed one thing out to me.  She felt that the game was unrealistic, but not because of the gender problems.  She felt that it set a bad example because she had to go through more than two "frogs" before she found her prince.  I look at this game and compare it to a really lame version of a 1980's board game called Mystery Date.  Not that the original Mystery Date wasn't a lame game on its own, don't ask why I know.
The "boys" toy was pretty much the way I expected it to look after seeing the girls toy.  The instructions were primarily blue with a bit of yellow.  The parts looked very industrial, and there were no stickers or anything to make it look prettier.
The toy itself was pretty clever from a design perspective.  It was a top, and it came with a launching device that would spin the corkscrew bit of the top and launch it onto the table.  The colours were fairly "manly", with lots of grey with a bit of red.
The toy was also fairly challenging to play with.  I got it working the first time I tried it, but several times after it failed and I had to keep trying.  Allison had the same problem as well.  Both of us found it fairly entertaining, or at least as entertaining as a top can be.
Of the two prizes that I got in these Kinder Joy eggs, I'm not really sure why the top wouldn't work for both boys and girls.  It really seemed that the toy for boys (at least in this example) was fairly gender neutral, while the toy for girls was very skewed for girls.  The thing is, there's no reason you couldn't have designed the toy for girls in a neutral way either.  You could have used something other than a princess to pick up the pieces, like a monkey, or cupid.  Instead of having two frogs and prince, why not have two frogs and a kiss mark or a heart.  I'm not sure why Kinder went this direction, but frankly I'm fairly disappointed.  While this company has been making toys for more than 30 years (I've heard well over 8000 different toys have been made), I still think this is a road that should not be traveled.  There are enough gender specific toys out in the world, it would be nice if we had a company producing something else.


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