The largest name in board games and toys has selected three independent women and their original tabletop designs to win $10,000 and mentorship with Hasbro as part of the company’s 2023 Women Innovators of Play Challenge.
Announced earlier this year, the initiative searched for “the next great woman-led mass market toy or game” as part of a larger corporate event that saw prominent women in the toy and tabletop industry deliver talks. Wingspan designer Elizabeth Hargrave was featured in a line-up that also included Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro Gaming president Cynthia Williams, actor Aisha Tyler and The Toy Coach founder and CEO Azhelle Wade. It also included most of them women in Hasbro’s C-Suite, incidentally.
Hasbro is the owner of massive board game brands such as Monopoly and Scrabble, and it controls Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons maker Wizards of the Coast, so the promise of a double fistful of money and some business training is nothing to sneeze at. The challenge launched on September 12th and asked participants to submit an original design that would be judged on “innovation, mass marketability, fun factor and playability, design and aesthetics and manufacturability.”
The first winner, Ellie DIx, is a British tabletop designer and owner of The Dark Imp, which publishes family board games and licensed titles from companies such as Gamewright and Indie Board & Cards. Also the author of The Board Game Family book, Dix won a spot with her family card game submission.
Sandra Harewood’s family word game design clinched her a spot on 2023’s list of winners. This London-based designer told Hasbro she is a lifelong tabletop enthusiast who managed to showcase an early prototype of her winning design at the White House. She’s also an ambassador with the UK Women in Games non-profit organisation.
The final winners are Maggie and Mandy Goddard who co-designed a preschool game for Hasbro’s challenges. Mandy hails from Indiana where she works as a project manager and board game designer, while Maggie is her 6-year-old daughter who apparently loves inventing new tabletop ideas with her mom. Mandy already boasts several joint designs with her husband and garners plenty of inspiration while playing with Maggie and younger sibling Charlie.
Hasbro did not share any details about the winning designs, claiming more information will be available next year and after the company’s inventor relations team consults with all of the designers on their submissions. Also included in the winning package is a day trip to Hasbro’s world headquarters in Pawtucket, Indiana and a mentorship with “one of Hasbro’s top women leaders”.
It’s very easy to be cynical about these kinds of corporate equality measures, labelling them as publicity stunts for the one consistent money-making segment in Hasbro’s massive portfolio of intellectual properties and media production. That can be true while also moving the needle just a little within an industry that is hopelessly lopsided towards representing white men from Western nations in all sectors.
As Hargrave pointed out on X earlier this year, there is something wrong with the pipeline of development and publishing within the tabletop industry (her tweet prompted one designer to leave some unflattering responses). If change must sometimes travel on the same back that Hasbro is busy patting, so be it.