Although the American Girl company is most famous for its historical dolls and books, it has made many other products in the past, like a board game called 300 Wishes. I had this game as a child and absolutely loved it, so I figured it would be fun to reflect on the game now that I’m older and through the lens of the keywords and concepts we’ve learned about American girlhood in this course.
The game 300 Wishes is a four player game for anyone eight years and older. It consists of four diaries, four keys that open the diaries, and 300 cards that are filled with different potential wishes. The object of the game is to guess which wishes best fit which friends that are also playing the game. In one turn, every player draws three cards and distributes them secretly into the diary of the person they think each wish best fits. Then everyone opens their diaries and ranks how much they like the wishes that were given to them. Each person reads their wishes in order of their ranking, and the person who gave them the wish card gets a certain amount of points depending on what place their wish received.
This game doesn’t actually have anything to do with American Girl dolls or the historical books, but it is aimed at their target audience of girls ages eight and up. The packaging of this game is clearly geared towards girls. Girlhood here is depicted by three smiling girls playing 300 Wishes at a slumber party. They are dressed in pajamas and laying in blankets that mainly consist of pastel and bright colors like purple, pink, blue and green. Gender normative colors are portrayed on this box with the girls talking and engaging in social play, a stereotypically female dominated activity. The box boasts that the wish cards represent real wishes from real girls.
There are four different categories of wish cards: achievements, gifts, experiences, and experiences with your family. I noticed that a lot of the experience cards involve traveling to exotic places, such as “See koalas on a trip to Australia” or “Fly to Rome just for dinner.” Obviously these cards represent some of the wildest dreams of real girls, but many of these dreams are only attainable to those who hold a high economic class. It seems like many of these cards are geared towards children of an upper or middle class background, which would make sense as American Girl dolls are fairly expensive and this game costs $60.
Looking back on these cards, I thought that a majority of them would include wishes that were very gender-norm geared towards girls, but I didn’t find that to be the case. Of course, there are stereotypically female wishes like the cards “Attend the ballet with your grandmother” and “Long, dangly silver earrings,” but there weren’t as many of these cards as I had expected. Using my own judgement of what topics I thought had to do with gender-normalized behaviors, I sorted all 300 cards into piles labeling them as male, female, or neutral. Of all of the cards, I thought that 41 were girly, 20 were boyish, and the rest were fairly neutral. Some examples of stereotypical male wish cards I thought were “Camouflage wallpaper in your bedroom” and “Become a professional race car driver.” Cards like “Go skiing with your parents” and “Tour a Hollywood set with your favorite celebrity” I deemed to be neutral as far as gender goes.
Revisiting this game was a fun experience, and very interesting to reflect on this game from my childhood and see how it fits into different aspects of culture we’ve addressed in this course like class and gender.