What do you remember most about 1991? The public launch of the World Wide Web? The 2,000th issue of TV Guide? Was it Cheers winning an Emmy, or King Kong being inducted into the National Film Registry? Perhaps it was the Pittsburgh Penguins winning the Stanley Cup, or Wayne Gretzky becoming the fastest and youngest player in NHL history to score 700 goals.
Whatever your memories of that year may be, there is little denying the fact that there was a lot of exciting stuff going on in 1991.
It was during these days of Bagel Bites and big hair that the world was first introduced to Dream Phone. One of the hottest mystery games of the 1990s, it quickly flew from store shelves to become a popular sleepover staple for many a preteen girl.
Combining chatting on the phone with crushing on cute guys, it rapidly racked up sales and became a cultural phenomenon of unprecedented proportions – while helping define a decade in the process.
Let’s take a look back at Dream Phone…
The Birth Of Dream Phone
Released by Milton Bradley, Dream Phone was the brainchild of one Michael Gray, the mastermind behind the popular 1988 board game Mall Madness.
When the higher-ups within the company tasked Gray and his team with designing an electronic game centered around a phone, he pitched the idea of girls calling up different boys and gathering clues to discover which one liked them through a process of elimination.
A hexagonal board was designed and featured a corresponding grid that assigned several different features and interests to each of the game’s eligible teenage bachelors.
A scorepad was also included so that players could cross out clues and hopefully narrow down their options and make the correct guess ahead of their opponents.
Designed for girls aged 8 and up, the Dream Phone came packaged in a bright pink box adorned with illustrations of teenage boys and a hot pink electronic phone front and center. Marketed as “The Electronic Mystery Game For Girls Only!”, it promised hours of fun and quickly became one of the most requested items for the 1991 Holiday Season.
How To Play
The gameplay behind Dream Phone is simple. In an effort to figure out which of the game’s 24 teenage boys like them, players call the boys on the electronic phone and gather clues from their responses. Included with the phone was a list of the boys’ names and their phone numbers.
Players take turns dialing these numbers, listening to pre-recorded messages, and eliminating suspects based on the information they receive. In a similar fashion to games like Clue, Milton Bradley’s Dream Phone encouraged players to use deductive reasoning to identify their secret admirer.
The game ends once a player successfully guesses which of the boys has a crush on them and then makes a ‘date’ with that character, winning the game.
The Dream Phone Was A Product Of Its Time
Dream Phone was one of those games that looked to tap into the popular culture of its time.
Commercials backed by a pop music soundtrack highlighted the game’s numerous teenage heartthrobs in a style that called to mind the many popular teen magazines of the day. At the same time, the oversized phone, complete with its flashing lights and oversized buttons, served as a novelty item that really added to the game’s overall appeal.
Now, I know there are those out there who will focus on the fact that Dream Phone played into traditional gender roles and stereotypes above all else. It was, after all, marketed exclusively at girls and looked to combine two of their perceived favorite pastimes – talking on the phone and crushing on cute guys.
But, let us not forget that the world was once a different place. Thus, Dream Phone can serve as a reminder of how popular culture of the past often reflects the prevailing attitudes of its time.
Defining The ’90s
As previously mentioned, Dream Phone enjoyed considerable success in its heyday. Many who grew up playing the game have fond memories of the hours spent with friends, while a recent resurgence of interest in nostalgic board games has once again brought Dream Phone back into the public’s eye!
While somewhat outdated by today’s standards, this relic of the 1990s continues to be cherished by those who grew up with it, while also offering a fascinating glimpse into both the popular culture and societal norms of the time.
Undeniably one of the hottest board games to hit the scene before tablets and smartphones became the order of the day, Dream Phone would go on to provide hours of entertainment for an entire generation of young girls and now encapsulates a time that many of us now look back upon through those proverbial rose-colored glasses.