Katie Cogliano has learned to keep the Toilet Trouble game her kids love on top of her fridge, out of their sight. Her 6-year-old and 8-year-old love to play with the potty-shaped toy — but for Cogliano, it can be a pain.
As part of the game, players take turns flushing a nearly 11-inch plastic toilet before water spits out, which is supposed to hit a player's face. But Cogliano's kids tend to dodge it, and water ends up on the floors or chairs. Cogliano likes that Toilet Trouble keeps her kids off their screens, so they're allowed to play it as long as there's a tablecloth over the dining room table. But when friends come over, it definitely does not come down from the fridge.
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"They're not going to clean it up," says Cogliano, who works in corporate education and lives in New York. "That, I can tell you."
It's not just Toilet Trouble: Board games are getting messier as toy makers try to match the popularity of Pie Face, a game than flings whipped cream at faces. The latest entries, such as Toilet Trouble and Soggy Doggy, splash, spray or shake water onto players. Videos of players getting wet or smashed with whipped cream are popular on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram, and help to fuel sales.
"Kids like to get messy," says Richard Gottlieb, a consultant at Global Toy Experts. He says the games "gives them permission to act out a little bit."
Some parents say they don't mind wiping off whipped cream or water spills so much because the games are entertaining enough to pull kids away from their iPads or video games.
"It's just pure, basic fun," says Brandi Reimers, who plays Pie Face with her family of four. They can go through half a tub of Cool Whip in an hour, says the stay-at-home mom from Nebraska City, Nebraska. But Pie Face is not that sloppy, she says, just some stickiness on their skin and dribbles of Cool Whip if it starts to melt.
What she likes about the game is that it requires no skill or strategy: Each player puts their head on a mask and take turns turning a handle until one of them gets smashed. Unlike other board games, there is no arguing between her 8- and 9-year-old sons over who cheated, she says. "It's just fun and you laugh."
Made by Hasbro, Pie Face became a hit after it was released in 2015. There are now several versions, including one that's 3 feet tall. Pie Face also helped launch a new category of games for Hasbro, says Jonathan Berkowitz, who oversees the company's portfolio of games, including Monopoly and Operation.
Hasbro followed Pie Face with Toilet Trouble this year. That was also a hit: Hasbro attributed a jump in revenue during the first three months of the year to Toilet Trouble. Another game, called Egged On, has players filling plastic eggs with water that are then cracked over a person's head. More of these types of games will come next year, says Berkowitz.
The games can become viral sensations online, and kids who see videos or pictures of people getting wet or hit with whipped cream then ask for the games.
"I call them social toys because it's a toy that you have to take a picture," says Jim Silver, the editor-in-chief of toy review website TTPM. "It's the social channels that are driving the great sales."
Toy maker Spin Master, whose best-known brand is the egg-hatching Hatchimals, rushed to release Soggy Doggy in time for the holidays, says Francesco Lercari, a vice president of marketing at the company. Soggy Doggy features a dog in a bathtub that's filled with water. Players turn a faucet and the dog shakes quickly at one point, splashing water off of its rubbery fur. The game was on several hot holiday toy lists and was a best-seller on Amazon.com.
When Marilani Alt brought Soggy Doggy to her parents' home for Thanksgiving, there was less love for it: She and her 4-year-old son were asked to play on the tiled kitchen floor.
"It gets you a little wet," says Alt, a legal assistant who lives in Arlington, Virginia. "It's like walking by a sprinkler."
She was happy the game was able to keep the attention of her son. Other board games, without shaky dogs and splashing water, might seem dull in comparison, she says. "I don't know if I can play Candy Land with him at this point."
Contact Joseph Pisani at http://twitter.com/josephpisani