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Gender Gap Is the Name of Their Game

Marketing: Orange County couple's entry into the world of Monopoly and Clue is based on real relationships--including their own.

May 15, 1996|STEVE LOWERY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Your life as you've known it is over. Divorced, on your own, you wonder what has happened to your world. You're also wondering what the opposite sex that put you in such a position could possibly be thinking. Depressed, deflated and confused, you . . .

A) Commence therapy.

B) Commence eating.

C) Develop a board game that deals with the very things that changed your life--the clash between the sexes--and go to beat the odds stacked against independent game entrepreneurs, selling numerous copies of your game, ending up on national television, where you eventually end up engaged to be wed, with Regis Philbin as a witness, the story of your success inspiring others who not only buy your game but request your autograph.

There's a knack to this board game business, a knack so precise that only 1% of games put out by independent producers--those not named Milton Bradley, Parker Bros., etc.--ever sell successfully.

It turns out that Kathryn Parker and David Klisares have the knack, though they discovered that only after, and because of, finding themselves in rather unhappy straits--David's marriage ending after 10 years, Kathryn's just days before she gave birth to her second child.

It's such circumstances that cause some to cry out, to rue their lot and question the cosmos or, in Parker and Klisares' case, to come up with a cute concept and package it in a spiffy box. It's called the Gender Gap, a game that plays upon differences between the sexes which the Orange County couple--he lives in Lake Forest, she in Rancho Santa Margarita--came up with after they began dating in 1993.

"It wasn't a fluke that this was the subject we settled on for a game," Klisares said. "It was helping us understand what we'd been through. Really, it helped us survive."

And very well. They marketed the game on their own, and it has sold out numerous times in specialty stores. An appearance on the nationally syndicated "Mike and Maty Show" prompted an immediate demand for the game--a store in Thousand Oaks received 25 calls requesting it while the pair were still on the air. There is talk of a second set of questions to accompany the original 800, and there has been some discussion of turning the concept into a TV game show. The game will soon hit retail heaven when toy behemoth Toys R Us starts stocking it this month.

All this from a simple idea. Men and women play either individually or in teams against each other and are asked questions about interests traditionally associated with one particular gender.

Women may be asked who was the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times (A.J. Foyt). Men might have to answer who is the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine (again, A.J. Foyt . . . wait, it's Helen Gurley Brown . . . apparently there's also a knack to playing these games).

They are also asked questions about gender attitudes and tendencies. So women get such questions as: What percentage of men underestimate the number of lovers they have had?" (50%). Men get: What do 90% of single women say is the most common lie they are told by men (I love you.)

"It just seemed so obvious to us, I mean, it's the most basic thing people talk about," Parker said. "The questions are funny because they are so basic. We kept wondering, 'Why hasn't someone done this before?' It seemed ridiculous."

Of course, how Parker and Klisares got together is borderline absurd. Just three weeks after giving birth to her second child, she was coaxed out of the house by friend Linda Baldy and ended up at a Costa Mesa restaurant. As they entered, Baldy spied a dark-haired man talking with some friends, turned to Parker and said: "I know that that's the guy for you over there."

The stranger was Klisares, who had gone to the restaurant on a spur-of-the-moment suggestion of a friend. The two eventually were introduced after Baldy forced Parker to send a drink anonymously to Klisares' table.

Your friend wants you to send a drink to a strange man, you . . .

A) Decline, reminding her that you are not now nor have ever been Joan Collins.

B) Order the drink then drink it yourself.

C) Go for it. Who knows? The guy may be good for a snappy board game concept.

"We found out that each of us had been divorced, and then we found out we both had kids [Klisares has two daughters]," Parker said. "He kept asking me the ages of my kids, and I said, ' "My daughter's 4 and my son is . . . young.' He asked how young, and I said, 'Really young.' "

The two started dating, but, so they could also be with their children, that often meant staying in nights to play board games. Soon they got the idea to do one on their own. Klisares, an executive with State Farm Insurance, designed game cards on his computer. They became more serious about the idea and imposed a six-month deadline to come up with a prototype.

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