Learn more about Mystery Date and other classic board games
"Open the door - to your - mystery date!"
Mystery Date was a beautiful idea for game manufacturers - turning adolescent girls' romantic fantasies into a comfortable evening at home with a friend or, best of all, a slumber party of squealing hormonal teenagers. The object of the game was to open a door at the center of the board to reveal a handsome young man who was ready to take you on a 'theme' date - bowling, skiing, a formal dance, etc. As the girl got ready for the date, the player had to choose an outfit and move around the board collecting accessories for that particular theme. Upon landing on one of the 'door' squares, the door at the center of the board was opened to reveal a different boy each time - and hopefully the player would be ready for the type of date that guy had chosen. If the player was unlucky, she got the 'dud' - a nerd named Poindexter whose attention to hygiene was less than adequate. Horrors!
Mystery Date was one of those toys - along with Barbie and Easy Bake Oven, for example - that taught little girls how to fulfill their roles as girlfriends, then later as wives and mothers in the future. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) The game itself, and especially the artwork associated with the earlier versions of the game (it was updated starting in the 1970's), portray an innocent social experience for kids to romanticize about - just boys and girls having good clean fun. Naturally, the 'desirable' guys were always terribly clean-cut and bathed regularly; they were the kinds of boys that parents did - and do - approve of.
My older sisters played this game back in the day; I remember trying to sit in on some of their sessions but couldn't puzzle out exactly what the point of the whole thing was supposed to be - I just liked opening the door to see which of the guys was behind it. (I do remember finding Poindexter vaguely amusing.) The game's intent, however, was lost on a pre-adolescent boy.
I do have a fondness for the artwork on the original gameboard, box, and cards, however. Commercial artwork from that period - especially that rendered for youth consumption - always had such a cleanly lighthearted quality to it. The art styles still showed a lot of the conformity-based 1950's in them, but were already slightly moving toward the influences that would explode within the culture during the late 60's. I may not have cared for the game, but I think even then I was able to discern from those images the kind of hope instilled in little girls' hearts from the concept: that their teenaged years and young-adulthood held incredible promise for them, days of fun and friends, opportunities, challenges. It was there waiting in their futures: all they had to do was open the door.