Roll over, Rubik. The newest inventor on the scene is Bettie Levy, a second grader from Bethesda who has just developed and sold "Here Comes the Bride," a board game targeted specifically for those game-loving consumers, little girls.
Seven-year-old Bettie last year came up with the idea for the game, in which cutouts of bride figures make their way around a board buying shoes, rings and bouquets, all with the object of joining a smiling groom atop a paper wedding cake.
"Most games are invented by adults for children," said Bettie's father, Richard Levy. "This is one of the few games invented by a child for her peer group."
Although most children invent games that remain in the string-and-tin-can stage, few have parents who can help them take their ideas from make-believe to actual production. In Bettie's case, her parents are professional game developers.
Bettie, who is the Levys' only child, came up with the idea for the game last Thanksgiving as the family was traveling in a car. Her parents were brainstorming for new ideas, "and then I butted in," Bettie said.
She first named the game, then developed the gimmick of the wedding cake; the rest of the game plan unraveled naturally.
"The whole thing took only about three or four days for her to conceive," said Richard Levy.
Bettie sold the game to Ungame Co., a California-based manufacturer, which paid Bettie an advance and royalties on sales. The game was unveiled at the American International Toy Fair in New York in February, where retailers look at new products. Though the youngest inventor there, Bettie said, "I wasn't nervous because I go there every year with my parents." Among the retailers that picked up Bettie's game were J.C. Penney, Lowens and Toys Etc.
Scott Goode, owner of Lowen's toy store in Bethesda, said of "Here Comes the Bride": "It's cute, and it's selling all right for a game that has had almost no promotion."
But he cautioned that it faces an uphill climb against games from big-name companies that lavishly promote their newest items.
That may change, however, because Bettie has been interviewed by two local radio stations, has been written up in the October issue of Modern Bride magazine, and will soon begin a 15-city promotional tour with her parents.
For now, she is busy with school where she likes math class the best, and plays her game a lot with friends.
Richard and Sheryl Levy credit their daughter's creativity to living in a household of "imagineers," as they call themselves.
For example, they Levys know how to turn Bettie's birthday into an event, and all her parties have themes. This year it was "Bettie's Birthday Carnival"; the guests were given specially made T-shirts with that legend written on them as well as bags of party favors.
She also has a fair number of examples of successful playthings.
In Bettie's room, cheerfully decorated in green and pink, are dozens of dolls, stuffed animals, Barbie play sets, two closets full of games, a television and a Garfield telephone.
The basement, which showcases games developed by her parents, also holds a playhouse large enough for an adult to stand up in, with a toy oven set, a toy refrigerator filled with replicas of frozen dinners, and another working telephone.
"We call our atmosphere 'never never land,' " said Richard Levy. "She always hears, 'Have I got an idea!' "
Evidently, Bettie is following in her parents' footsteps; now that her first game is out, she is working on another.
"We are always together," said her father. "She's part of the team."