Disarming children

The managing director of the toy company had always liked playing with guns as a child. He remembered vividly how he used to race around the back garden blasting off endless rounds at his brother, who would then fall to the ground as he pretended to suffer a fatal injury.

So when he called together his design team for the regular six-monthly inspirational get together, he suggested that they give some thought to the idea of developing a new type of weapon that would appeal to today’s high-tech generation of children.

After a long period of head scratching, the design team came up with a number of different ideas that they proposed to the managing director – one of which was a visually appealing version of the Enjalbert Photo Revolver de Poche, a 19th century camera that looked exactly like a revolver.

Clearly, not only would the new toy appeal immensely to the aggressive instincts of children, it would also provide them with a means to take and upload short films of their simulated battles onto their personal computers. Needless to say, the managing director was highly impressed – this was clearly a product that he instinctively knew would appeal to young and old alike.

The design team were quickly dispatched to create a prototype of the camera gun, and in due course, these were produced and given to the managing director for approval. But as impressed as he was by the new concept, the managing director was concerned that the new photographic weapons were so realistic that the police might mistake them for real guns, rather than toys.

So once again, the design team were chartered with finding a solution. And with characteristic zeal, they did exactly that. They modified the toy by simply adding a small brightly coloured plastic part, which would then easily distinguish it from the real thing. Not only was it a simple idea, it was a cost-effective one too, since the luminous parts could be manufactured extremely inexpensively and simply snapped on to the guns during the assembly process.

The managing director was delighted. When the camera guns hit the market, they became an overnight success. Better than that, they became the hit of the toy season, proving so popular that the company had to ramp up its production of them just to meet demand.

Sadly though, the success of the new toys was short lived. Because after just a few months, it became apparent that it was far too easy for children to remove the brightly coloured plastic parts from the guns and potentially swallow them.

Oddly enough, the folks at the Consumer Protection Agency were only alerted to the issue when one of their staff spotted a video on YouTube, created by one young gun owner who had used the built-in camera to film his younger brother taking another one of the weapons apart and then pretending to ingest the luminous plastic part.