Toy Design in the Age of Metaverses
Metaverses are a relatively new phenomenon. However, like many other recent stories, such as the NFTs or cryptocurrencies, they will likely play a part in our future lives and consumer experiences. In this context, toys that are different from those we’re used to will be involved and play a significant role in this new business. For this reason, I tried to understand what design could be in the Metaverse age. Pointing this question at me allows me to travel through time in just a few seconds. But let’s first ensure we are as straightforward as possible based on what I have seen.
This fever is contagious. Big (and bold) corporations are investing huge amounts of money. As Nic Mitham of Metaversed explains in this blog post, this involves toy manufacturers like Lego and media brands such as Hello Kitty or virtual worlds firms Sandbox. Toy manufacturers are now working with media properties. This is common for licensed toys, merchandise and media productions like cartoons and films. As we’ve seen in our writings about Sago Mini, LEGO Boost, and other toys, we’re becoming more accustomed to toys with a digital component. Mitham has called this “golden triangle” created by the addition of a third actor, virtual worlds.
Metaverse is difficult to describe in just a few words. It’s also impossible to predict what role it will play in children’s development and playtime. To begin to understand this, I’d start with toys, which are the only part of this triangle we can see and touch, and therefore, that is where this discussion should begin. Since the 1980s, we have debated how video games affect how children play. We feared that physical toys would become obsolete in the near future, but this has yet to happen. In a world dominated by consumerism, parents are increasingly concerned about screen time and the educational value of toys.
As long as we only consider physical toys, we’ll be disconnected from the educational needs of making children feel “part of their times”, such as being able socialize with peers in new ways, or else making them feel lonely, an issue that is undervalued in many toys. Let’s see if we can drive a critical design of this new playground, considering that physical play has always played a major part in children’s mental development and physical growth. And that parents are able value social interactions and tactile experiences both in
Companies investing in Metaverse have the goal to buy assets that will allow them to connect with an audience (online gamers) whose age is decreasing dramatically over time. Children are increasingly being referred to as “young consumers” – if not by actually purchasing things, then certainly in terms of their behavior, which can be tracked so that adults make purchases on their behalf. After all, the wish letters exist for a good reason.