Toy Design Project

Friday, January 28, 2005

Researching "Play"

I got some books in the mail yesterday, so I spent the entire day reading.
The books were: "Rules of Play" and "Man, Play and Games". And since I have read some of the first book before, I started to read the second.

"Man, Play and Games" by Roger Caillois is classified as a book on sociology and sport. But it would be a good book for game and toy designers also. It deals with basic play theory and game theory. So far into the book it doesn't seem like Caillois is separating the two. The book was originally published in French as "Les jeux et les hommes" and it would seem as though the word jeux incorporates both play and game. The author defines play and categorizes games to a fairly good degree. Although since the book was first published in 1958, it is somewhat outdated when it comes to games. The basics of game is still applicable today, but new games and technology has come that further complicate Caillois' theories. He does not mention computer games or role playing games at all for instance.

Caillois splits games into four categories and names them:

  • Agôn: Competitive games. (Like most sports and games with two or more opponents)
  • Alea: Games of chance. (Like dice, gambling and lottery)
  • Mimicry: Pretending games / make believe. (I believe storytelling is a big part of the games in this category.)
  • Ilinx: Games based on the pursuit of vertigo. (Play that induce a sense of physical dizziness in the player. Like amusement park rides and bungee jumping.)
He also adds a second dimension to these games he calls paidia and ludus. This is, as far as I can gather, the degree of chaos and order that make up the game.

I really like this kind of classification of games, and I think it could be interesting to use this system to classify the new games like computer games and role playing games. By classifying the games that have been popular in the last years, it could be easier to discover areas of gaming that have not been used to its' full potential. Combining ilinx and agôn in a computer game for instance, sounds like something original. Though perhaps we have to wait until the virtual reality technology is developed enough to induce true physical emotion in addition to audio and video based emotions.
This was just an example that immediately came to mind, but I am sure something else will come up once I start to map out today's toys and games.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Picture posting


Posted by Hello This is the only self portrait I have made that actually looks like me. I just had to post it to test out the photo publishing tools on blogger. I used the Hello publishing tool offered by Blogger.com, and I must say it wasn't really that easy to use. Oh well, "live and learn, as my old gaffer used to say."

Research

The project started on the 3rd of january and the delivery date is the 13th of May, so I'm currently in the first stage of the project; the research stage.

So far I have made a plan for what areas I need to research, and I have done some preliminary work like light scanning through the internet and ordering of some books. Two of the books I ordered is on their way now, but I've already read some of one of them as I borrowed my friend's copy.

The books on my list so far are:
"Rules of Play" by Salen and Zimmerman
"Man, Play and Games" by Caillois
"The Ambiguity of Play" by Sutton-Smith
"Flow: The Classic Work on How to Achieve Happiness" by Csikszentmihaly

What I expect to find out through these books are some basics theories of play. Both the act of playing with physical toys and the act of playing with games. The book "Flow..." was recommended by my professor, Simon Clatworthy, as a study of the phenomenon of consentration. You know when you get so focused on a game or some other thing, that you lose all sense of time and space. Six hours later you wake up from your game and realize it's late at night. It should be interesting.

This weekend I took a tour of some toy shops in Oslo, just to observe the situation. And discovered some interesting details:

  • The biggest toy shop in Oslo is "Toys R Us", yet it seemes to me that they don't have as broad a selection of toys as the smaller shop "Edwis" in Oslo City (the shopping mall).
  • Bayblade products are kept behind the counter... Apparently they are so popular they have to be watched carefully. You can only look closely at them if you ask an employee. Scary...
  • Some shops also sells some Beyblade-copies called "Spin Battles". They are much cheeper, and are obviously of a lower quality. The price is about a fourth of the price of official Beyblade products. Nobody wants these things, the shops are practically throwing them away.
  • There is even some "Bratz"-copies available. Though these have differently shaped faces and eyes, and have a more "cute" look than the usual "cool" look of Bratz. I think the producers of the copy have missed something important.
  • Games Workshop has their own shop, and through a conversation with an employee I found out that you have to be 11 years old or more to take part at the activities in the shop. The younger kids do not understand the rules of the games and tend to play with the models in their own way. The activities in the shop include painting and battling with the models.

Introduction

Well, hello there.
This is the blog for my diploma project at the Oslo Scool of Architecture and Design. I have never written a blog before, or even read someone else's blog so don't get upset if this seems a bit amateurish.

This diploma project is the graduating project of my Masters degree in Interaction Design, and it is titled "Cult-toys". What I mean by the term "cult-toys" is the kind of toys (and games) that just seems to take off in popularity and becomes the favorite toy for a generation of kids. Now this may seem a bit over-abitious, trying to make a legend even before I've finished school, but it doesn't really have to be that titan of a project. What I'm really interested in is what makes some toys more popular than others? From a group of seemingly similar toys one rises to popularity and the others are forgotten.
Examples I intend to study more carefully are: Pokémon, Beyblade and Games Workshop's Warhammer games. These are good examples of toys that each stands out in their own way. Pokémon and Beyblade may seem identical to most people, but there are differences. And the Games Workshop games are just unique.