Project World of play
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Looking towards the future, game mechanics show a significant potential as design tool to design for engaging experiences. This project anticipates on this future and uses game play mechanics to create an engaging product-service combination aimed at children. By exploring the market space and related work, it was found that play is essential for the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children. More specifically, free play is critical to the balanced development of children.

Despite the benefits derived from free play, children are losing the opportunity for free play as they are hurried to adapt into adult roles and prepare for their future at earlier ages. Without free play, we risk depriving children of the very dynamic that drives their development as learners and creative individuals. This project anticipates to the importance and the decline of free play. It offers an engaging experience through the use of certain game play mechanics, while making sure the possibility for free play is sustained.

The described engaging play experience results in an electronic plush character for children aged 3 to 7. Instead of competing head-to-head with other toy products, the product uses a value innovation approach to create uncontested market space. This results in a business model that exclusively distributes the character through a childrenswear chain.

The developed plush character is presented as part of an ongoing story. Supplements to this story can be unlocked on a digital platform using a digital key, which is obtained by purchasing items at the childrenswear chain. Based on recurring purchases, identification of customers and purchasing behavior can be tracked by the chain owner. While maintaining both fun and engaging for the consumer, this enables the childrenswear chain to better understand their customers and to optimize their business strategy accordingly.

The content of each story supplement is dynamic and provides ever continuing inspiration for adventures and play experiences using the plush character. Hereby, interesting challenges can be introduced while leaving room for creativity and imagination—two important aspects of free play.

Each story supplement is part of a main storyline, in which the character is on an ever continuing quest to find objects with a given color. This adventure continues into a game that is played with the physical plush character.

In the game children are challenged to find a color in their surroundings. When the game is initiated, the display presents a random color. This enables children to set out—on adventure—to find objects that match the color presented on the display.

When a matching object is found, the nose of the character is pressed against the object. This activates a color sensor in the nose and enables the character to determine if the correct color was found. Based on the determination an embedded speaker enables the character to provide appropriate feedback.

The game is made more engaging by introducing the “game-breaker”. The game-breaker is randomly triggered and introduces music and a time limit to the challenge. The music has a melody that is easy to memorize and enables the children to estimate the time remaining. As the player progresses, the available time becomes shorter and the music is played faster.

During the process a working prototype was build. This prototype was used to verify the various game elements during play sessions with children.

While the game components remain static, the rules of the game are dynamic and can be altered by the children to adapt the challenge to their preference. Providing children with the ability to create self set challenges enables them to engage in free play (without rules) while playing games (with rules).

This product-service combination is developed as part of my MSc degree in Product development. More information about the project and the development process can be found in the presentation above and in my MSc thesis, World of play (pdf-file)

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