When I was young, there was this beautifully designed mechanical racing car kit called MINI 4WD that captured the imagination of my generation. Encased in vibrantly illustrated boxes, these kits presented themselves in the form of these cleverly designed injection-molded skeletons that came with flamboyant stickers, urging one to detach the pieces for assembly. The overarching concept behind these kits was to instill a passion for engineering and foster skills by encouraging children to construct and race these cars.
Despite my overwhelming passion for these toy racers, my proficiency in assembling them lagged far behind. I found myself grappling with frustration while piecing together seemingly straightforward mechanical parts, signaling a potential divergence from the path of engineering. However, with the passage of time as I pursued a career in art and design, a revelation dawned upon me. While those racing car kits may not have steered me towards an engineering trajectory, they undeniably planted the seeds of a profound passion for beautifully designed and playful objects within me instead.
Tangibility is most crucially felt in the playfulness of youth, whether it is the intricately designed racer kit I played with or simply some playful looking rocks found on a walk, physical things we play with shape us into who we are. These physical toys are not just playthings; they are vital tools that enhance our understanding of the world, foster connections with friends and family, and thus stand as some of the most significant objects in our lives. This experience is universally shared among all people of all backgrounds because no child is born into the world without the curiosity of play.
Yet, the landscape of contemporary children's entertainment has undergone a transformation, veering toward screen-based media that offer simulated worlds, captivating narratives, and interactive experiences. Consequently, numerous youth tend to seclude themselves at home, preoccupied themselves in online pursuits and digital content consumption, often distancing themselves from familial interactions. My younger brother, who was part of this digital generation, is exactly like this, lacking the motivation and skills to socialize in the real world. While the digital world certainly captures the imagination of children in other profound ways, it lacks the tangible essence that is inherently meaningful to us as human beings.
Digital physical Hybrid toys
Phone app games
I was fortunate to belong to a generation that witnessed the entire evolution of children's entertainment. Born in China in the era of rapid hardware manufacturing development, my childhood was adorned with a diverse spectrum of playthings, ranging from wooden and plastic toys to battery-powered mechanical kits, digital gadgets, handheld gaming systems, and console-based gaming setups. This immersive exposure has not only shaped my appreciation for the various facets of play but has also bestowed upon me a unique perspective distinct from older generations who never experienced this diversity of play and younger generations that started with digital devices like iPads.
They say, with great power comes with great responsibility. I believe that my generation's unique experience with the children's entertainment evolution, has a responsibility to design a more positive future for the next generation of young people. My personal mission is to pioneer a tangible future of play for children and teens. Not motivated by nostalgia, I hope to achieve this mission not through resurrecting traditional physical toys, but rather through forging a new generation of playthings infused with cutting-edge technology, ensuring they are as engaging and dynamic as screen-based media. I anticipate a future where individuals, fatigued by constant screen exposure, gravitate towards technologies that are quietly integrated into everyday physical objects, fostering a more harmonious and enriching interaction with our environment.