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Greg Kopec - Analog Play in a Digital World

Analog Play in a Digital World

How many of you in the professional inventor community have heard these words? “Kids don’t want to play with a toy like that today; they have so many similar and better things to do on their tablet or iPad”. Do you agree with this mentality? Thinking like this is not only incorrect, but is also detrimental to the creative process of inventing. The detriment of this thought process doesn’t stop with the inventor, but also denies this generation of children a myriad of life molding experiences. Pixels don’t provide physical multi-sensory stimulation, interactive play involving direct communications, imaginative play processes, group participation, or shared physical and emotional excitement.

Interesting Facts

  • Game applications see only about 20 percent of users return to use the app the first day after they download it.

  • By 30 days out, less than 5 percent of gamers are still playing with the app.

  • The majority of video games contain some level of violence even if it is inadvertent (Think about Angry Birds).

  • In many Apps and Video games, children are rewarded for bad behavior or violence.

  • According to Hasbro more than 250 million copies of Monopoly have been sold worldwide.

  • Since the invention of the Slinky, more than 350 million have been sold.

My Own Experience
  • All toys and games I have invented that are currently under review for licensing or have been licensed are non-electronic, analog toys and games.

  • I have had toy companies decline a game because “there is something like that on the iPad” (only to later license the analog toy or game to a different toy company).

  • My own child and grandchild prefer analog over digital play in the long run, and I’d bet your do too. Even if they get hooked on a video game or app, it always seems to be short lived.

My challenge to toy company executives based my observations

Provide children in your own families under age 10 a choice. Place a popular family game, an iPad running a game app, and a building toy on a table. Ask the kids to pick one to play together. Which do you think they will pick? Once again, in our experience, the analog toys and games will beat the iPad nine times out of ten.

In conclusion

Humans are analog creatures. We crave touch, communication, interaction, imagination, and fun. Game applications and programs can provide hours of fun, but fall short when it comes to truly random play, interaction with others, and sensory stimulation. Shared experiences are nearly nonexistent in the digital realm, and infinite outcomes are in fact not possible. Play any application based game 100 times, and you will not get 100 different outcomes. You’ll begin to see repeating patterns emerge. Play Checkers, Chess, Hooplastack, Monopoly, Eye N’ Seek, Yahtzee, or any other analog board or action game 1000 times and you’ll get 1000 different outcomes. Toss a Superball against a gymnasium wall 10 times and you’ll never be able to predict its different actions. Toss a virtual Superball in a virtual gymnasium, and before you know it, you can predict exactly what will happen.

I have heard all about the popularity of phone and tablet apps all too often, but my thirty years of experience tells me I’ve seen fads before. Most recently, even in the digital age, I have licensed three analog non-electronic action game, and three fully kid-powered toys. My creative processes seem to gravitate toward analog play which I find beats fads, beeps, buzzes and pixels. I’m not alone in this arena either. Look at toys and games which have withstood the test of time. It’s a pretty sure bet that several generations of your own family have played games like Checkers, Sorry, Life, Monopoly, Yahtzee, or Battleship and have played with Frisbees, Hula Hoops, a Slinky, an Etch-a-Sketch, Building Blocks, a Light Bright or a Spirograph. Reaching back to an even earlier time, every child has played Tag, Hide and Seek, Hop Scotch, or Tic-Tac-Toe and all of these toys and games are still popular today. Can you name an equal number of Apps or Video games that are hot today, and will these same Apps and Video games be popular next year or even next month? While it is true that Apps can be very lucrative, it still begs the question, “for how long”? Humans have basic needs, and one of these needs is not to repeatedly touch a glass screen.

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