JON SALISBURY: Play options

News of the Toy & Game Inventors Workshop has our columnist looking at the ever growing list of play options facing children, and parents, today.
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When is a toy not a toy?

Given how children’s playing options have changed in recent years, you might as well ask how long is a piece of string?

It’s always been a running joke in toy circles that kids play more with the boxes that their toys come in than they do with the actual toys.

Today, children are besieged with play options. Three-dimensional play competes with the rich tapestry that is the digital playground and, so as not to miss a trick, the likes of Minecraft and Skylanders bring together the best of both worlds.

It must be great to be a child in 2014, although I don’t envy parents.

Keeping up with kids has always been tough but today’s parents don’t just need eyes in the back of their head but a completely different skill set to fully understand the modern play world.

Take tablets and smartphones, just two of today’s play environments. Most houses have one or the other - or both - and I pity those parents whose kids own them.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Can you imagine how much portable technology is coming our way if the trend of recent times continues? If only evolution could progress as rapidly.

I remember an episode of The Twilight Zone that always makes me chuckle. A scientist, played by David McCallum, develops a time machine that makes him evolve rapidly. First, he grows a sixth digit, then his head swells to house his growing brain. Finally, he evolves beyond the need for physical form and he becomes pure thought.

For now, physical toys are still very much in demand.

I remember when I sold ToyNews to Intent Media, the new owners initially struggled to come to terms with an industry that seemed so old fashioned compared to the very modern world of video games from whence they came.

As time went by it became clear that the toy business could also teach its new owners a few new tricks. The world of character licensing had been second nature to the toy industry for some time but video game makers were only just finding their feet with licensing.

Now, both industries operate in the world of licensing in equal measure and share competition for their livelihoods with the same array of entertainment entities.

It is also fair to say that the toy industry has transformed itself radically as it has incorporated technology into its products.

The one thing that no one can accuse the toy industry of is not chancing its arm with innovation.

The ToyNews Toy & Game Inventors Workshop will prove the point and provide an invaluable insight not only to some of the inventions that might be coming our way, but also offer networking opportunities among the product development community.

The toy industry is a people business. As a tributary of the entertainment industry, it’s often who you know as much as what you know that matters.

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