Stop phygiting at the back

David Smith ponders the name given to the newest toy category.
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The world can’t exist (apparently) without labels.

Writers, actors and musicians know this all too well – try to release a book/film/album that strays too far from an established identity and the respective industries (not to mention fans) have a difficult time accepting it. This is partly why comedians like Russ Abbott find it difficult to break into straight acting (an inability to act doesn’t help, either).

Creative types find this kind of thing frustrating and work hard to avoid becoming pigeon-holed. Authors sometimes take on a pseudonym so they can write something different for a change and, perhaps, retain their sanity.

It is also possible to use the phenomenon to your own advantage - Hollywood actors are always looking for that role that plays against their usual screen persona, in the hope that Oscar nominations will follow as the industry swoons at their range and versatility.

But who comes up with these labels in the first place? Whoever it is, I have a bone to pick with the creator of the latest I’ve encountered.

Skylanders and Disney Infinity have opened up a new territory in the toy industry, one combining real-world toys with onscreen play. They are original, imaginative and kids instinctively ‘get’ the concept right away. You wouldn’t think something as elegant as this would need a label, but it’s been given one.

Skylanders and Disney Infinity are, I recently learned, ‘phygital’ toys, because they combine elements of the physical and digital worlds.

It’s not only that ‘phygital’ is an ugly word, it also has distinctly negative connotations. We all know that fidgeting is a bad thing and parents expend a lot of energy trying to get their children to stop doing it.

There has been controversy for years about the labelling of toys (the splitting up into boys’ and girls’ categories has been the cause of much debate) but they serve a purpose, if only to help us know which toys to put on the same page in a catalogue.

When something comes out that doesn’t quite fit into any of our existing labels, I suppose it is inevitable that someone will try to come up with a new one. They’re not always bad (I had no issues with ‘chick lit’ and ‘Brit Pop’), but when it comes to ‘phygital’ I think the industry owes it to itself to come up with something better.


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