What would the world be like if we forgot how to play? What would it mean if we forgot the traditional games that shape our culture? And what does seeing the world though a screen mean for the development of our children?
With our worlds becoming ever more digitised – and at an earlier age than ever before too – these are among some of the most pressing questions for people working in education, development and play.
Some of the statistics are eye-opening. According to a recent Nielsen Study, more than 70 per cent of children under 12-years-old use tablets. And a recent report in the Pediatrics Journal found children younger than 30-months “cannot learn from television and videos as they do from real-life interactions” and using a mobile device at that age can be “detrimental to the social- emotional development of the child”.
It is against this landscape that PlayFinders was launched. The social enterprise start-up will allow people to join a community, and upload traditional – by that we mean non-digital – types of games and play, and “pin” them to a crowdsourced map. Users can also upload how-to guides, and also their very own personal memories of play too.
1) Creating a legacy of games and play, to ensure that the games our families and ancestors used to play are passed down to future generations
2) It will encourage today’s children to try out both traditional games from the past and types of play from around the world.
This means three results: traditional games will be recorded, and not lost in our digitised world. It means people from different cultures will be able to understand childhood across borders. And it will start cross-generational dialogues through play. We want grandparents to record their play before it is too late! The PlayFinders team also hope the project will become a useful resource for parents, teachers and researchers.
Simply put, the PlayFinders team want people to put down their devices, and play!
Over time, PlayFinders will grow to become a Wiki-How of play, dedicated to traditional games and our memories.
The idea was born as part of the British Council’s Elevate Challenge. This set the challenge: what can we do to get more young people from around the world playing non-digital games?
Although this had an international scope, the challenge had its roots in East Asia and Japan, where digital gaming is mostly deeply entrenched.
More than 300 people submitted ideas, but PlayFinders was one of the ideas selected to be part of the Elevate Challenge fellowship. This meant a two-week long residency in Japan, play safaris around Tokyo, leading presentations, meeting play experts, creating an experience for children in Yamaguchi and allowing the PlayFinders team to gain a deep understanding about the importance of play.
After the Japan trip, PlayFinders was selected as one of the top three ideas from the Elevate Challenge. Following another research trip, PlayFinders will launch with games and play memories from Japan, Brazil and around the United Kingdom.
So, what can be uploaded? Users will be able to upload their rulebooks, images and memories of play. The only rule is that the games and play uploaded does not use digital.
The search function will be dynamic too. It will allow parents, teachers and educators to find the right type of play for whatever scenario they need. What this means is the search function will be linked to the tags; so users will be able to search for types of play for a rainy day, for group play, for solo play etc.
Paul Drury-Bradey: Paul is the PlayFinders founder. He began his career in newspapers in the North of England before moving to London in 2007. He has worked on a wide variety of projects – across production, partnerships and PR. Paul is married, and now lives in Aldersbrook, near Leytonstone: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thisisjukebox
Darren Bolton: Writer and Director in theatre and film. New Dad Darren founded Shooting Fish theatre company in 2002 and Blueprint Film in 2004, and has worked on numerous international theatre, film and digital storytelling projects. He has offices in London and Lincoln: http://darrenbolton.co.uk/