Today my mom was nice enough to schedule me a meeting with 3 other moms from her work. In this meeting, I wanted to see what a typical mom would think about the PlayTable as well as what was important to her. I learned three big things from this meeting: creativity is extremely important, socialization is getting out of touch, and moms are constantly looking for new ways to educate their kids.
In considering what would make the PlayTable appealing to moms, I think we overlooked how busy our moms’ lives are. One of the reasons they would buy the PlayTable is simply “if it kept my son busy with his friends.” But past the surface level of simple entertainment, I noticed clear positive reactions towards certain features of the PlayTable more than others. For example, when I demoed the PlayTable with all of our toy-to-life games, I didn’t really get a big reaction. However, I got big reactions from the games that showcased the potential for creativity. Of all the demos that I showed them, the overall favorite was the game engine demo. This demo shows how you can simulate board game pieces to make your own board game, and I demonstrated with building a Risk game in front of them. I asked why it was so well received and they said things like when they buy their kids toys, they try to not buy them things that are just toys. They’ll buy things like Legos, or other building games where their kids are actually doing something creative.
When it comes to the social aspect of the PlayTable, I think our mom focus group got the concept pretty well. One of the moms said:
“What I am seeing generation after generation with these college students is them getting so far away from being able to socialize with others. They are so out of tune with the world and in tune with whatever’s in front of them. They lack social skills nowadays. They lack how to communicate effectively with each other. They lack how to interact with a person. They’d rather text someone than actually talk to them when they’re sitting next to them, or in the next room.“
“Even the schools are changing. Kids are great at making PowerPoints, but what happened to writing a report? It’s great that they can make excellent digital presentations, but they need to be able to do both. Writing skills are lacking in our youth. What happened to handwriting? Nobody’s handwriting anymore, they don’t teach it in schools anymore because times are changing. They’re printing everything. Schools just aren’t preparing our youth to communicate that way.”
They just seemed to get that the PlayTable was trying to make gaming more social. When I mentioned that you could play with relatives that also had a PlayTable over the internet via remote play, I even got a “I’m sold”. Obviously, it stands that all of the current video gaming with Xbox and Playstation leave our moms with something to desire in the way of social gameplay. One of them even told us a story about how her son had invited boys to his birthday party that he’d never met before — he said they were his online friends from Xbox.
”On the Xbox, your son doesn’t even know who he’s talking to. That can be extremely dangerous, and difficult to monitor. My friend told me that some of her godson’s Xbox Live friends showed up to his birthday party last year, and he never even met them in real life before! Rather than play with people that he knows from school, he’d rather invite people that he’s only ever talked with. He’s on his games so long that he considers those his friends, rather than his friends at school.”
As we can see, safety is another big issue with moms as we move into an ever-connected world filled with strangers and danger. But, I think all of the educational possibilities resonated especially hard with our focus group. After all, the favorite demo was the game engine demo, where you build your own game and unleash your creativity. It was often referred to as “the one that had the states and the map”. In fact, I was curious to how one mom had completely missed the point that I was building Risk and she kept referring to it as the one with the maps — implying it could teach her kid geography. And there is plenty of truth to that — when kids are playing games that are fun to them, yet have subtle knowledge sprinkled throughout the game (such as a playing board of a world map), education becomes that much more powerful. She was so focused on her kid’s well-being and opportunity to learn that she kept talking about how it was the game with the map. Games that were specifically built for educational purposes, such as James’ frog dissection demo, were also met with cheerful praise.
A phrase that was repeated several times during the meeting was “times are changing.” It seems moms are noticing the inevitability of change as technology continues progressing. Our children’s classrooms have become filled with computers and a mom remarked that her kids couldn’t get their homework done without the use of the internet. Acknowledging all of this, moms are preparing their kids for the future as best as they can — acknowledging the lack of social stimulation, looking for ways to creatively stimulate their child, and adapting to the change of the classroom. As we move forward to brand the PlayTable as a family device, we must always consider the mom in the back of our minds — the mom who is always looking out for her child.