Peek Inside the Virtual Toybox with Disney’s INFINITY

Disney’s new INFINITY Gaming Platform (to be released in June) allows children to play with their favorite toys in a brand new way: by translating physical objects into keys for unlocking a virtual world.

Besides being a great move for their franchises by building on established characters and plotlines, the INFINITY game is a nod to how kids actually play with their toys.

As John Lasseter, the chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, told Mashable, “Look at how [Toy Story toy owner] Andy played with his toys,” Lasseter said. “He had a Buzz Lightyear, a Cowboy Woody and Mr. Potato Head and played with them all alongside one another.”

Moreover, Lasseter says that the way Disney looks at the experience of Disney Infinity isn’t as changing or expanding the storyline of the renowned franchises, it’s about letting kids play with different characters within one universe.

By seeing characters coexist (that wouldn’t normally live together) inside a virtual world, or by creating their own virtual worlds with the “Toy Box” feature, Disney is also erasing the limits imposed by the pre-set rules, worlds, and characters built into most games. It’s a virtual version of the toy box, in the truest possible sense.

Why I’m Curious:
Play is a vital part of childhood and we’re seeing technology redefine play more than ever in recent years. As kids become more focused on single-player digital entertainment, they’re necessarily moving away from the traditional structure of play, which has promoted socializing and imagination-building with physical manipulatives. What’s interesting about INFINITY is that it allows a physical toy, which by itself is a fun thing to play with, to unlock a virtual world where kids can play with friends, reinforcing the physical world rather than replacing it.

As kids growing up in the digital world get older, to what extent will they expect all physical goods to be coupled with some kind of virtual/interactive enhancement? And as we move toward an “internet of things,” at what point will INFINITY’s premise be less specific to games for children, and more commonplace in everyday things?

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