when games do not necessarily mean toys

A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and...

Mom can we go to the toy store, please?” my son pulled me towards the direction of the grand toy store entrance, colorful lights, sights and sounds. Trying to act dense, I stupidly asked, “What are we going to do there?”

I’m just going to look around, please..” but before I became victim of mindless consumerism, I upped one on my son, I set the rules on price.

We will only buy toys worth fifty pesos and below.” that was ten years ago, even fifty pesos back then can only buy you an imported whistling lollipop. He readily agreed, he never knew any better,  I seldom gave him money bigger than five.

I congratulated myself thinking how clever I was. I knew he wouldn’t be able to buy the toy he wanted at the price I have set. I looked around lined up toy cars, action figures and cleverly lighted up balls. From where I stood, I traveled back in time to remember how I played with toys.

Empty cleaned up milkcans was a game setter, as two opposing teams tries to knock it off with slippers. If it stood on end, the chaser team can tag any members of the opposite team and points will be for them. If it lays down, you don’t get to win even if you’ve already tagged an opponent, you would still be “it”.

Slippers were game pieces and rubber bands were game props as we contest each other on who gets to jump highest at “chinese garter”. Pebbles became stones when the cross pieces of the jackstones were lost. If there were no chalk available, we’d draw hopscotch on the ground with charcoal, it was better if the street then were unpaved and still made of brown earth, the hopscotch was carved with a stick. When we’ve had enough, the markings on the ground will still be there waiting for us the next day.

I had very few toys then, those that can be bought were only bought by the rich kids. I never knew Lego and chicco toys, much less the Barbie ones, but I never felt deprived.

Days were hot but I never seemed to mind, the ground was dusty when dry. When it rained, it was doubly hard to walk or play on mud, but I never noticed it. In my mind, a piece of paper was a paper boat or paper balls and mud was good for mud castles.

It was all about the game. It was never about the toys.

When I had children of my own, the game “climate” was totally deconstructed. Suddenly everyone can now have easy access to imported toys. Since I grew up without any, I tried to give them what I never had, but I always was a miser if they came with batteries.

I never bought them toys that were battery operated. I wanted them to be creative. To imagine a world where only children can even think to imagine. Where everyone flies and super powers were as common as rice bowls. Maybe that was why I found a sketched nipa hut drawn with a sharp pin end in my car’s window tint, crayon drawings on walls and my refrigerator door covered with stickers.  So much clean up job for encouraging creative talent.

And somewhere along the way, technology changed the social context of play.

Now every kid needs a tablet as a hand extension, if not, the cell phones should be able to download the latest game. They get to play dragons, grow and take care of them electronically. They’ve come a long way off from rescuing princesses of Mario to destroying enemy bases in Warcraft and fighting zombies in Resident Evil.

Kids would now save up not for comics or a toy top, but for station time at a local computer shop, where they would meet and play online games until their fingers bled and their eyes turn red.

WCG Malaysia 2006 Warcraft 3: DoTA winners

WCG Malaysia 2006 Warcraft 3: DoTA winners (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe there is creativity here yet. They learn to strategize their resources and what it takes to power up their star players so they would not be defeated. The online games has enhanced eye and hand coördination and rewired our children’s brain graphic adaptation. They become good at eye scanning, differentiating immediately pixels that stood out from the rest, but unfortunately, limited our children’s other body functions. If they wanted to run and jump, they would go out to play basketball, that is, after they had defeated the other players on Warcraft.

Moonlight games of hide and seek has become extinct. The tea party and playing house or restaurant is now replaced by the SIMMS and Diner Dash. There was a time they paid me to run in contest for barangay games, now I need to dole out a register fee for  my teenage kid to run for marathon just to be sure he moves beyond the click of a mouse.

Now, games are interactive via online. In my youth, interactive play meant physical contacts until you feel like you’ve been bullied and you stand up for a fight, the heat, the sun and sweat on you. Now they just trash talk each other and bully them with insults thru chat, until one gives and stand away from the computer before the fight ensues. Only then would the physical contact occur.

Our world is now being rewired. We have deconstructed ourselves, our creativity, imagination and  social values, the foundation of which is mostly found in game rules and play, are now dictated by electronic media and we start them out as young as our children.

I don’t know which is better, then or now, what I know though, is that time is on a dizzying pace and that I need to keep up even with my children’s games, if I want to comprehend what’s going on inside their head. I have to understand and see it from their eyes. The world they see is a universe so vastly different from the one I saw when I was a child.

My son came back to me from his toy hunting within the store, “did you find any you liked?” I asked. I knew he came back empty-handed.

“It’s ok mum. Everything’s pretty expensive. I’ll keep the money though, I’ll just go out to the computer shop  and play there.”

As I was saying….

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