GamesIndustry.biz just ran the latest piece in their Playable Futures series in which LEGO Group’s Anna Rafferty, Vice President; Consumer Engagement at the LEGO Group, speaks to Will Freeman about their new approach to empowering and protecting children in digital spaces. She speaks about LEGO’s partnership with UNICEF’s Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children (RITEC) project and how this motivated the partnership between Epic Games and LEGO.
The piece starts with playground mulch: the soft, slightly bouncy surface found coating the floor of outdoor playgrounds the world over -
“I love that rubber surface,” Anna says, with sincere enthusiasm. “It’s not about the surface itself, but what it enables. It lets my children climb, swing and explore, and maybe even leap off something and graze their knee… but I know they’re not going to come to serious harm.”
With the risk of bump and grazes mitigated by mulch, kids are free to go about the important business of learning through play - and of course this provides a helpful analogy through which to think about how the design and delivery of digital spaces such as video games must change in the future.
Rafferty and her team within the LEGO Group are devoted to understanding and enabling the potential of play and play-based learning in digital spaces. They recognise how play can let youngsters – and adults – explore social skills, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, confidence, a sense of belonging or purpose, and so much more. Engendering that potential in appropriate ways is clearly deeply motivating to them.
What’s interesting about their work in this area is that it’s looking beyond traditional defensive responses, or soley focused on curtailing children’s access through systems like age rating. Those things will remain necessary - but LEGO’s partnerships are exploring the many positives of digital participation and accounts for the fact that many children circumnavigate the well-intended systems such as age ratings.
Rafferty is quick to point out this is about more than RITEC or LEGO-related initiatives specifically. A movement is underway focused on something essential to the future of games, online social spaces, metaverse-like experiences, and any digital realms where play is present. The frameworks, tools and studies the RITEC initiative are exploring are not presented as conclusive or final but hope to inform a wider conversation about how to create and sustain safe digital play spaces with a capacity for positive impact.
“I think that increasingly parents, shoppers, and legislators are absolutely going to be thinking about this, as they see how digital is changing,” she concludes. “And this is only going to grow. So inevitably those creating digital worlds will also need to adapt. And I truly believe that relying on retrofitting your company or product to the new standards will be painful and expensive. So it’s best to get on board today and build things the right way for tomorrow.”
We were fascinated and inspired by this piece in equal measure. One of our Diva mantras is that we are serious about play: we too believe that kids (and adults for that matter) learn through play and that when the well-being of children is put at the centre of digital design kids will feel safe and be healthier and happier. We hope you like it, too:
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