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Five Ways Play is Changing

1. Taking Online Offline

Although physical and virtual play spaces may appear separate, we have seen how virtual play intersects and influences activity in the physical too.

Gen-Alpha are adapting playground games to reflect the video games they play online; whether that be playing as their favourite characters from Fortnite or Roblox, or creating storylines which mirror the video games they play.

Among Us, in particular, has been popular among teachers and children alike with "being sus", jokes, personalisation and gameplay all being used to engage with and between young people.

“We are playing Among Us, but in real life in the playground. We get all these bits of paper crunched up and people have to pick to find out if they are crew or the imposter. If you’re the imposter you’ve to tap the person on the shoulder without anyone else seeing you and figuring you out” - Faye, Mar 21

2. Virtual Playgrounds

When schools were shut, Generation Alpha took school playground behaviour online and that has continued beyond lockdowns. In 2021 there are more virtual playgrounds than ever before with the likes of Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite proving popular among Gen-Alpha.

During the pandemic, the number of people playing in virtual playgrounds has continued to increase with Roblox gaining an extra 50 million active users; Minecraft gaining 9 million more monthly active users and Fortnite gaining nearly 5 million more active players in the past year. We have also seen the emergence of more accessible (and mobile) virtual playgrounds such as Among Us, Houseparty, Animal Crossing, Rocket League and Fall Guys which rose and fell in popularity in the last year.

Virtual playgrounds are as important to Gen Alpha as the real thing and during the last year have been a lifeline for kids nurturing friendships and social connections.

“I’ve figured out how to set up a group chat on Roblox and add all my friends onto it from our class or do different groups.” - Fatimah, Mar 21

My friends are on Minecraft server hives. There's mini games on there like Sky Wars" - PJ, Mar 21

3. The Gaming Lexicon

For Gen-Alpha, gaming is front of mind and their knowledge is extensive. They learn from playing themselves and watching other people play too. Multiple touch points feed into their knowledge which they then replicate in gameplay.

It’s part of their everyday vocabulary and as demonstrated above seeps into their imaginative offline play. From playground games to precious bedroom collections the influence of gaming on kids culture is vast and growing.

“I’ve started playing Roblox again because my sister and cousin wanted to. We are playing Adopt Me! so I’m getting lots of pets like this panda and I’m going about on a Frost Fury just now. I think I’m going to get a ride potion for my Koala at the weekend” - Lily, Apr 21

4. Tangibility and collectability are still important

Collectables, toys and merchandise are hugely important to Gen-Alpha. Collectibles can be online or offline but particularly after a year in lockdown tangibility is rising in capital.

The recent trend for fidget toys, pop-its and plushies shows that the tangible is still comforting and important to Gen A - and as is an outlet for their pent-up pocket money!

Toys and plushies reinforce their connection to play and, by a process of careful self-curation, they encourage self-expression and autonomy.

Beano Trendspotter Mia shows off her collection of LOL dolls which she then replicates in Roblox through her avatar.

5. Gaming as creative inspiration

Traditionally merchandise juggernauts have originated in TV and film but we believe Gen-Alpha's affinity to gaming culture will see many of their favourite properties translate to TV shows and movie franchises with related merchandise following.

Netflix has been quick to make content based on games, with a Minecraft series and Roblox film soon to be available on its platform and more adult games such as The Witcher and Dota already providing successful series.

But it’s not just content, as many gaming franchises are creating collaborations with brands. These collaborations are not only driving popularity of the platform but are converting into serious revenue. To date the Top 3 most lucrative collaborations on Fortnite have been Marvel, Star Wars and Travis Scott. We can’t wait to see who will be next!

"I'm listening to everything from Travis Scott's live Fortnite event - there's lots of swearing but it's bleeped!" - Theo, Jun 20

Gen A is an incredibly creative and adaptable generation. If you'd like to talk to one of our team about in more detail about how their play is evolving, please get in touch.


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