Getting Serious About Fun and Games
The following is an excerpt from the chapter “Getting serious about fun and games” in The Future and Related Nonsense, a book by Antony Funnell of the Australian Broadcasting Company’s Future Tense radio program. The chapter references Latitude’s Children’s ‘Future Requests’ for Computers and the Internet innovation study.
[Latitude] quizzed children twelve years and younger from the US, Australia and a variety of other countries about both their current technology usage and the ideas they had for the sorts of technology they’d like to use in the future. The overwhelming majority of children surveyed — eighty-three per cent — said they desired interactive technologies such as ‘responsive virtual environments,’ in other words, game-like environments. And thirty per cent of participants suggested ideas for future technologies that had a gaming dimension.
“Kids are naturally imaginative,” says Latitude’s CEO and founder, Steve Mushkin, “so we expected to see some good material from them, and we did. And we thought that kids could give us a bit of a window into where things might be going. What we’re calling the ‘near present,’ which is what is right around the bend.”
I’ve seen research looking at teenagers and how they use technology, what they want from technology, but I haven’t seen it in terms of children, particularly around the age group surveyed. Steve Mushkin says one reason for the lack of previous research is that very young children are often looked upon simply as passive recipients of technology, rather than as creative users, or even potential developers of technology.
“Since these were young kids, we contacted them through their parents, had their parents give us some basic information about what their online behaviour was, and what kind of devices they were using, and so on. And then we asked the kids to do something very simple for us, which was to answer the question: ‘What would you want your computer to do, or the internet to do, that it doesn’t do right now?’”
Among the key findings, according to Mushkin, was a desire to blend the physical with the digital; and secondly, a strong response to anthropomorphic applications. That is, applications that have a human quality about them.
“We saw from some of the results that one of the things that many kids do is personalise the computers, the internet, and they do that in a variety of ways. Obviously in terms of the literal physical sense, but also they very much want to be able to speak to, and become ‘friends’ with any computing device that they’re dealing with,” says Mushkin. “They want to be the creators of the next generation of computing, and be able to be the creators of the next generation of games.”