Are We There Yet? Travel & Other Game Trends (The Business of Fun #8)
Family car travel used to be brutal.
Parents sat in the front seat and controlled the radio dial. I sat in the back seat (on the hump because I was the only girl and, therefore, had the shortest legs). My brothers poked and teased me. Our only entertainment was conversation (imagine that!), pleading with our father to change the station from the classics to something more fun, and the occasional game of “I spy” or out-of-state license plate spotting.
When I had my own kids (still prior to the digital age), we came up with a makeshift TV/VCR contraption to entertain our kids on long trips. (The built-in car TV had not yet hit the market.) We also rented books on tape to supplement storytelling. When we flew, I packed eclectic and amusing “fun bags” with snacks, puzzles, crayons, and random surprises that came out towards the end of the trip as the boredom level escalated.
Today, TVs, iPads and smart phones ensure that ennui is never a factor in a family journey. But human interaction may have fallen off the agenda. Next time you’re on a plane, train, or highway look at the families around you. How many are actually having conversations and how many are simply staring at their small screens? I used to be a big fan of the “splitter,” so my traveling companions and I could listen to the same music/story and then share our opinions afterwards. But now, we are in the era of the individual buds and headphones.
I asked our Millennial marketing associate, Bridget, what she does to entertain herself when traveling with her friends. Among their favorite activities are listening to music (individually and together, depending on the friend and the form of transportation), napping, eating, and reporting on all aspects of their journey via social media. The Instagram photo of ones passport and travel gear is an Instagram favorite, apparently.
Now that we’ve arrived at our destinations…
Time on trips is usually preplanned…tours, activities, and experiences. But when a vacation is rained out or people are restless after dinner, what do they do?
Back in the old days we had Yahtzee and Play Dough (with $3 million in sales in 1956). And of course, we can’t forget Clue, Bingo, and Mr. Potato Head. Matchbox cars kept the boys occupied, while girls created romantic and fashion-forward dramas with their Barbies. Clearly, the 1950’s were the golden era of toy innovation. The Frisbee, Silly Putty, Colorforms, Wiffle Balls, and Gumby all making their debuts in that decade. And, if you needed a sugar fix, you could eat a candy out of the neck of a Pez Dispenser. (But don’t ever do this with your Pez Dispenser or mayhem will result!).
Gradually, games and toys that required imagination gave way to electronic gadgets. This great infographic ends at 2013, but you can clearly see when the era of plastic ended and the dawn of digital began. Any millennial seeing a first-generation Tamagotchi today would stare at it in disbelief.
I’m happy to see that some “basic” amusements are still on the list of the best toys and games of 2016. Cards, building blocks, and the good old Viewmaster still exist (although the new version does have a VR aura to it).
Games can be educational. They teach decision-making, calm under pressure and, of course, the art of being a gracious winner or loser. I love the fact that an Institute of Play even exists! Who ever realized that games could have deep dark psychological meaning too? This terrific article from Psychology Today makes me want to take play a little more seriously!
So, as you’re packing for your next excursion with family or friends or are trapped inside with nothing to do, think about a creative way to amuse yourself and those around you. (Some of these can be modified to a grown-up version, but none of them require a charger!) And then there’s this really old standby activity called talking.
P.S. For more trends and observations on the Business of Fun, please subscribe to our blog! Tomorrow’s theme will be gaming (the grown-up kind).