This written report addresses the crisis of disappearing play of traditional games (TGs) among Singaporean children today and identifies the inadequacies of existing measures in promoting its play. It reviews the benefits of playing traditional games in the life of children and takes inspiration from the global successful revival of the traditional Japanese game — Kendama. Our campaign proposal will take on two main strands: educating the public on the benefits of TGs and enabling action through increasing its accessibility, modernising its gameplay and promoting community involvement to revive the play of TGs among children today.
None of the following would have been possible, if not for the overwhelming support from the abovementioned.
Chapter 1: The Problem Situation
1.1 Technological Takeover
In the kampong days, childhoods were spent in games that revolved around social interaction, such as Chapteh and Zero Point (Fig. 1). However, widespread technological advancement has brought about a new form of play among children - mobile devices (Fig. 2). Significant amount of playtime is now diverted from traditional games (TGs) that were once shared by children of their age. While many may regard this as a natural and irreversible phenomenon today, it would be a crisis if TGs become completely obsolete as children miss out on the crucial benefits TGs can offer.
Figure 1: Children playing zero point in the 1980s.
Figure 2: Child's eyes glued to mobile devices these days.
1.2 Scope of TGs
TGs are diverse in their form of play and include both indoor games like five stones (Fig. 4), pick-up sticks, kuti kuti and outdoor games like chapteh (Fig. 3), hopscotch and zero point. Whichever TG played, they carry a range of benefits that can be reaped, which supports why it is worthwhile to promote TGs play.
Figure 3: A group of people playing chapteh, a toy made from a weight and colourful feathers.
Figure 4: Children playing five stones.
Figure 5: Goli, also a traditional game once popular among students.
1.3 Benefits of TGs
1.3.1 Individual Benefits
The dynamism of TG play develops critical and creative thinking, which are important skills in today's world. TGs allow children to introduce new twists to the rules or think of innovative ways to triumph their peers, promoting free and unstructured play.
Additionally, TGs enhance interpersonal skills. During gameplay, children likely face conflicts over matters such as choosing leaders or cheating. Through resolving such problems, children develop conflict management, negotiation and team-building skills. Furthermore, TGs help them learn to manage their emotions as they deal with frustration and joy from wins and losses. Over time, this hones emotional literacy, which develops communication skills to build friendships. This contrasts with the predominantly solitary nature of digital play.
Contrary to digital games which encourage a sedentary lifestyle and train only fine motor skills through finger movements, TGs offer a variety of health benefits. In addition to the development of fine motor skills through indoor TGs, outdoor TG play stimulates the development of large muscle groups through gross motor actions including running and jumping. The play of TGs is, hence, fundamental for the holistic physical development of children.
1.3.2 Community Benefits
TGs are ‘a social glue' that brings people of different ages, races, religions, nationalities and social backgrounds together. The shared experience of playing these games opens up conversations and builds friendships within the community, strengthening its cohesiveness. This starkly contrasts with digital games which lead to people spending less time socialising with real-life friends.
Promoting TG play can foster inclusivity among a society. As TGs are generally inexpensive and easy to understand, they can be afforded and easily played by children of all social backgrounds, circumventing the digital divide between the have and have-nots of costly mobile devices, which economically disadvantaged families cannot afford. This was confirmed by our FGD where only half of the children in a class owned such devices, supporting our aim of promoting TGs play that improves social inclusivity.
1.4 Current Measures and Shortcomings
Despite current measures that aim to increase the visibility of TGs in Singapore, they have been limited in their efficacy in promoting sustained active play of TGs among local children.
1.4.1 Awareness Measures
Current measures publicising for TGs are limited to advertisements for one-off public events (Fig. 7) which fail to publicise the importance of playing TGs beyond its sentimental value. In fact, existing measures do not directly promote the benefits and ease of play of TGs, contributing to the weak understanding of TGs among children.
1.4.2 Enabling Action: Accessibility Factor
TGs are still being sold in void-deck convenience stores (‘Mama' shops) and other small retailers like Munch Munch. Yet, Munch Munch, for instance, only has two outlets and thus has minimal outreach to the public. ‘Mama' shops have also gradually been driven out of business due to stiff competition. The lack of avenues that sell TGs locally on a fixed basis compounds this problem of inaccessibility.
1.4.3 Enabling Action: Appeal Factor
One organisation that promotes TGs is the MINT Museum of Toys, which displays over 3,000 vintage toys and sells them to museum visitors at its souvenir shop. While this increases children's exposure towards TGs, the museum primarily evokes nostalgia in adults especially collectors, rather than making TGs appealing to children.
Moreover, technology has dulled the appeal of TGs to children. Many children rather spend their time on video games rather than TGs, for reasons such as “fun and excitement” Therefore, there is a need to increase the appeal of TGs.
1.4.4 Enabling Action: Sustainability Factor
The play of TGs has been promoted across various levels. Across primary schools, children get to try different TGs during Racial Harmony Day annually. On the community level, public events (Fig. 6,7) occasionally include hands-on activities booths to encourage people to play TGs. However, these occasions are typically one-off, organised in conjunction with festivals. The lack of continual exposure fails to sustain children's interest, making it difficult for them to play TGs actively.
Figure 6: Giant Pick-Up Sticks at Giant Kampong Games.
Figure 7: Poster to advertise for Harmony Games.
1.5 Our Aims
We aim to revive the disappearing play of TGs among local children so they do not miss out on the aforementioned benefits. This is achieved via a proposed campaign that raises awareness on TGs, and enables action through ensuring greater accessibility, appeal, and sustained play of TGs.
The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) would be an appropriate organisation to execute this proposal due to its commitment in youth development and strengthening community bonds, both of which are aligned to the benefits of TG play.
To inspire our proposed ideas, we looked at the successful revival of the Japanese traditional game Kendama.
Chapter 2: Our Model
2.1 The Successful Revival of Kendama
Once unpopular among youngsters, Japanese TG Kendama (Fig. 8) has since grown in popularity internationally since the 2000s due to the combined education and enabling efforts of various stakeholders, such as the Japanese Kendama Association (JKA) and the community.
Figure 8: The kendama toy, consisting of a “sword” (ken) and a “ball” (tama).
2.2 Learning Points
2.2.1 Educating the Public: Targeted Publicity Through Social Media
Kendama's popularity boom can be attributed to the effective use of social media in highlighting its appeal. Novel tricks are posted on YouTube by avid players, like Zoomadanke, and communities like Kendama USA. In these videos, Kendama is publicised as easy to pick up yet fun and addictive, with players keen on honing their skills. This promotes the notion that Kendama can be enjoyed by anyone.
The benefits of play of Kendama are also portrayed. Kendama USA posted a video showcasing a group of diverse youths enjoying Kendama together, implicitly highlighting how Kendama can be enjoyed as a community, thus promoting community bonding.
2.2.2 Enabling Action (Provide): Increasing Physical Presence
Kendamas are widely accessible worldwide, allowing those interested to easily purchase one. Sulab is one example of a shop that handles Kendama sales in Japan and overseas. Some models of the Kendama are also inexpensive with low-cost models being sold on eBay, enabling everyone to easily access TGs.
2.3.2 Enabling Action (Engage): Varying & Modernising Gameplay
Conventionally, players practiced the same basic moves to perfection. Now, there is a multitude of new tricks created (Kendama USA lists a total of 65 tricks with varying levels of difficulty). This increased challenge has attracted more people to play Kendama.
Furthermore, traditional competitions (Fig. 9) were formerly held in a sedate environment to allow participants to focus. However, modern competitions (Fig. 10), such as Catch & Flow, appeal to younger audiences, infusing modern elements of music and live commentary.
Figure 9: The Fifteenth Cup of the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, which was held in August 2003.
Figure 10: Kendama World Cup 2017.
2.3.3 Enabling Action (Sustain): Promoting Community Interaction
JKA organises annual competitions like the All Japan Championship and grading exams such as the Kendama Technique Exam. Such activities provide platforms for players to exchange tricks and forge friendships, helping to build cohesive Kendama communities.
The community also plays a part. Downspike, created by a Kendama enthusiast, forms an extensive global network for international Kendama players to seek advice and learn from one another, facilitating communication across geographical boundaries to sustain the play of the Kendama.
Proposal Overview Chart
From the earlier analysis, we propose the following campaign (Fig.11) :
Fig 11: A condensed proposal overview chart showing the steps of our campaign in line with the problem and the model
Chapter 3: Educate
3.1 Publicising the Benefits of TG Play
In this chapter, we will propose measures to educate children and parents about the benefits of TGs, which is a practical first step to revive sustained play of TGs, as the knowledge of the value of playing TGs can result in a higher participation rate.
3.1.1 Games on Wheels (GoW)
We propose for MCCY to implement Games on Wheels (GoW), a proposed pop-up game truck that travels to different places in Singapore, providing a convenient and common location for children to learn more and play TGs with their families and friends.
With consumers now obsessed over current trends, pop-ups create the “here-today-gone-tomorrow” buzz, tapping on the emotions of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to attract audiences (Fig. 12, 13). Despite its smaller audience relative to an online advertising campaign, retailers can engage consumers more personally through physical interaction, communicating their brand in a targeted way.
Figure 12: Market on Wheels is the first market fair consisting of pop-up trucks in Singapore
Figure 13: Holt Renfrew's “Spring. All. Together.” ad campaign. The pop-up truck made its rounds through places like downtown Toronto and the GTA.
Through GoW, we hope to similarly create a buzz that will attract children to explore the play of TGs so that they may experience the benefits of TGs firsthand.
The exterior of the truck (Fig. 14) is designed to attract the attention of commuters at first glance. In accordance to the Psychology of Colours, warm bright colours like red and yellow induce a sense of energy, and creates a vibrant design that appeals to children. Moreover, the use of a triadic colour scheme involving blue, yellow and red, creates a visual contrast, making the truck look bright and dynamic. This strategic mix emphasises the fun nature of TGs.
The drawing depicts a boy playing a chapteh, evidently enjoying himself, emphasizing the main message that TGs can be fun and exciting.
Figure 14: Mock-up exterior of GoW
Fig.15 shows a sample layout of GoW.
The Cushions Corner and Outdoor Activity Area provides a comfortable environment for children to experience the fun of playing indoor TGs and outdoor TGs respectively. The TV, Interactive Games Corner and Wall of Memento serve as interactive displays detailing the TG-play experiences of previous visitors.
Figure 15: Example of interior layout of GoW.
GoW would be focused in two locations - schools and neighbourhood areas like Community Centres (CCs).
Our FGD revealed that children are familiar with pop-up trucks such as Lab on Wheels. They prefer exploring these trucks to having lessons as they are more interactive. Therefore, schools will be an important platform to engage children directly.
Meanwhile, by bringing GoW to neighbourhoods, volunteers can engage parents and children together, facilitating family bonding. This would enlighten parents on the benefits of TGs, inducing them to promote TGs to their children.
3.1.2 Publicity Videos
To vividly illustrate the benefits of TG play, we propose 2 videos that depict the benefits of TGs, namely the social benefits (Video 1) and individual benefits (Video 2).
Video 1 - Social Benefits of TGs
Appeal to Emotion
According to Valentina Nicolini, an expert on human sciences, emotional components are a preeminent that plays a significant role in children's preference towards a social advertisement. Friendships and fun are greatly valued by children emotionally, thus we have targeted these factors in our video by illustrating the benefits of forging friendships and having fun through TG play. We hope that by tugging at the heartstrings of children, it could make the video more relatable and hence spark their interest towards TGs.
Figure 16: First publicity video storyboard.
In Frames 1 and 2, a lonely boy feels dejected as he has no one to play with. In Frames 3 to 4, a girl offers to play pick-up sticks with him, demonstrating that TGs can promote quality interaction amongst the community due to the games' ease of play. Frame 5 shows many diverse groups of people across different age groups, illustrating the inclusivity of TGs.
Our FGD also confirmed the effectiveness of our video as all respondents were able to quickly identify the core message of our plot, showing that our plot is relatable for our main target audience (children) to appreciate.
Video 2 - Individual Benefits of TGs
Figure 17: Second publicity video storyboard
The second publicity video (Fig. 17) follows a split-screen format which shows two parallel storylines of a child's play of TGs and video games respectively. Frames 1-3 conveys individual psychomotor skills development through TGs and Frames 4-6 shows social relation and management of losses to depict TG's individual benefits.
A clear contrast of both storylines when they are displayed side-by-side in the video allows viewers to easily identify the similarities and differences in both storylines. For example, in Frame 2, both of them are running on the track, yet they end up with different PE grades in Frame 3. The purposeful use of exaggeration enhances the juxtaposition effect in the video, so that viewers can reflect on the benefits they can gain from TGs.
Chapter 4: Enable
Our previous chapter has addressed the lack of awareness of TGs' ease of play and their benefits. In this chapter, we propose three aspects to enable active play. We aim to provide TGs by increasing accessibility, engage children by increasing TGs' appeal and sustain children's interest through community involvement.
4.1 Provide: Increase Regular Exposure and Accessibility
4.1.1 Collaboration with F&B Companies
Conventionally, complementary toys are given in children's fast food set meals like McDonald's Happy Meal (Fig. 18) and off-the-shelf food products like cereal and candy products (Fig. 19), as a form of marketing. The rationale of providing toys is to attract the attention of children and thus market food products, together with the toys, to their families.
We propose collaboration with F&B companies to distribute TG sets as point-of-purchase complements and off-the-shelf food products. One possible theme to portray the inclusivity of TGs could be “Celebrating Our Singapore” and TG sets such as Kuti Kuti and Five Stones could be offered. These toys can be featured frequently before national festivals (e.g. National Day, Racial Harmony Day etc.)
Figure 18: A typical McDonald's Happy Meal with a
Figure 19: Lucky Charms' in pack promotion concept.
We believe that our proposal would appeal to F&B companies as they constantly seek to innovate and utilise fresh and unique means to market their products.
4.2 Engage: Increase Appeal of TGs
This is an adaptation of subscription-box programmes which have become popular worldwide due to their personalised nature. Consumers also enjoy the feeling of receiving a gift and having something to look forward to every month, even if they pay for these boxes. This idea serves as a platform to enhance creativity of children in personalising TGs and TG-play.
Each box comes with materials to make the TGs (Fig. 20). For example, to make five stones, different coloured fabric pieces and fillings like beads and beans will be provided for children to choose from. This DIY feature offers children a “hands-on” experience that rewards them with a sense of achievement and personal attachment to the end-product.
Additionally, parents can guide their children in making these games, promoting family bonding, providing an opportunity for parents to recount their experiences playing TGs, and educating their children on the tricks of TGs.
Figure 20: A mock-up of Think-Outside-The-Box for TG of Five Stones.
Materials to vary the gameplay will also be provided, allowing children to practise their creativity in doing so. By increasing the challenge and diversity of the gameplay, there is more room for children to explore these games, enabling gameplay to be more dynamic and improving their appeal. Much like how consumers are free to and enjoy varying their creations using the same set of LEGO bricks, children can invent new ways to play TGs. Tiny cards that offer ideas, much like the LEGO manuals, encourage children to “think out of the box” (Fig. 21, 22). They can then share their ideas on the app-based social network explained later in Section 4.3.
Figure 21: Front view of mock-up card.
Figure 22: Back view of mock-up card.
4.3 Sustain: Increase Community Involvement
4.3.1 Creating a Social Network - TG Our Life
As mentioned in Section 1.4.4, sustainability is lacking in current promotions of TG games. Riding on the pervasiveness of technology and its ability to connect people across geographical distances, we propose that MCCY can design an app-based social network, primarily for children, called “TG Our Life”.
Figure 23: Sample Interpretation of the home page of TG Our Life App.
A forum (Fig. 24) creates an online community in which members can engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. As it builds relationships that promote mutual learning, this forum allows children to share their new tricks and methods of playing the game. This encourages them to be creative in exploring TG play - one main benefit of TG play that is often overlooked. (Section 1.3.1)
Figure 24: Interpretation of the forum interface.
A meetup function (Fig. 25) also allows these like-minded individuals to translate digital connections on the forum to real-life interaction. Websites like Meetup.com and mobile apps like SUP make use of location-based services to identify other users nearby, allowing users to schedule meetups in real life. This can be incorporated into the TG Our Life app as a convenient platform for children to initiate, organise and schedule meetups to play TGs together, such as after school. As a safety measure, the schedules will be sent as notifications to the parents.
4.3.2 Community Competitions
Competitions can strengthen social networks within the community and enhance the development of collective identities. TG competitions are suitable platforms for the community to enjoy TG-play together, strengthening the community spirit in order to sustain play of TGs.
We propose MCCY to host TG competitions at CCs around Singapore as they are common spaces for people of all races to come together, build friendships and promote social bonding, with each CC serving around 50,000 people. This ensures that the competition is socially inclusive and is accessible to everyone. Although our primary target audience is children, we hope that these competitions bring together children and other members of the community together to share the experience of TG play, as a means to sustain interest in TG play.
Chapter 5: Synthesis and Conclusion
5.1 Strengths of Our Project
Our unorthodox ideas of creating a games truck and distributing subscription boxes diverge from the traditional methods employed by mainstream campaigns. These new and intriguing elements catch the eyes of children, sparking their curiosity in TGs. This encourages children to take the first step in learning and understanding TGs, compared to a conventional top-down approach. Through this self-initiated learning experience motivated by their curiosity and interest, TGs can be introduced to children in an effective and meaningful way, and can be self-sustained through invigorating passion within them.
Subsequently, the inception of an inclusive community built upon a common interest in TGs ensures that children will be able to find friends that also find joy in TGs so that they can easily incorporate TG play into their daily lives, making TGs a new part of their lives.
5.2 Possible Extensions
We do acknowledge that our current proposal primarily targets the young only and there are multiple facets of the issue that could be tackled. Moving forward, as the next phase of the campaign, we can consider expanding our target audience to adults through nostalgia marketing, which creates an “emotional hook” and taps into emotions already felt in the past. Therefore, we can effectively rekindle their interest in TGs and the excitement of sharing these experiences with the young, further enhancing the impact of our proposal.
5.3 Our Hopes for TGs
While it is impossible to eliminate mobile games in today's digital era, we hope to ultimately create a better balance of digital and TG play, through our promotion of TGs, bringing them back as an enjoyable form of play for children.
Appendix 1: Focused Group Discussion
A focused group discussion was conducted with 5 children at one of the member's house. Questions primarily were targeted at their knowledge of TGs, as well as their feedback on our proposed ideas.
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