Way Better Than An Arcade: Adventures at the digiPlaySpace
Usually I’m trying to get my kids off their electronic devices.
But during March Break I encouraged their consumption of all things technological when we road tested the digiPlaySpace at TIFF Bell Lightbox. The electronic indoor playground is designed for kids aged three to 13, which meant there’s a good chance both my 9-year-old and 6-year-old would find something to occupy themselves.
The exhibition is held on the ground floor of the TIFF Bell Lightbox with a “chill out lounge” for parents and caregivers (the space could have really done with a couple of magazines) where kids can sit at and play on half a dozen iPads. This held no interest at all for my nine-year-old, Conan.
Although there’s a sign asking parents to stay with their children; this is easier said than done. While six-year-old Pippa was happy to sit down and work on a purple and pink iPad to create her own movie on one of the preloaded apps, my son was in search of the serious electronic gear
The digiPlaySpace is effectively broken into three sections, with the main room a virtual Candyland of interactive games. It didn’t take Conan long to line up for at the virtual-reality game, PaperDude VR. Players strap on a virtual reality headset and peddle their bike while simulating throwing papers into people’s front lawns, without damaging property. Conan soon learned peddling while throwing newspapers—even virtual ones—was harder than it looked, while the irony that kids no longer have paper routes wasn’t lost on me. Unfortunately for Pippa, PaperDude VR is considered appropriate for kids nine and up only (apparently peddling with the headset on can make you dizzy).
Pippa checked out the Water Light Graffiti installation, where kids use sponges or brushes to “paint” water onto thousands of LED lights, which then light up. Like any true graffiti artist, my daughter tagged her name in big bold letters.
The great thing about digiPlaySpace is, with many of the installations, I could play alongside my children. I joined in a game of Toto Temple with Conan and two other kids. He patiently explained the rules to me (the object of the game is to grab hold of the lucky goat). I’m ashamed to say I got beat in Toto Temple by a five-year-old. “Mom,” Conan said, “She’s been playing for longer than you have.” Pippa also challenged me to a game of Super Pong, an electronic version of foosball.
Pippa and I lined up at the The Magnificant Transmogrification Station, where we each selected a head and body from a range of beautifully drawn illustrations, and lay down on the futuristic backdrop. Using a start-stop camera, staff took a series of pictures as they switched up our heads and bodies to create a series of wildly fantastical creatures. The time it took was worth the finished result; Pippa and I watched our magical transformation on a TV screen.
The third part of digiPlaySpace is the TIFF Kids Micro Makers’ Space (which reached capacity quickly!) The workspace is ideal for older kids who can try their hand at robotics and electronics.
Pippa experimented with Cublets, which lets you build your own robot. Even though she proclaimed them, “awesome!” figuring out how to make the robot was a matter of trial and error, and in the end Pippa built a tower out of them. Conan loved the Sphero balls, a modern-day version of a remote control plane. The balls are controlled with a smartphone or tablet. While Pippa said, “the balls are kinda boring. All you do is remote control it.”
After more than two hours of play, I called time. This mom needed to decompress from so much flashing, blinking, whirling technology. I promised them we’d come back.