Bridging generations with ‘Life of George’

Can an offline-online LEGO hybrid form a meeting point for parents and children?

It might seem a bit of a paradox that even the most tech-savvy parents often feel more comfortable seeing their kids play with physical toys than with screen games. Part of the reason for this, according to LEGO Head of Digital Child Safety and former Save the Children representative Dieter Carstensen, is probably nostalgia.

“Parents want their kids to play the way they did when they were children,” he says, adding that the preference also reflects natural, intuitive concerns such as the value of physical play versus screen time, children’s safety online, and the fact children still love playing with physical toys.

But parents also see physical toys – which are played with in non-virtual, public spaces – as providing an opening for their own involvement in play. Where digital play, no matter how ‘social’, rarely invites or inspires parents to get involved, physical toys invite active participation from others in the room.

In launching Life of George in 2011, the LEGO Group wanted to combine smartphone gaming and physical LEGO play to not only give kids what they wanted but also provide opportunities for parents and their children to play together.

“Playing Life of George doesn’t require a parent’s involvement, but it does leave the door open for it,” says Mikkel Holm Jensen, Concept Design Manager for the Life of George product. “Children can play the game alone, in their room with friends, or in the living room with mum or dad after school or on weekends – with the second player finding parts, for example, while the main player races the clock to build.”

Carstensen adds that the possibility for cross-generational collaboration also provides unique opportunities for children to acquire skills that are important for the digital space, such as creative thinking and teamwork.

One optional, but popular, aspect of Life of George actually requires parental involvement. If the child chooses to move from the offline world to online interactivity, he or she must sign-up for a LEGO ID, and the sign-up process requires a parent’s consent.

“It might seem like a minor interaction,” says Carstensen, “but it actually opens the door to a conversation about online play, social interaction and safety. No lecturing, no finger-pointing – but a simple, natural opportunity for the generations to connect around online entertainment and safety.”

As Jensen points out, Life of George couldn’t have served this bridging function if it hadn’t combined physical and online play.

“We see the hybrid genre as a unique way forward for positive children’s play and we’re enthused about the future of ‘George’ and hybrids to come,” he concludes.

To find out more, visit the Life of George website.

What is 'Life of George'? 

Designed for children aged eight and up, Life of George is a 12-level smartphone game that requires a physical set of 144 LEGO bricks and a special board to play. The smartphone app poses building challenges the players have to solve with their LEGO bricks as quickly as possible. A camera function lets the children photograph their models and share them in a moderated online gallery, along with their building times.

Take action 

1 LEARN about the games your child plays online

2 LET your child teach you and show off their skills

3 TRY to turn online games into shared family activities

4 SEIZE the opportunity to discuss good online behaviour and safety