App games are quickly becoming the go-to model of entertainment for people of all ages across the globe. For youngsters, Toca Boca is one of the most engaging and creative apps on the market and a lot of its success is owed to its brilliant play designers, developers and artists, Willow Mellbratt among them.
Willow Mellbratt is a British play designer at Toca Boca, a play studio that prides itself on being devoted to bringing fun, creative and gender neutral digital toys to kids all over the world. Willow has a Masters in Experience Design from Konstfack in Stockholm and has her background in digital play. While working at Penguin Books and IDEO she fell in love with roleplaying. Together with BRIO she has worked on a project entitled “Future of play”. At Toca Boca she now strives to bring play into every step of the design process.
Recently, Willow was kind enough to speak to the Examiner about her experiences working in the field of digital games:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): How and when did you decide to seek work in the game industry?
Willow Mellbratt (W.M.): My big secret is I’m not that interested in games, I’m extremely interested in play. I first got the chance to fully explore the role of designing for play at IDEO where we used roleplaying in our process to communicate and empathize with the people we were designing for.
M.M.: Growing up, what were your favorite toys and/or games?
W.M.: I mostly loved being outside and building forts out of sticks, and playing in the woods with my neighbors. We would each give each other an animal persona and that would be our call to communicate with each other.
M.M.: Toca Boca has produced a lot of media. Do you have a favorite game and/or feature of the brand? If so, which one and why?
W.M.: My favorite toy beyond all others is the Toca Life Series. Just how sticks and mud are the building blocks of whatever the imagination can create Toca Life provides dolls and props for kids to create whatever stories they can imagine. It’s a wonderful example of how giving kids less, allows them to contribute more. Kids can direct their own play which gives them agency and independence to be and create what they want.
M.M.: If you could work on any kind of project with an unlimited budget, what kind of project would you work on and why?
W.M.: I would love to tour the world and research all the ways that kids play in different cultures. I recently went to Mongolia and stayed with nomadic families to observe how kids play and engage with the world. I brought my two-year-old along and it was amazing to see how she interacted with all these kids.
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience working with Toca Boca?
W.M.: I would say seeing the success of our Toca Life: City launch and having our intuitions proven that kids really love using this toy.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
W.M.: We have a lot of exciting things in the works! Our latest app, Toca Life: City will be getting an update on September 3 and you can expect more apps from the Toca Life series this fall.
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To learn more about Willow Mellbratt, see this YouTube video. To learn more about Toca Boca, visit the official website.