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Perplexus Creator Michael McGinnis Explains That Toy Design Contributes to the Depth of Experience

TOPICS | Parenting | Education Posted Thursday, August 22, 2013 (5,005 views)

I am a sculptor, and Perplexus is fundamentally a work of interactive art, inviting participation on levels both visual and tactile. The game aspect of Perplexus is due to its ability to create a journey that exercises the mind and hands. It creates an abstract adventure in a tidy little ball. As is often the case with works of art, games and toys simulate the world around us, and safely allow us to make discoveries. They are maquettes of larger, more mature, and oftentimes dangerous experiences we can safely explore through our imaginations.

When creating a Perplexus game, I employ three simultaneous and intertwined levels of design: forming a sculptural composition, generating an integrated track system, and establishing manufacturablility. All are equally important, ensuring that there are no superfluous elements in its design. The purest essence of Perplexus is when form follows function follows form. My hand-made Superplexus sculptures rely on the same thought processes. The main differences being in their level of complexity, material choices, and scale. As an artist I enjoy working large and small.

We are innately drawn to well formed objects, and avoid those which feel awkward. As a sculptural form, Perplexus attracts, and is often displayed in a place of prominence making it immediately available, and competitively at an advantage over other games. I am gratified as an artist when Perplexus has value at rest and at play.

Any toy or game can quickly lose value if there is no depth to the experience. It must provide a continuous rush of excitement and contain layers which hold the mind’s interest and helps it grow. As an adventure, Perplexus is complex and dangerous. Once the viewer grasps its challenges, they are driven to participate. To discover the next challenge, one must physically proceed through the game one step at a time, which allows for continuous discovery. The complexity of its interconnectedness makes Perplexus exceedingly difficult to grasp as a whole, ensuring its longevity.

Chess is an example of a deep game that can also be fine art. Sculptors and designers throughout the ages gravitate to chess as a medium of expression, finding it to be a rewarding visual challenge worthy of its complex strategies Of course, there are also innumerable poor quality chess sets that are played avidly for a while only to be lost or discarded in a closet or drawer. We treasure beautiful and intriguing objects, making their ownership a source of pride.

Playmobil and Lego are some of my favorite toys because they allow us to become the artists and designers. They are made to be amassed, which adds to their visual impact and prominence. The more one acquires, the more complex the creations become. In the details and the whole, Legos and Playmobil enable stories to develop, imaginations to soar, and brains to grow.

Environmentally, there are larger consequences to our choices as designers. Creating for long-term use is an interesting, challenging, and environmentally sound process. Creating for instantaneous and temporary satisfaction is a wasteful endeavor. Of course, more consumption means higher profit margins, but in the end becomes a hollow existence. We are all participating in a grand shared experiment, and our contributions matter. Applying artistic ideals to design helps our work maintain a high level of value.

Toys and games serve to stimulate our imaginations. Like fine art, they can be a both a method and mode of expression. They can serve to widen our view of the world in beautiful ways. When this happens, children and adults eat it up.

Contributed by
Michael McGinnis

Michael McGinnis is an artist living in Sonoma County, California. He splits his time between designing Perplexus games, working on his kinetic sculptural works, teaching sculpture and design, and creating hands-on museum exhibits.


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Content courtesy of Michael McGinnis, H.T. Laura McGinnis

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