Toy Stories: Adults involved in the serious business of gaming



More and more adults are playing with children’s toys, and maybe one should think about them, too, writes Vicki Anderson.

All work and no play make for a boring, everyday life. Or something similar.

When was the last time you played? I mean when did you get really goofy and laugh?

For many adults, life is a series of serious, everyday chores, and playing is something they outgrow when they leave the schoolyard.

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The Harewood Radio Control Model Car Club meets once a month.  The majority of its members are adults.


The Harewood Radio Control Model Car Club meets once a month. The majority of its members are adults.

Compiled by the National Institute for Play, based in California, Numerous studies show the health benefits of gambling are not to be despised.

At work, too, a relaxed, fun environment has been shown to promote productivity in the workplace and promote team building.

That’s why Google added PlayStations to its offices and maybe TradeMe installed a slide between floors for its Wellington employees.

Many adults find little room for playfulness between work commitments, parenting and household chores. The fun is squeezed and scheduled into a small part of a weekend.

But maybe we need to find new ways to add playfulness to our daily life?

When playing, people tend to laugh more, which has the opposite effect on the body as stress does. Blood pressure tends to drop and your brain’s pleasure center releases a joyful shot of dopamine.

Some play by hitting a golf ball or, more recently, Frisbee golf, also known as disc golf – a combination of two fun sports that are so popular in Christchurch.

Others sing in choirs, some prefer to knit.

But a growing number of adults are regaining playtime with toys that were originally designed for children.

Christchurch man Matt Paulin drives remote control cars for fun.

“A lot of our club revolves around adult toys,” he says. ” We have a lot of people in the club, it’s a place where they can relax and have fun and have a break from the stresses of family and work. ”

He is the President of the Harewood RC Club, which has been in operation for “ around 30 years ”. Its members, “mostly men, but also families”, are between eight and 70 years old and meet monthly to race their tiny cars on a field track.

Drivers control their cars from an elevated position at the Harewood Radio Control Model Car Club's monthly meeting in Christchurch earlier this month.


Drivers control their cars from an elevated position at the Harewood Radio Control Model Car Club’s monthly meeting in Christchurch earlier this month.

“Ours is the oldest club in the country. It is important that there are some people with mental health problems and physical disabilities and children with physical disabilities, ”says Paulin. ” It is a place where they can be together, it unites people from all walks of life and is an important part of their psychological well-being. ”

Many are unaware that this is a professional sport.

People who rode motorcycle races and were injured and unable to compete often turned to remote-controlled car racing off-road or on the road.

“Some have said that they get more rush from remote-controlled cars than from racing bikes. You can’t hurt yourself. ”

Some club members just laugh, others are competitive. Driving a high-end remote-controlled car for a year can cost anywhere from $ 10,000 to $ 20,000.

“ The top end is incredibly competitive. The tuning of the cars, the chassis … You can argue and protest, it’s all fun, ”says Paulin.

“It’s a fantastic thing that we have, but so many people don’t know it exists. It’s such a fun family thing with a great story in Christchurch. Lots of adults love these toys. ”

David Primus agrees.

He has been running ToyWorld stores in Christchurch for eight years. The popular toy stores have been around town for more than 40 years and recently Primus said there has been an increase as adults “definitely invest in toys and buy them for themselves”.

For example, the main buyers of Hot Wheels cars are not four-year-olds, but rather middle-aged men who shop for themselves.

Most start collecting as children and don’t stop, driven (excuse the pun) by a sense of nostalgia. For others, the tiny cars are just a lucrative side business.

There is even a popular one Hot Wheels collectors’ meeting, usually held in Hamilton.

Most Hot Wheels Car Collector Sets are purchased by adults.


Most Hot Wheels Car Collector Sets are purchased by adults.

“There are a lot of people out there who collect them, not just children,” says Primus. ” One reason is that they only produce a limited number of items, so the cars can become very valuable. They’re later traded on eBay, and if you need a car to complete a set it can get quite expensive. I heard about cars that were a few hundred dollars when the original car sold for $ 8 or $ 9. ”

Some “ Hot Wheels Scalpers ” purchase a single car in bulk in a collectors kit, so other collectors will have to purchase from them to complete their collections.

“Although there are real Hot Wheels collectors out there and there are many, there is some demand for scalpers,” says Primus.

“ You can be pretty competitive. The collector cars come in a separate supply chain. We order them a year in advance. Sometimes we may have a limited number. That’s 80 percent of the adults who buy these. ”

’98 percent ‘of the 1:24 scale cars are bought by adults.

“It’s driven by people who want these cars that they can’t have in real life, or it’s a car they have. This also applies to our model kits, which are in great demand and most of them are adults who buy these things. ”

The desire to spend time without a screen has driven the demand for quieter fun. The demand for tabletop games and puzzles has increased since the Level 4 lockdown for Covid-19.

“We have a huge range of 1000-piece jigsaws because many adults buy them, especially in winter,” said Primus. “There has been a massive increase in sales since Covid-19. We get a lot of collectors there too. ”

Adult board games have advanced well beyond Scrabble.

“ There’s a small subset of the rude games market, party games, that kind of atmosphere … Cards Against Humanity for young adults and there are a lot of things that focus on mature adults. ”

Activities like games workshop, tabletop gaming, where people buy and paint war figures, are also becoming increasingly popular with adults.

“People paint the figures and form their army, and then they go and meet, it’s called 40K or War Hammer Club in Christchurch. They work in Woolston and meet once a week, ”explains Primus.

” People go and play against each other, bring their army with them and fight against them. Fantasy gaming in general is quite a large community across the country. Some people can spend hundreds of dollars upgrading their army. ”

Pokemon cards are popular with some adults who do so for nostalgic reasons. Others chase financial gain when they find a rare trading card.

“ I recently heard a story where a card sold for $ 1000 on eBay because it was rare, from a deck of cards that cost $ 50. ”

There aren’t many Bronies and Pegasisters – adults who collect My Little Ponies – who buy the little horses, Primus says, but many adults collect Barbie dolls, animal figures, and TY toys.

“There are real farm implements too, and some adults are buying for themselves in this department,” says Primus.

Lego has developed a special range for adults, marked 18, as the demand from adults at AFOLs (adult fans of Lego) was


Lego has developed a special range for adults, marked 18, as the demand from adults at AFOLs (adult fans of Lego) was “huge”.

Lego has a community around the world known as AFOL (Lego Adult Fans), but until recently it hadn’t developed a dedicated range for adults.

There are a number of AFOL clubs in New Zealand that are part of the LUG (Lego User Group) that connect locally and globally.

“Lego has a huge following in the adult community,” says Primus.

“We had a flower and a bonsai tree, part of a botanical series for adults. You can’t get them because they are all sold out. It’s an untapped demand. They are designed for the adult collector who builds and exhibits them. ”

Previously, the more technical sets were licensed – think Star Wars, Batman – but things are changing.

Genevieve Capa Cruz, Legos Global Audience Marketing Strategist based in Billund, Denmark, says that since Covid-19, people of all ages have turned to gaming to reduce stress and “help break barriers”.

“It is important to our adult fans and what guides our designers is that the product reflects their interests and offers a sophisticated and immersive building experience,” says Cruz.

” With our 18+ sets, which were introduced in 2020, everything from the model design to the assembly instructions to the packaging and marketing of these sets is geared towards adults – and makes it clear that they are for adults, not children. ”

Three years ago, Primus said he “practically swam in fidget spinners”.

The madness came out of nowhere.

But such fashion trends change quickly, and adults are not inclined to adopt these trends.

Driven by breathless TikTok videos, the current children’s fashion stands for fidget toys, with poppits in all rainbow colors, shaped from unicorns to pineapples, have a calming effect on young people.

Poppits are the latest trend among kids.  Will they catch on with stressed adults?


Poppits are the latest trend among kids. Will they catch on with stressed adults?

These toys are the bane of parents and teachers’ lives right now, but elementary school age kids can’t get enough.

Your joy may be understandable for anyone who has enthusiastically popped bubble wrap.

“Poppits are a big fad, but they will burn brightly and briefly,” says Primus knowingly.

Who knows? Perhaps our collective stress drops if adults come into poppits too?

After all, some might say that fidgety fun is exactly the playful distraction adults need right now.



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