Doozers and Fraggles: Play and the Build / Destroy Connection

Hello Fraggle Rock generation, the toy industry has been waiting for you for a very long time.  You are now all grown up and moving into positions where you can apply your knowledge of the Doozers and Fraggles to an industry badly in need of new ideas.

Fraggle Rock, a Jim Henson production, was in its essence about the connection between creation and destruction.  It was deftly done, never obvious, as the Doozers in their construction helmets went about creating roads and buildings which the Fraggles immediately ate.  The two groups of characters barely acknowledged each other as they went about doing what they do best:  Creating or destroying.


Now this may not be the typical take away from or intent for what was a very sweet show but I think it is an important one as the toy industry has never adequately explored the essential need of children to create things so they can destroy them and build once again.

The toy industry certainly has a overwhelming number of construction toy sets but where do we display the destruction toy sets?  We don’t because there are not many of them and what is available is usually poorly conceived and designed to easily ex- or im- plode;  the notion being that there is no connection between the joy of building and the excitement of tearing down.

So, that is why I propose that a great destruction set would really be about creation.  Why, because a well designed structure should be hard to knock down; the better you get at creating the more challenging the destroying.  Let me explain:

As a child I, as I am sure you, spent a lot of time playing on the floor.  It was there that I built my houses of cards and practiced shooting marbles (I was pretty good).  I at time integrated the two by building multi-level houses of cards (I was pretty good at that too) and then backing away a few feet and seeing how many marbles it would take to bring them down.

The better I built the harder the shot necessary and the longer it took.  My goal was not to just build bigger and higher but to build stronger.

I think it would be a step forward for those who make toys to acknowledge that the desire to tear down and rebuild is a positive thing and as prevalent as it is to build.   A walk around any big city shows this taking place on the bigger stage as adults tear down the old and build the new.

What is needed is someone who can develop construction toys that are designed to teach the physics of building strong and not just up or out. 

Plastic brick and erector sets certainly teach building but they are almost impossible to destroy.  What is needed is a construction toy that challenges the tolerances and helps children grow their skills in building strong things.


4 thoughts

  1. This is one of my favorite international kids TV series, from The Netherlands. The concept couldn’t be simpler: a group of kids, a box of tools, and something large to take apart (other episodes have a scale, a stove and a coffee vending machine). The learning is palpable as the kids talk to each other through the deconstruction process.
    Sorry this isn’t subtitled, but you’ll get the idea!

  2. My kids have no problem “deconstructing” any Lego/Duplo buildings and structures we build (and that I build in particular) in epic “Godzilla” fashion. They are ruthless!

  3. Richard, I find your blog very insightful. This post in particular resonates with me, because I started my own company, Aroundsquare, very much on this idea. I’ve often lamented the state of affairs in the construction category, which has become increasingly prescriptive. When I started Aroundsquare, I wanted to create playthings that would be more inviting of real open-ended exploration.
    I would by interested in your thoughts on our Goodwood Deconstruction Blocks. It’s a system of eight different sets of uniquely shaped blocks which are all inter-compatible. What makes them distinctive, apart from the shapes and colours, is that they are designed to fit together with just gravity, and to be knocked down and set up again repeatedly. They are a tribute to the creative process and the learning that comes from open-ended exploration. The shapes are intentionally abstract, and have many different openings and angles in which to insert and balance other pieces. They invite curiosity and experimentation. The results are fascinating structures that almost defy gravity. There are no instructions, no challenge cards, and no “thing you’re supposed to build”. They celebrate play for play’s sake. While adults sometimes ask me what they’re all about, kids never do.
    These blocks, I think, are quite unique in targeting exactly this niche you’re talking about. That simple experimentation involved with trial and error, deciding things for one’s self, and learning from the consequences. And the best of those consequences is the satisfying crash of everything coming back down to the floor.
    Thanks for this post!
    Matthew Hiebert
    Aroundsquare Ltd.
    Inventor of Goodwood Deconstruction Blocks, as well as Twig (under license to Fat Brain Toys).
    Here’s a link to a our deconstruction blocks
    And a link to a post of my own talking about similar things Here’s a link to a post of my own talking about something similar:
    P.S. if this isn’t enough destruction, check out our latest, Monkey Knuckles Wrecking Balls, which launched last month at Toy Fair!

  4. I like your interpretation of the Fraggle/Doozer interconnection, but if you would, allow me to take the analysis a bit further.
    In macrocosm,that which the Fraggles are/were to the doozers was a natural disaster. The Doozers never ‘blamed’ the Fraggles for the seemingly wanton destruction; they simply began planning the next advancement in their construction efforts.
    On the opposite side, the Fraggles never considered the action of the Doozer to have been of any consequence, of no value other than as a resource to be plundered. The Fraggles never accused the Doozers of keeping more than their fair share, or of building things they didn’t want to consume.
    Metaphorically, therefore, the Doozers represent planning in the face of chaos. The Fraggles represent freedom in the face of law.
    Your point about no good toys that engage the mind in terms of destruction, I would agree.I believe the reasons are more clear-cut.
    Toys represent freedom, as there are no limits visited on the person playing with them. Fraggles. Destruction is not what Fraggles did to Doozer construction… they instead used the construction to their own purposes, as the system had evolved . (Destruction could only be an interpretation that Doozers might make… for construct and destruct both follow from Structure. Fraggles know no such term, per se.
    On the other hand, Games have such structure. Players set the game in motion, and set about maximizing the structure and testing its integrity by pushing against them. Good gamers find ways to take advantage of the system limitations to make their greatest advances (For example, a good Scrabble player seeks to maximize the effect of a Triple Word Score – taking advantage of the rules for highest return on letters played) Many games ARE destructive (War games like “Risk” or “Axis and Allies” are all about the ultimate destructive power we can muster – warfare)and even highly cooperative European games have rules and objectives that are aggressive toward competitors at certain points. As a matter of fact, ultimately, games are ALL destructive, because they acknowledge the ultimate enemy of all construction – time. Unlike the love of a given toy, which can be forever, games exist with limited duration, and specific objectives to be accomplished within that time.
    I don’t agree with you that the toy business has neglected or overlooked creation of the destructive aspect. Instead,I have a deeper appreciation for your allegory.
    I believe the course of Toys and their objective – the uncontrolled and boisterous creation side of the equation with its individuality, its uniquely limitless imaginative potential – are the Fraggles, forever seeking the freedoms (and possibilitie) of individual imagination.
    I believe the course of Games and their affinities – the limited duration,and operation of the collective of players under a set of accepted imposed boundaries, with limitless innovation opportunities – are the Doozers, forever creating (and re-creating), seeking the power of collective understanding.
    I foresee an era where games – teaching the limiting impact of time itself, and toys – teaching the limitless power of human ingenuity – will work in concert. This new paradigm can be established,expanding human comprehension,creating open-minded, creative and cognitively focused individuals. That an acceptance of the utility of game play as a socially educational medium may integrate the value of collective experience with individual creativity to a greater extent than ever before.
    Jonathan Albin, the Game Market Guru
    Transforming lives through Organized Play

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