Mr. Shangkong

Toys and games help us get back to a simpler way of life

It's a high pressure world out there, but sometimes looking for your inner child - with a little help from a smart device - can ease the stress

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 11:54pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 8:29am

Follow the author on Twitter: @george_chen

With politics seemingly crowding out business in Hong Kong these days, Asia's largest toy fair has come to town and is a welcome distraction.

The Trade Development Council is hosting the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair this week at the convention centre in Wan Chai.

I began thinking about toys after a chat with my colleagues in the newsroom. When we talk about toys nowadays, it's not just for children any more - adults can be even more addicted to toys and games. But why?

At our weekly business editor meeting, one colleague mentioned the toy fair. Initially, this sounded more like a story for our Young Post colleagues to take up.

However, another writer quickly convinced me that any story should be more focused on adults, reflecting a trend in recent years spurred by the development of smartphone devices and tablets such as Apple's iPhone and iPad.

He is absolutely right. It occurs to me that I do see more people about my age playing with smartphone-controlled toy helicopters or racing cars at weekends.

I've even been tempted to buy such a product but these advanced electronic toys are definitely more expensive than the Barbie dolls so loved by little girls or action figures for little boys.

I do see more people my age playing with smartphone-controlled [toys] at weekends

Meanwhile, I consider myself a serious collector of Teddy bears and have so far hand-made two bears.

My teacher in the art tells me that she sees many adults coming to her in Shanghai to learn how to make the bears - all of whom are prepared to spend up to seven or eight hours to do so.

In our busy world, taking time out to make one hand-crafted item may be quite a luxury for people in Shanghai or Hong Kong, but the teacher says more adults are giving it a try because it teaches patience and careful attention to detail. I agree.

My thoughts about toys also prompted recollections of one of my favourite mainland Chinese films, Spicy Love Soup. The 1997 film was directed by Zhang Yang and starred a number of leading old and new actors and actresses from Taiwan, Hong Kong and the mainland.

The movie is told in five vignettes, one of which has a couple rediscovering the fun of life by playing with old and new toys at home after their long and busy working days.

When I saw the movie, that part particularly impressed me. Now, when I look around, I see this is happening to many adults; they want to find the meaning of their lives and return to simpler pleasures amid a high-pressure business world.

Have you wondered why smartphone games like Candy Crush and Angry Bird games are so popular among adults? I know many high-flying investment bankers who keep the two game applications on their phones; some are even playing like grand masters already.

The growing trend for "older people" to get reacquainted with the fun of toys and games is a good thing as we go back to basics in pursuit of a purer and simpler meaning of life. But their popularity may also be a sad reflection of the pressures arising from work and society.


George Chen is the Post's financial services editor. Mr. Shangkong appears every Monday in the print version of the SCMP. Like it? Visit