The 'kidult phenomenon' is on the rise as grown-ups around the world find one is never too old to enjoy games and toys THERE WAS A time when grown-ups would go to a toy shop for the sole purpose of buying gifts for the young ones. But these days they also visit toy shops to buy things for themselves. Young Hay, director of Intelligence Frontier Media Laboratory, calls it the 'kidult phenomenon'. Mr Young's company is an exhibitor at this year's Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair, which will open next Tuesday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. 'People these days ... do what they enjoy and don't care about what others think. They don't feel ashamed of playing with toys,' he said. 'Kidult' is not a new term. It first appeared in The New York Times on August 11, 1985 to describe adults who enjoy being a part of youth culture, doing or buying things that are usually thought more suitable for children. This trend is likely to be much in evidence at the fair as exhibitors showcase products aimed at adults. 'People no longer feel satisfied spending the whole weekend in front of the TV, like our parents did,' said Andy Lee, vice-president of exhibitor Bell & Newton. 'They look for new excitement and want to keep their souls young.' About a third of adults in mainland Chinese cities say they love to buy toys for themselves, and the number is on the rise, according to a 2004 report by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, which organises the fair. Cafes that offer toys and games along with drinks and nibbles flourish in Hong Kong and the mainland. 'The market for kidults is huge. They have high purchasing power and a lot of companies are responding to this growing market,' said Alan Kiang Ping-fai, managing director of Metago Toys Manufacturing. Metago is a local original equipment manufacturer that produces character products. It specialises in high-end collectibles and plastic toys, including soft vinyl toys, action figures, metallic models and its own line of stuffed toys. 'We target the Japanese and American markets,' said Mr Kiang. 'The Japanese market is very developed, and most of our products were designed in Japan. The American market started only in 2002. We hope to export our products to North America.' Collectible toys not only keep kidults amused, they are often good investments. Kevin Chan Ka-kin, sales manager of Golden Wheel Die Casting, said people paid a lot of money for collectible items because they were an investment. 'A lot of products can be sold on eBay or other auction websites for a better price.' Board games are another category that is contributing to the booming kidult market, and they are undergoing a transformation. Alan Kwan, owner of Tarot Games Hong Kong, one of the biggest family games stores in the city, said German-made games were increasingly popular. 'Unlike old games like Monopoly, for example, which takes three hours, depends a lot on luck and involves complicated rules, the new German games usually take less than an hour and rarely more than 90 minutes,' Mr Kwan said. 'They have very high 'replayability'.' Mr Kwan said German games allowed a greater degree of participation and required more decision-making than traditional board games. 'Board games suit the lifestyle of Hong Kong people,' said Mr Kwan. 'They don't take long and you can have quality entertainment after work. Many games are also portable. My wife and I often play while we are eating out and waiting for the food to come.' Board games were also a lot cheaper than many forms of entertainment, he said. Ravensburger Spiele sales export manager Herman Bruns said board games brought people together, which was important in this computer age. 'People sit alone in front of their computers at work and sometimes in their leisure time as well,' he said. Other games manufacturers share this view. Bell & Newton last year launched a game called Friendo that allows people to communicate. 'Board games allow people to spend quality time together and understand more about other people,' Mr Lee said. Both Mr Bruns and Mr Kwan have observed that board games are fast gaining popularity in Asian countries. 'Korean and Japanese games designers have very good products and some of them are even comparable to the German ones,' said Mr Kwan. Mr Lee said board games had a long lifespan. 'They are not like many electronic games, which bloom and die within months. Good board games last. We are still playing board games that were designed decades ago.' The Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair is held concurrently with the Hong Kong International Stationery Fair. The scheduling is strategic as many buyers of toys also need the service of stationery manufacturers, and vice versa. Mr Kiang said: 'Some of my clients asked us to do stationery and lifestyle products of [our] characters. People have higher living standards and they want more stylish daily products. They want good designs for everything they use, including even sink plugs.'