Undo-Replay: Gamifying Toy Waste

  • 2020

  • Next Gen

Designed By:

Commissioned By:

Kathy Qian

Designed In:


Undo-Replay is a toolkit designed to encourage children to deconstruct and modify the toys they have outgrown. Aimed at redirecting plastic toys from entering unsustainable waste streams, it uses gamification to activate children to make new value from waste products and to foster habits of repair and repurposing.

Image: Chris Chen
Image: Chris Chen
Image: Chris Chen
Image: Chris Chen
Image: Chris Chen
Image: Chris Chen
Image: Chris Chen
  • MORE
  • Ninety percent of children's toys are made from plastic and with an average use-life of six months, most are ultimately destined for landfill. Alternatives such as "eco-toys", recycling boxes and toy-sharing systems are often expensive, scarce, or accommodate only pre-school aged children, and are thus limited in their environmental impact. As plastic toys cannot be infinitely recycled, only marginal value is gained when considered against the inputs required in reprocessing and loss of embodied energy. Consequently, the challenge was to design a new and accessible way to revalue toy waste.

  • Undo-Replay diverts toys from entering waste streams by intervening in the home. The elements introduce children to adult toy “modding” practises, where they learn to deconstruct and customise their toys using only common household tools. Dismembered toy parts then gain new value as pieces for a tabletop game, where players create humourous “franken-toy” characters and narratives. The structure intentionally places children in control of creating their own transferences of value, to strengthen sentimental bonds as they transform from user to creator of the object. Undo-Replay simultaneously revalues waste toys and encourages pro-environmental participation in children through play.

  • Considering the magnitude of the toy industry and the volume of plastic waste that is produced globally, banking unwanted toys in users’ homes through enabling an alternative use-life presents significant environmental impacts. By focusing on facilitating highly accessible activities, Undo-Replay allows any child to participate in practical sustainability. The project rescripts a hobby as a pro-environmental action based in repair, repurposing and parts harvesting. Gamification is used to encourage participation and trigger broader behaviour change regarding other objects. Undo-Replay exemplifies how social and play experiences can be designed to encourage the development of sustainable material behaviours.

  • This project used literature review and a series of interviews with parents to identify the window of opportunity for intervention and define an age demographic: 10-14. Experts in object sentimentality emphasised that strong relationships are often created through shared experience, particularly for memories linked to childhood. This formed the basis for the concept of creating a social experience as a method of transferring object value. Collaborative workshops and user testing were used throughout the development process for both solo and social play elements, which incorporate a variety of activities designed to appeal to children with different interests and skill sets based on divisions in the adult hobbyist community. Interviews with hobbyists and modders also defined a need for the inclusion of The Toy Surgeon’s Vice, as it was identified as the only speciality tool required for the hobby, particularly to aid in safety. The Undo-Replay tabletop game was evaluated with participants ranging in age from six to sixty, who all found it engaging, enjoyable and simple to learn despite some having initial hesitations about their creative ability. The combination of character and narrative-building prompts saw adults actively engage in a form of play that is typically outgrown by adolescence.