Why playing in a sandbox is necessary

Published: Mon 24 Oct 2022, 10:13 AM

Last updated: Thu 27 Oct 2022, 10:07 AM

In 2022 alone, over 17 million people have played and enjoyed Minecraft, one of the biggest sandbox games today. What are sandbox games, and why do we ought to let ourselves go and ‘play in a sandbox’ every now and then?


Rida Jaleel

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As children, it’s not unusual to be drawn more to the wet sand at the beach than the water. It’s common knowledge that playing in a sandbox enables your child’s sensory advancement, kinesthetic, and motor abilities, and gives them the freedom to explore, identify different textures and combinations, and expand their proprioceptive (self-movement) sense.

It’s using this same idea that the concept of sandbox games began to develop as early as the late 80s. These games were essentially universes unto themselves which give children full freedom for independent play and world-building. Games like Minecraft, Assassin’s Creed, Roblox, Grand Theft Auto, and Fortnite, amongst thousands of others, allow players to build houses, plant trees, form clubs, make friends (or enemies), change attires, and even harvest virtual fields!

What are the benefits of sandbox games?

Regardless of when you’ve gotten on the Sandbox bandwagon, it cannot be ignored that games that fall into this category have a plethora of intellectual and psychological benefits for children who play them.

It fosters perseverance

In Sandbox games, your kids basically find themselves within a world of their own creation where they can interact with the game format in a non-linear way. When you first begin playing Minecraft—a game that has sold nearly 238 million copies worldwide—you find yourself on flat, pixelated ground where you must work your way up by collecting resources, building houses, and defending your space from angry mobs.

It's kind of like real life—minus the angry mobs, depending on how exciting your life is. Except here, you can stumble along the way and get unlimited chances to start over.

It improves creativity and complex thinking skills

Being thrust into a brand-new universe with minimal resources inspire children to think. It helps them relate to their (real and in-game) environments in creative ways and enhances their imaginative abilities. Research conducted by the Eurasian Journal of Mathematics has found that sandbox games like Roblox are so beneficial to the learning outcomes of children that those who regularly play them often show a stronger desire and motivation to learn, upon the promise of video games as rewards.

They’re also observed to develop better creative writing skills as their exposure to a world of fantasy outside the realm of reality improves their vocabulary and stimulates their ideation.

It rewards quick thinking

Many of these games have variations of ‘Survival Modes’ where the players must think of crafty ways to stay alive and protect their resources. Children are inspired to develop situational thinking as well as decision-making and problem-solving skills with none of the stress that accompanies real-life conundrums. They become experts in inductive reasoning, detecting patterns, and making quick connections.

The multiplayer option in many of these games makes it possible for them to create connections with like-minded people and learn the skills of collaboration and co-existence in world-building. To play in a sandbox means to indulge and experiment, unbridled by the typical burdens of sensibility and maturity.

How do sandbox games transform education?

The possibilities that sandbox games offer in the sphere of education are unparalleled. It fosters genuine interest and aptitude in students in geography and architecture, logical reasoning, mathematical and critical thinking, as well as the simple art of reading and writing that evade so many children (through in-game texting and communication); thus raising information literacy in students.

In offering a microcosm of the world, these games become blissful escape routes for children with stressful home conditions and for those with a lack of access to avenues of growth and opportunities. It offers them the freedom to make the choices they would be unable to make in real life and gives them a chance to live (albeit virtually) a life where their biggest concern is building a camp for their animal friends.

It is, perhaps, this vicarious aspect of sandbox games that makes them so appealing to players from all age groups. In fact, according to Microsoft Head of Minecraft, Helen Chiang, the average age of a Minecraft player is 24! “We certainly have a lot of kids that are playing, but we actually have a lot of everybody that’s playing!”

Today, plenty of schools are gearing up to integrate sandbox games into their educational programs—if they haven’t already—to make learning and recollection more appealing to students. They’re subverting conventional models of education to prove that just like a sandbox world, the world of education, too, is limitless and fun.

The entrance of The Sandbox in Dubai unveils unprecedented possibilities in the world of learning and interaction. With DVARA (Dubai Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority) becoming the first government authority in The Sandbox, the Metaverse is seeing a regular host of virtual gaming sessions, concerts, art exhibitions, dinners, and even marriages!

So, the next time you’re tempted to tell your kids to get off their gaming consoles, you might want to rethink it. The future belongs to those who play in the Sandbox.

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