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From toys to television and back: My Little Pony appropriated in adult toy play

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In the era of the ludic turn the cultures of play are in convergence. Although the traditional toy industry is faced with challenges relating to the digitalization and dematerialization of play culture, physical toys are surviving due to unique tactile and manipulable qualities that still cannot be substituted by digital or even hybrid playthings. Contemporary toy characters such as those of My Little Pony (MLP) are given narratives in the form of backstories as represented in products of toy design, toy marketing and licensed toy-related merchandise. In play, these narratives are challenged, creatively cultivated, and finally circulated through social media platforms. Ponies are used in various play activities such as collecting, customizing and creating visual and animated stories, including play patterns such as toy tourism, photoplay and other forms of transmedia-inspired play. Research demonstrates that personalized play content and the documenting and sharing of such practices create both engagement with toys and mimicking of the aforementioned play patterns. In sum, the play practices of adults who use pony toys during leisure time suggest that uses of MLP characters are not only activities carried out in domestic spheres, but in public spaces and social contexts. Thus, it is evident that MLP as contemporary mass-marketed toys are frequently being used as creative, social tools by adult players.

Keywords: adult play; brony; character toy; media play; toys; transmedia storytelling

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Turku

Publication date: April 1, 2015

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