The Bilibo Game Box – a child’s tool kit for game invention

The Bilibo Game Box is not just a toy. It is a tool kit for the very young game designer (age 4 and up) and an invitation to inventiveness for the rest of us.

The Game Box contains a die with interchangeable faces and six sets of differently-colored discs that fit in each face. There’s also a set of six, plastic, hand-sized “mini-Bilibos,” in each of the six colors corresponding to the colors of the discs.

Bilibos are shaped something like pregnant plastic Pringles, with holes that look almost like eyes. Full-sized Bilibos are big enough for a kid to sit, spin, rock, float, climb in or on, or pretend with. The simple, friendly, colorful design invites creativity, exploration, and invention, and nurtures playfulness. No moving parts. Just a funny shape to explore, define, redefine, shape your dreams on. Mini-Bilibos are just as strange, just as funny, just as fun to play with. And, as son-in-law Tom observed, function quite satisfactorily as doll helmets.

The die is called a Bilibo Pixel. It is made of some surprisingly bouncy and slightly stretchy plastic. The corners are so wonderfully rounded that it rolls as well as bounces almost as well as a rubber ball. Button-like pieces fit in each of the faces of the die where there are cavities deep enough not only to accommodate any of the discs, but also to fit little messages or prizes, or, if you are so inclined, weights. So you can play around with fate, as it were, making some of the faces the same color or all of the faces different, adding and removing things behind the colored buttons to influence where the die might fall and add further elements of surprise.

The Bilibo Game Box gives your child a set of almost infinitely enticing properties and relationships to explore. Without even reading anything even closely approximating rules, the child will find herself using the die in some way to indicate which mini-Bilibo she should aim for. Aim what, you might ask. Any of those color-coded, button-like discs which can be slid or juggled or tossed or tiddled under or over or through. Or strung together, for that matter, or strung together with a mini-Bilibo.

As children continue to explore the properties and relationships of the Bilibo Game Box, they will inevitably discover that the elements can be used in conjunction with a surprisingly varied array of other objects in their environment – chairs and steps, tables, counter-tops, floors. They can make targets and game boards with sheets of paper, ramps and obstacles out of paper plates and sheets of cardboard, die-launchers and Bilibo-flippers out of spoons and rulers.

Alex Hochstrasser, designer of the Bilibo Game Box and associated products, has created a work of playful genius. The simplicity of the components belie the elegance of design and the depth of understanding of the nature of creative play.

There are several delightful videos on Youtube that illustrate a few of the plethora of possibilities contained in the Bilibo Game Box, and a well-illustrated booklet that accompanies each Game Box for yet more ideas, and, soon, even more will be on the Bilibo website.

Despite all these resources, please, consider this: the more you and your children play together with this, openly, inventing games from scratch, without any guidance other than that which comes from your collectively playful hearts, the greater the value of your experiences with this remarkable toy. If you want ideas, let your children be your guide. The Bilibo Game Box is remarkably innovative and brilliantly designed, but the real value of it only becomes apparent when it is used as a tool for playful, inspired invention.

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