Snowman — the studio behind games Skate City and — on Tuesday launched Pok Pok, a new studio with a fresh vision for kids’ playtime. The company is focused on building creative, play-based learning experiences for kids.
Pok Pok’s founding team of digital toymakers includes CEO Melissa Cash, designers Esther Huybreghts and Mathijs Demaeght. Snowman veterans Ryan Cash and Jordan Rosenberg are also on board, but both will also continue to work at Snowman. The company was “incubated” within Snowman but will function as a separate studio. The team told CNET via email that its goal is to help raise and inspire the next generation of creative thinkers.
With the new studio comes a new app for kids called Pok Pok Playroom, which was created with the help of educators, occupational therapists and sensory experts. Initially, Huybreghts and Demaeght said they weren’t setting out to create a new children’s game, but to climb out of a creative rut while balancing two young kids of their own.
When their son James turned 2, they struggled to find something age-appropriate in the App Store for him to play.
“We didn’t want anything too gamified, with levels to beat, menus to figure out or something that got him too riled up,” the designers said via email. “We worried he’d get stuck all the time and feel discouraged not being able to play independently. That’s when we decided we would build it ourselves.”
Building a digital playroom
Pok Pok Playroom includes a collection of toys and activities that encourage cognitive and socio-emotional development, according to the team, with no winning or losing. In addition, the game — meant for ages 2 to 6 — can grow with the child as playtime changes. The app seeks to empower kids to take risks and feel accomplished when things come together for them, while rewarding them with play, not prizes.
“When kids enter Pok Pok Playroom they are free to explore, to step outside of their comfort zones, to think outside of the box and to experiment without any fear of failing,” Melissa Cash said. “It’s an incredible experience that we’re really excited to bring from the playroom floor, into a digital playroom.”
Pok Pok Playroom aims to present playtime in a peaceful way with handmade art and gentle sounds for a calming and exploratory experience.
Though some parents worry about exposing their young one’s to too much screen time, Cash said the new app is meant to work like traditional playroom items such as blocks, puzzles and other toys.
The team also wanted to focus on an inclusive experience for kids in both play mechanics and the app’s presentation, letting kids fill in the blanks and tell their own stories, instead of an adult doing so. The game was also designed with accessibility in mind, so young players don’t get “stuck” or need to ask for help.
“We hope kids will not only see themselves in Pok Pok Playroom, but also their neighbors, families and friends,” Cash said. “That’s why we try to highlight people of many genders, races, abilities and family structures. We also try to break gender stereotypes wherever we can, and feature a lot of women in typically male-dominated job sectors, such as female construction workers.”
Pok Pok Playroom will launch on May 20 for iPhone and iPad. After a 14-day free trial, you can subscribe for $4 a month, or $30 annually, with no in-app purchases or ads.
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