A toy is an abstraction distilled into concrete form. A drawing that becomes real, that enters our three-dimensional world and leaves the two-dimensional surface behind. Our response to this solid expression of hypothetical concept is a powerful one: at a deep instinctual level our imaginations recognize a dream made corporeal—a magical translation of idea into object. The more faithful the translation, the stronger the toy. The ability of a toy to reduce, whether by being a scaling down of a much larger real thing, or by being a representation of an idea that couldn’t exist, is what makes it powerful: a hypothetical concept has become a tangible symbol you can hold in your hand.
Sometimes that means the most generic toy—baby, soldier, dinosaur, spaceman—is the most satisfying, because it is the closest to an ideal or essential state: it has been boiled down to its key identifying marks. The original, prototypical ur-toy.
The power of toys is not about regression or infantilism. It is the recognition of possibility. Toys are symbols that have a figurative power to embody thoughts and emotions that may have their origins in childhood, but are not childish. We recognize parts of ourselves—our secret, wishing selves—in toys. The part of us a toy touches is our unexpressed, dream(ing) self.
If a toy is a solidified concept, a journey from wishspace to reality, it also acts on the imagination to pull the user in the other direction, to complete the circle from real to unreal, by making the user identify with or through it. To play with a toy is to enter a representational space; the toy becomes an avatar—the embodiment of an idea.