In this in-depth Gamasutra analysis, game professional Breslin examines the history and current state of the 'sandbox game', looking at modern games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Spore to see how they fulfil the concept of unlimited, unfettered creativity.
It's such a buzzword nowadays -- sandbox. It is a very abstract concept, like "liberty" or "love," so there are a lot of varieties. Modern sandbox games draw from a wide range of design structures: from open-world design to emergent behavior, from automation of believable agents to multi-threaded or non-linear story.
Being applied in such a broad range of situations means that the word "sandbox" risks its meaning becoming watered-down, confused, and sometimes forgotten.