Preface: Kids and videogames. It’s a controversial topic. Growing up, my parents didn’t allow us to have a video game systems. In some ways, that was good idea, in other ways, I felt like I missed out. My personal philosophy when it comes to any type of technology (TV, computer, video games) is simple- limit, monitor, discuss. The 7yo I work with is allowed to play computer or ipad for 30 minutes after school (unless there’s a behavioral problem that causes him to lose this time). I don’t watch his every move, but I keep track of the things he plays and I like to ask him questions and keep myself involved in what he’s doing and enjoying. This allows me to make sure that he’s playing appropriate things and not accidentally stumbling into an inappropriate website.
So Skylanders! Mr. 7 is currently in love with these things. He had to teach me about them. His family doesn’t have a video game system, but he plays the game with his grandparents or at a friend’s house.
FYI, in case you don’t know about this game: Skylanders are fictional, fantasy characters that can be humanoid, animal-based, alien-ish… there’s a little of everything. The characters live in Skyland, which consists of lots of islands and things that float in the sky. Each character has a very different personality and different abilities. What’s really different and fun is that you collect plastic toy character figurines, and these are necessary for playing the game. When you want to use a character, you place it on the “portal of power” and that character appears in the game. There are several different games, and many, many characters to choose from. The game is rated 8+, but you should screen it for yourself and decide whether or not the game is appropriate for your child. There’s plenty of cartoon-y violence, as you smash bad guys left and right, but it’s not gratuitous, scary, bloody. It’s obviously playful and happening in a fantasy setting. Like Mario smashing the goombas.
Here’s what I like about the game: it’s more than just smashing and bashing. There’s a lot of problem solving, and the side quests include some interesting little puzzles and a strategy game called “skystones”. The world is colorful and fun, and the game encourages you to decide for yourself which character will work the best in each different situation.
But it’s more than that. The toys themselves are fun to play with, even when you’re not using them in the game. They’re well constructed, and Mr. 7 loves to have “Skylander parties” with friends, where they all get their characters together to have a “party” with each other.” There’s cards for each characters, which list all their statistics, encouraging kids to compare and contrast. And there’s even Skylander chapter books! There’s tons of ways that kids can play in the Skylanders world even when their time in the game is limited.
I came up with a fun discussion topic for Mr. 7 and I, after learning more about Skylanders. I asked him, if your cat was a Skylander, what would her name be? Her abilities? Her catch phrase? You can do this with friends, family members and favorite stuff animals, too. His cat, btw, would be named Miss Bitty Kitty. She’d have a poisonous bite, laser beams that come out of her tail when she wags it, and a purr that causes an earthquake. We’re still working on her catchphrase, but “My meow is WOW” is in the running. We’ve made a picture of her character, too. 🙂 It’s been quite a project, and so much fun!
And yes, I do play the game at home now. Mr. 7 is quite impressed by my progress. 🙂