Video Game Genius

Whoever it was that created the video game Skylanders was a freaking GENIUS!

These days your typical video game costs around $50.  Skylanders runs you a bit more (around $75 I think) because not only are you getting the game itself, but also an accessory for your game system called the Portal of Power, and three Skylanders figurines for the game.  And this is why I say the makers of the game are geniuses.

Each additional figurine for the game runs from $10-15, and there are about 50 total figures to collect.  Each figure has a different symbol type.  Some are plants, some are fire, some are water, etc.  And at certain points in the game you need a Skylander of a specific type in order to progress in the game further.  So parents end up shelling out a whole lot more money to buy the figures that the kids need in order to keep playing the game they just invested their money into.

Cameron has been asking for this game for more than a year.  And truthfully I actively resisted buying it for him because I could see the dollar signs adding up.  But one evening, after the boys had been exceptionally good and were deserving of a reward I relented and we bought them the game.

Now I live and breath Skylanders.  They have overtaken my life, and within just a few weeks I have become fluent in it.  Sadly if Cameron runs through the house shouting, “Wreck and roll” I not only understand what he’s talking about but also which character he’s pretending to be.  (Wrecking Ball for those who care to know–his favorite character).  The boys even emptied out their piggy banks the other night and we took them shopping so they could add some new Skylanders to their collection.

Despite the expense, the game has been a blessing in disguise.  We’re still having trouble with Brendan refusing to play with Cameron, but the game has helped with that situation.  The game belongs to both of them, so our rule is (assuming they are both home and available to play) that they have to play it together.  This means that Brendan is somewhat forced to play with his little brother, and this makes Cameron extremely happy.

Not to say that they don’t still bicker to a certain degree.  The problem is that Cameron actually has very little interest in playing the game (yeah I know, he was the one asking for it…).  His all time favorite activity is to switch his character on the Portal of Power every 7.8 seconds.  I’m starting to believe that he just loves to hear them say their catch phrases (which actually might explain a lot since that was the main thing the display in the store did).

When playing in 2 player mode the two characters have to stay within a certain distance of each other.  If they get too far one will be pulled to the other.  So when the boys play, Brendan’s attempting to move along in the game while Cameron either a) stands there not moving or b) gets a wild notion that he should move in the exact opposite way as Brendan even if that is the way they just came from.  So Brendan’s character will be struggling to move forward while dragging Cam’s character along and will finally make a little progress just in time for Cameron to switch his character out again.

Then there’s the battles themselves.  The controls for the game are simple.  You do your main attack with A, and your secondary attack with B.  Cameron does not seem to remember that his character can do these things whenever there are enemy’s around.  Even though when there’s no enemy’s around and they are trying to search for clues or treasure he’s hitting the buttons to do his attack over and over and over again.  No, once the enemy’s attack he positions his Skylander to take as much damage as possible and refuses to fight back.

This then results in his Skylander becoming “tired” and needing to be removed from the Portal of Power to rest.  Meaning that Cameron has yet another excuse to run to the portal and switch out his character.  This also means that there is a very clear time for the boys to turn off the game.  When all of the Skylanders are needing to rest, then it’s time to turn off the game so they can recover.

Despite the normal sibling rivalry and bickering, they do actually get along pretty well while they are playing.  99% of the time Cameron is content to let Brendan lead the way, make the decisions, and play all of the mini-games.  This makes Brendan happy as he is most content when he is in control of a situation.  Once in a while Cameron decides he wants to participate and we have to remind Brendan to actually let Cameron play too, but as long as they are both content we tend not to intervene.

I am surprised that the game is as complex as it is.  There have been numerous times that the boys have gotten stuck or been unable to get past a certain part of the game.  I’m not much of a video gamer, and am not very good at battles myself so I’ve told the boys that they aren’t allowed to play the game unless daddy is home.  Matt is willing to drop almost anything he’s doing and help the boys through a difficult part in the game.  Both boys are willing to surrender their controller to let daddy get them through a section, and neither complains if they are the one to sit back and watch daddy and their brother finish up the difficult piece.

Friday night they were in such a difficult part that Matt asked me to help be the secondary person since I would be able to more quickly follow his commands and get us through the difficult situation.  I almost think the boys enjoyed watching us play more than they enjoy playing the game themselves.  They relished in the task of switching out the characters for us as we got to different points in the level.  At one point we tried to give the controllers back to let them take over their game since we’d defeated the part they were stuck on but they told us to just keep going to the end of the level.

It was really a nice little family bonding time for us.  It’s rare that we can find an activity that everyone can agree on.  A lot of times Brendan will want to do something that is too hard for Cameron and/or Kaylee to participate in, or will consider the activities they like to be too babyish for him.  Then there are times where we can actually get all three kids on the same page, but the activity is so hideously boring that Matt and I feel like we are going to fall asleep doing it.  (don’t worry, we suck it up anyway for the sake of our children).

Even Kaylee got into the festivities.  She’s obviously too young to play (and you can’t play 3 players anyway) but she loves the little figurines, especially the ones that light up on the portal.  We have to remind her that they aren’t toys to keep her from running off with them all but she could stand at the Portal of Power for hours staring at the pretty characters.

Her newest trick is to drag her little potty out into the living room and sit on it while the boys play their game.  At this point, I’m not about to discourage her from showing an interest in the potty.  She still sits on it for hours at a time, but has finally started to understand that putting stuff into the potty earns her an M & M treat.  So she spends most of her day sitting on it trying to earn additional chocolaty goodness, and since she doesn’t want to miss any of the action she will pick it up and bring it to where ever she wants to be.

Thank you, video game geniuses, for designing a game complex enough to entertain my 9 year old, varied enough to keep the attention span of my 4 year old, with physical figurines to spark the interest of my 2 year old.  I’ll be sure to send you all the bill for my happiness.

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