So let us imagine that you have a small child whom you wish to introduce to boardgames, and the having read our rant on Candyland you can't face spending time dealing with so saccharine and brain-dead a system. Are there alternatives?
Eleanor Abbot's Candy Land is in most cases the first boardgame to which children in the United States are exposed. As a result, it constitutes a touchstone, a referent which we almost all consider when contemplating the nature of the ars ludorum, and its evolution and recomplication in our own interactive, nay hyperactive, era.
There are those who criticize Candy Land as being jejune and ultimately futile, since the nature of its rules construct and the (non-existent) emergent complexity it supports is utterly unsusceptible to any sort of rational analysis, or indeed, choice of player strategy.
Submitted by EmilyShort on Fri, 10/26/2007 - 13:34.
Designed to introduce issues of energy management and environmental protection to schoolchildren, ElectroCity allows the player to control a New Zealand town and its surrounding landscape -- building power plants, extracting fossil fuels, trading on the energy market, and setting conservation policies. At the end of 150 turns, the player is graded on the town's size, environmental cleanliness, energy supply, and citizen satisfaction. The finished town layout can be uploaded to the ElectroCity server, to be viewed and ranked against other submitted towns.
You look at Loop and you think: Wow, this is creative; I've never seen gameplay like this before. And also: Who in his right mind thought this was going to be popular?
The look of Loop comes out of Leo Lionni, the children's book creator, and the surrounding media--the girlish laughter when you complete a loop, the cheerful music--reinforces the sense that you've wandered into an alternate universe where people create digital applications for tots without trying to cram branded properties into their brains for future profit selling them licensed crapola--but purely for the joy of creating applications tots will enjoy.
Yes, Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Africa is a "tycoon" game--but quite different from others of the genre. The objective isn't to build a business, but a balanced ecosystem. For example, one level's objective is to have some number of lions in play--but to get that many, you have to build up your zebra population so there's enough prey to support your lions. And to support that many zebra, you need to plant enough bushes to sustain them.
Yet it also isn't a hard-core simulation in the style of Sim Life (and thank goodness); it's a simple, straightforward game with pleasantly animated African wildlife, and a tutorial system that anyone who can read (and this is a good game for kids) will find good and sufficient. Contrariwise, it's a tougher game to win, even on "Easy" setting, than most casual games (many of which can be won by a monkey clicking randomly).
The Noks is a very weird game--if it's a game at all.
Partly, it's a system of collectibles. There are several hundred "Noks" in the world at present, and the developers plan to add more over time. You can think of Noks as something like, say, Magic: The Gathering cards, except that they aren't cards. They're animated 3D avatars with backstories. Some of them sing songs or perform music. And most have something to tell you about the game itself, or the backstory of the Noks universe. To understand that universe, you'll need to collect--well maybe not "them all," but lots of them.
Your default platformer stance is beset by a floating white head who comes off like some kind of pranic demon. He tells you not to proceed, which in the language of level design means, "come further, you don't really have a choice". This is the kind of catch-22 that, all too common in life, seems utterly absent in games - no matter what prickly situation your protagonist finds (usually) himself in, there's always a neat puzzle solution or flow path to get out of it. Not this time.
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