Well played video game companies

The Little Professor really, really wanted that Skylanders video game for Christmas. Really. It was always at the top of his list.

Let me tell you, video games have gotten so much more complicated since the original Nintendo came out. I think it had a total of three buttons – A, B and the directional pad. I can’t remember too much about the games, except the screen almost always moved from right to left, you couldn’t go backwards, and there was a lot of jumping and punching. And you had to perfectly time those punches.

Myself, my sister, Foo-Dog, and my brother, Davey Crockett, received a Nintendo for Christmas one year. For about two weeks before Christmas, after we’d gone to bed, but before we’d quite fallen asleep, we could hear a symphony of electronic beeps and bloops from the living room. It took us years and years to figure out. (Hey, we were maybe 7-, 6- and 5-years-old. So we weren’t too quick on the uptake.)

Since then, buttons have sprouted all over the controllers, which got bigger, and instead of 8-bit, we’ve got these “cut-screens” and movies. Back in my day, you never needed any of these movies, you saw Paulina at the top of the screen, Donkey Kong was hurling barrels at you, and you knew what you needed to do.

I thought video games had gotten as complicated as they could manage – reducing me to screaming and banging random buttons, causing my character to whirl around like a spastic possession victim – but I was wrong. Skylanders comes with little figurines, and each figurine unlocks a different character in the game. They also have memories, so when they get new powers and stuff, it stays with that character. Each character has an “element,” and each element unlocks different areas of game play.

There are somewhere between 30 and 40 of these collectibles, and each costs roughly $10. Well-played, game-makers, well-played.

You don’t need all of them to complete the game, but the kiddos certainly want all of them. Because they all have unique attacks or some such nonsense. Kids that age just love to collect things. In Grampy Grumpy’s day, it was baseball cards (much cheaper!), but, for my kids, it’s game characters. (I still don’t understand Pokemon or whatever that card game is, and I regularly get whipped; I suspect they are cheating.)

The Little Professor vacilliates between not wanting to play video games with me – “Momma, you’re not very good; sorry” – to encouraging me to play so he can enjoy my futile thrashing – “Momma, you’re so funny.”

Skylanders, however, seems to be aimed at the 8- to 12-year-old set, meaning I have a reasonable chance at playing competently.

I have developed a fondness for a dragon-like character that spits rainbows. This sounds all “My Pretty Pony,” but these are rainbows of destruction and death. Therefore, it is cool. I don’t know the character’s name, I call it “my rainbow dragon-thingie.”

The Professor found great amusement in my choice of a character that was, well, not very fierce. It’s hard to be intimidating when the character is prancing and bounding around like an over-sized Tigger, rainbows shooting out of its horn.

“It’s a unicorn,” he said.

“It is not!” A rainbow dragon was bad enough, but a rainbow unicorn was worse.

“It has a horn.”

“For goring things!”

“For making rainbows.”

“Clap-trap, it is a fierce dragon with RAINBOWS OF DOOM!”

“Rainbows of Doom?”

“It’s what you call rainbows that are fierce and deadly killer-type rainbows.”

“I’m going to look this up on the Skylander wiki.”

Why is there a wiki for everything? Don’t y’all have something better to do than to make encyclopedia entries for fictional rainbow dragons?

“Look, it is half-dragon – “

“See! I told you! It’s a fierce dragon!”

” — and half unicorn.”

Well-played, game-makers, well-played.

(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at swallace@pafocus.com)