Scribblenauts – Problem Solving with Words

It is often difficult to find video games for children that are both fun, and educational. The Scribblenauts series of games hits this combo right on the head and is available on a variety of gaming platforms to boot.

The premise of the games is a simple one. Explore colourful, cartoon worlds filled with endless possibilities. Within each world are scenarios that one must solve by spelling out words. For example, a guitar player will ask you to make him someone he can play music with and the player could spell out “singer” or “drummer” and it would be considered correct. Once the word is entered, the image spelled out pops up on screen and interacts with the things around it. If one were to put a cat and a dog in the same space, they would fight and the dog would win.

This game series is very well developed, and will recognize a massive library of words. Around 10, 000 words to be more precise. With such a large library, it allows for kids to be extremely creative and often urges them to think outside of the box in their problem solving.

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There is even an edition of the game that incorporates famous superheroes and supervillains into the mix called “Scribblenauts Unmasked”. In this version, the same basic premise applies; use words to solve problems, but in this edition the player explores DC and Marvel universes and fights villains. One can also spawn popular Nintendo characters such as Mario, Luigi, Link and Zelda in this specific edition of the game.

Overall, the Scribblenauts series offers a few key educational advantages:

Spelling: When one inputs a word into their notebook, it will usually pop up in the real world as an interactive object. However, if there are multiple variations available of that word, or the word is spelt wrong, it will open up a list of available object words to spawn within the game. Kids will then be able to choose the word they were looking for from that list with its correct spelling. It allows for kids who are playing to understand and see words that they have spelt wrong, and their correct spellings in comparison.

Android-indie-Scribblenauts-02  Adjectives: Another major focus of the Scribblenauts series, is adjectives. Adding specific adjectives to objects in the game will change their properties, and a lot of the missions given to a player in the game focus around this idea. One can click on an object in the world and it will allow the player to modify it with an adjective. Kids have to think up the correct adjective given the challenges, and it forces them to think outside of the box to solve the puzzle.

 

scrib_description  Creativity: As a whole, Scribblenauts encourages kids to be as creative as possible. Some challenges in the game require very specific items to be spawned or modified, but some are very open ended. There are endless possibilities in the ways one can “make regular objects into the cast and props of a horror movie” and the game will recognize virtually all of them. Kids can even use the game mechanics to customize their character; change their outfit, headgear and colours endlessly. One can even use adjectives to modify themselves, such as “flying”, “running”, “invincible” or “invisible” to improve their character within the game.

Overall, Scribblenauts is a unique and entertaining game for kids (and adults!) of all ages, that can be played alone or in a group. It provides educational advantages, and encourages kids to think outside the box to solve in game problems and puzzles.

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It available for purchase on the WiiU, Nintendo DS and PC.

Five Nights at Freddy’s – Your Questions Answered

Five Nights at Freddy’s or “FNAF” for short is a game that has garnered a massive cult following among children and adults alike. But what is it and why is it so popular? Is it even appropriate for children to be playing in the first place?

Game Asylum  has you covered.

 

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The basic premise of Five Nights at Freddy’s is that you are an overnight security guard at a children’s entertainment center, not unlike Chuckie Cheese. You have to work through 5 nights (hence, the name of the game) and watch low quality security cameras to monitor the animatronics throughout the building. These animatronics (robots in animal costumes) roam freely all night and are your main enemies in the game.  You on the other hand, are stuck in your security room.

There are many different cameras, each one connected to a different room in the building, and while the animatronics do not move when you are looking, they can change rooms when you are not.

If the animatronics get too close to the room that you are in, you have to shut the doors or turn on lights to fend them off. You have a limited amount of “power” to distribute among the doors, lights, and cameras so one cannot simply keep the doors closed and the lights off through the entire game. If you run out of power, the animatronics breach your room. If you aren’t fast enough at closing the doors, the animatronics breach your room. Once this happens it’s GAME OVER.

The reason this game is classified as a horror game, is not simply because the animatronics are visually terrifying. It is also because a GAME OVER is indicated by a “jump scare” which is when an animation of one of the animatronics suddenly pops up on one’s screen accompanied by a shrill, mechanical sounding yell. It is meant to make the player literally “jump” and scare them.

Now that you know the basics of WHAT the game is all about, here are some other questions you might have:

 

Why is it so popular?

There are a few reasons why Five Nights at Freddy’s is so popular. One of the big reasons is that it is easy to play but difficult to master. Kids love a good challenge, and since failing at this challenge means having the daylights scared out of you – there is good incentive to stay focused and pay attention.

Another major reason why this game is so popular is because it is immensely fun to WATCH other people play. Popular youtubers have played this game on their youtube channels and watching them panic and freak out about it is very entertaining. A lot of kids see their favourite youtubers playing a game and want to play it themselves.

 

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The other reason this game is so immensely popular is its story. Despite the simple overall premise, this game has a lot of hidden concepts and ideas that ultimately can be put together to form something of a story. There are 4 games out currently, and looking for clues across the games is something that a lot of people are obsessed with. The creator of the game has not confirmed or denied any of the theories out there at the current time, but that gives people all the more reason to investigate the clues and try and put the pieces of the puzzle together.

 

Is it appropriate for children to be playing?

The short answer is no, this game is not appropriate for younger gamers. The “jump scares” that happen when a player loses the game are very unnerving, and for that reason more than anything this game is not appropriate for younger players to even be watching.

The longer answer is yes, this game is acceptable. Aside from the jump scares, there is no blood or gore in any of the main story, and while the visuals can be very creepy and unnerving – there is nothing in this game that would raise any of the red flags that most other games would. No guns, no violence, and no swearing.

For any children under the age of 7, use caution, as the jump scares might cause some terrified tears. However they might not. It really depends on the specific child and how they react to being surprised. This video, for example, shows a father playing with his 3 year old son and clearly the child is frightened, but not upset. He even asks to play it again after being frightened the first time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PZmf9TPbm0

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The really terrifying and inappropriate part of this game is in its story – which one really only learns about by analyzing the game to a microscopic degree. Without getting into too much detail, the story involves a child murderer and the animatronics shoving your character into a robotic suit – which would essentially mean being torn to pieces by the robotic parts inside. While these concepts might seem horrifying, they are not apparent in the main game. The animatronics stuffing you into a suit is hinted at, but not explained in full detail to the player and the murderer isn’t blatantly talked about at all.

 

Are there any educational benefits to this game?

There aren’t any obvious educational benefits to Five Nights at Freddy’s.

One could argue that it helps children learn how to multi-task effectively. They have to control the doors, lights, and cameras all at the same time at an increasing level of speed and difficulty over the course of the 5 nights. Aside from that, it is more of an entertaining game than an educational one.

 

Can this game be played as a family?

As mentioned previously in the article, this game is generally safe for kids ages 7+ to watch and play. Younger than that, children will have different reactions to the “jump scares” in the game that will depend on their personalities. If kids can handle being surprised, they will probably be okay with Five Nights at Freddy’s.

 

If everyone in your family can handle jump scares, this game makes for a fantastic family activity.

First, hook up a laptop with the game on it to a tv screen. Then have one family member at a time play the game while the rest of the family watches on the tv screen. For added effect, turn off all the lights.

When the “jump scares” happen (and they will!) the entire family can share in the experience and laugh it off afterword. The rest of the family can also call out tips to the active player and help them to survive through the 5 nights.

 Overall, Five Nights at Freddy’s is nothing to be too worried about. A child’s personality is more an indicator of their tolerance of the game than anything else. There aren’t really any educational benefits to the game, but it works great as a family activity and the game’s controls are simple enough to understand that anyone can play it and enjoy.

Pokémon Go – Pros, Cons, Tips, Tricks

Pokémon as a franchise has come a long way from the days of 8-bit pixelated screens and colourless  characters.  Nowadays, Pokémon games are so advanced and varied, one is hard pressed to find someone that hasn’t at least heard of the phenomenon.  Even so, Pokémon is still seen as a “nerdy” interest. Something that is played in the comfort of ones own home in a video game. A solitary activity – until now.

Pokémon Go is the latest brainchild of Nintendo. A game that does the unthinkable and forces video game players to leave their houses and interact with the world around them in their quest to find and acquire Pokémon. The game will have Pokémon “appear” on ones phone screen at different locations in such a way that immerses the cartoonish character into the real world environment around it. The player is then encouraged to “catch” the Pokémon with one of their “Pokeballs” to add to their collection. They can level up or “evolve” their Pokémon with different powerups, and take over Pokémon battle buildings that other players have previously held monopoly on.

This game encourages long walks and exploration – a concept that is completely new to the video game world and as a result, comes with brand new things to think about and consider.

Primarily – safety. Children who are playing Pokémon Go might end up in unfamiliar neighbourhoods in order to catch that elusive Pokémon they’ve been looking for. The easiest way to combat this is to simply go adventuring with your child while they “play” this game. It has the potential to be a fantastic bonding experience, as well a quick way to work off supper.

The other main concern with Pokémon Go is the game’s ability to track your location. There are many other popular phone apps that also track location, but none quite as precise as Pokémon Go. The game requires very specific location tracking in order to deliver accurate 3D modeling when players are walking around. So far, the makers of the game have taken steps to limit the information being shared with third parties, but there is a growing interest in this information from law enforcement in particular.

Ultimately, Pokémon Go is a fantastic, free phone app that encourages kids to get off the couch and explore the world around them. It is up to parents to decide and delegate how the app is used and for how long by their children and if it is worth the risk of sharing their geographical locations with potential third parties in the future.

 

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Halo 4 – Brother vs. Brother

Sibling birthday parties.

Something our Party Heroes are all used to at this point.

Because the Game Asylum trailer can hold up to 16 kids all playing at once, it is often hard for one child to find 15 people worthy of an invite. Having a double birthday party happens at Game Asylum every once in a while and those parties tend to get pretty crazy.

None however, as crazy as the one for Galin and Rogan. Only 2 years separated the boys, and their competitive spirit was apparent. Th3 Doctor picked up on this, and saw that they had requested Halo 4 as one of their party games. This game allows for local connectivity – which means all the kids in the trailer can be playing in the same world at once!

Galin and his friends were the blue team and Rogan and his friends were red. They sat on opposite sides of the Game Asylum trailer and prepared for in game battle.

Most groups that Game Asylum has playing Halo enjoy a variety of different game types but Galin and Rogan ONLY wanted the teamed matches. Capture the Flag, King of the Hill and Gryphball to name a few. Essentially, any game type that promoted working together and beating up the other team.

Game Asylum has very strict rules about bullying and real world violence. Essentially, that they are both unacceptable. The nice thing about video games is that they allow for kids to beat each other up in the virtual world without ever laying a finger on each other in real life. This party was a great example of brother versus brother in the saf

est way possible. Not only that, but the boys and their teams were evenly matched!

When one team won, the other would get mad and fight extra hard together in the next round.

When one game mode wasn’t going well, it was switched up and improved upon until even the neighbours down the street could hear the boys battle cries.

At Game Asylum, we believe that there isn’t anything wrong with a little sibling rivalry – as long as it’s taken out in a safe and virtual way among friends J

Kairi – The Minecraft Survival Specialist

    There are two kinds of Minecraft players – those who like to create, and those who like to destroy. Generally speaking, the majority of kids that enter the Game Asylum trailer are in the latter category.

    Nothing is more hilarious to a Minecraft Destroyer than blowing up a Party Heroes newly built house or recently tamed dog.

    However, at Kairi’s birthday party this past Tuesday, Minecraft was all about creating and surviving.

Her entire house was decked out in Minecraft décor, from “Potions of Healing” for the kids to drink, to a giant creeper head on the wall made entirely of coloured paper plates. It was clear to Th3 Doctor and Th3 Avenger right from the get go that this girl was a true Minecraft fan.

Kairi proved to not only be a fan of the game, but a true professional. Her survival skills were better than most reality TV stars. Along with her friends, Kairi built a mountaintop castle overlooking a large chunk of the world. She used this vantage point to spot skeletons and zombies long before they could reach her, and used the items from her bonus chest to get a leg up on mining and building.

In Minecraft, coal is used to create torches and Kairi found the motherlode. You can even scare off mobs with well-placed torches to protect your house.

Not only was Kairi great at her own Minecraft game, but she was very helpful to all of her friends as well. A few hadn’t played Minecraft as much, and along with Th3 Doctor and Th3 Avenger, Kairi led her friends out of Minecraft caves and helped them to get to The End, where the group was able to fight off the Ender Dragon. Ultimately, the dragon didn’t stand a chance and Kairi and her friends came out victorious.

A few of Kairi’s friends took to playing Just Dance near the end of the party but Kairi was dead set on Minecraft – as any real fan is. 2 hours of Minecraft inside a giant video game trailer with all of your friends?

Every 8 year old’s dream. And Kairi was living it.

Minecraft Camp 2016 – FAQ

Last year, Game Asylum partnered up with Bingamens in Kitchener Ontario to give kids the Ultimate Minecraft Camp experience.

While it was an extremely successful summer for us, we have taken the experiences and added even more to the camp. This year will be bigger, better, and even MORE blocky for campers and counselors alike.

We are very aware of the fact that there will be kids returning for a second year of Minecraft camp, and because of this, we have all new programming in store for campers. This way, both new and repeat campers will have an amazing and brand new experience in the Game Asylum trailer. Much like last year, each day of the week will be devoted to a specific mode of play. Last year we found kids to have preference – survival or creative. The kids who initially didn’t like survival ended up loving it by the end of the survival days, and the kids who had never ever touched creative mode wouldn’t leave it alone!

This camp is NOT about sitting in the trailer and playing Minecraft. The kids can do that at home. 

Specific days are devoted to specific themes. We keep the themes a surprise for the kids, so that they come to camp each day with an open mind. Kids are always surprised when we tell them what they will be doing in a day, and the ultimate goal is to teach them new things. Things that they can go home and try themselves or impress their friends with. New skills in game and ways in which to build the skills that they already have. Pushing them out of their virtual comfort zones last year was all part of the camp experience and kids who were stronger in certain skills taught and helped those who maybe weren’t as experienced. Teamwork and good sportsmanship are what Game Asylum is all about, and Minecraft Camp is no exception.

This summer is going to be a busy one for all of us at Game Asylum and Minecraft Camp is a great way to get in on the action!

 

 

Surprise Parties @ Game Asylum

When the Game Asylum Party Heroes set out to celebrate Dominic’s birthday, they had no idea it was a surprise party. One they found out from his mom however, a whole new level of excitement came about.

The Party Heroes set up quickly, and then waited outside the truck for Domenic to arrive home from school. Once he did, the smile that lit up his face was one of the biggest the Party Heroes had ever seen.

Domenic had been to Game Asylum parties before, but when he asked to have Game Asylum for his birthday his parents had said no. Little did he know they planned an entire video game themed birthday for him and Game Asylum was the main surprise attraction!

There are many different ways kids react to seeing the trailer and the best reactions are those at surprise parties. Domenic’s was an Asylum Mixer – an assortment of games from the Game Asylum library, but themed parties tend to add even more to the surprise.

Heroes dressed as Mario and Luigi burst in and surprise the birthday boy or girl and their friends for our Super Asylum World theme. Halo masks come out for Ultimate Asylum theme, and for Asylum Craft themed surprise parties – Party Heroes don their giant Minecraft themed Steve or Creeper head when they enter the party house. Undead Asylum parties are even more impressive as surprise parties, as Party Heroes tell the guest of honour that they are responsible for leading the charge against the zombie invasion!

There are a lot of things that set Game Asylum apart from other video game related birthday options but one of the big things is our focus on themed parties. It helps kids work towards common goals in groups. Teamwork is massively promoted by Party Heroes, and those children who work together and accomplish the themed goals that Party Heroes set have a better chance of winning The Asylum Cup – a coveted trophy that the winning children get to take photos with at the end of the party.

Surprise parties are just another way to enhance the party experience, for party goers and Party Heroes alike.

 

Megatron – Rockband Rockstar

Most know of Megatron in regards to Transformers – a towering beast of a robot whose sole purpose in life is to rule and destroy. However, the Megatron of Game Asylum has a very different set of beliefs.

Megatron grew up in a small community outside of Toronto. Her mother and father raised her with strong beliefs that encouraged her to do her best at school, and work with her peers using teamwork and good sportsmanship. Megatron had always been special, and the other kids in her school looked up to her for her amazing teamwork abilities and how fantastically skilled she was at the game Rockband.

As Megatron got older, her Rockband skills got even better and a couple of her friends would come over every night to play with her. Eventually, they decided to team up and form a REAL Rockband, calling it “Mega-Rock”.

Megatron was the lead guitarist, and the band drew crowds all over the world. Because they were so great working together and writing amazing music, they eventually got signed to a record label.

The night that “Mega-Rock” was scheduled to record their very first track for their very first album, a horrible accident occurred. A truck carrying an entire shipment of the new Rockband game fell over on the highway, right onto Megatron’s tour bus. Everyone in the band was okay – except for Megatron.

They rushed her to the hospital, but no one knew how to save her. Just then, a chilly wind blew through the ward, and Th3 Patronus appeared at the end of Megatron’s hospital bed.

“Don’t worry guys. Luckily, Megatron has me looking out for her.”

And with that, Th3 Patronus waved her arm over the bed and disappeared.

Miraculously, Megatron sat up.

“What happened” she asked groggily.

When the doctors explained, Megatron had no idea who the ghostly apparition was or why she was looking out for her, but she wasn’t going to ask too many questions. She was just happy to be alive and able to rock out once again.

“Mega-Rock” eventually disbanded, but Megatron still found a way to feed her Rockband addiction – hosting rockin Game Asylum parties for kids all over the tri-cities!

 

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Minecraft Sushi

     Repeat customers are pretty common at Game Asylum, and at Nicholas’s Minecraft party a few months ago, his younger twin brothers were interested in having us for their birthday.

     Th3 Doctor and Th3 Avenger were at Nicholas’ party and the twins wanted them back. For Party Heroes, getting requested for a party is a big honour and the two were happy to oblige.

     Pulling back up to the familiar house and walking in the door, the boys pointed at the two party heroes and cried out “I KNOW YOUUU!” – something Party Heroes are very used to hearing at this point.

The twins Wes and Jack, were planning on having a Super Asylum World party, but very quickly, the trailer became mostly Minecraft. Who knew 9 year olds liked playing Minecraft so much? :p

This group was all about Creative mode. The boys were playing around with slimeblocks and built an amazing multi-tier Minecraft bouncy castle complete with woolly rainbow walls. Nicholas and Th3 Doctor spent most of the party creating giant houses that looked like sushi and a chocolate chip cookie. A few of the other boys even came over and helped the pair, adding lights and beacons around the houses for good measure. It was a party full of Minecraft creativity and teamwork – two things Game Asylum encourages as much as possible.

A few of the other kids decided work on their Smash Bros skills and for a lot of the party, 8 kids were playing at once. These massive games tend to be the craziest, and a lot of the time the boys had trouble even finding their character on the screen! It was chaotic, it was loud, it was everything that Game Asylum is about!

It was amazing seeing Jack and Wes and Nicholas again and, much like Nicholas’ party – it was one to remember.

Th3 Smile

Some call him Smiley, some call him Smile, but everyone knows that Th3 Smile is the craziest and happiest Party Hero of them all!

Growing up, Smile was your typical class clown. He made his fellow classmates laugh during even the most boring of math lessons, and even the teachers liked having him around. During recess, Smile would lead massive games of tag, hide and go seek, and dodgeball all across the playground. He brought his happy attitude with him wherever he went.

Smile was the guy you came to for the best snack trades, the smartest trading card advice, and of course – the best and the newest in video game news.

Smile had mastered Mario before any of his friends. His NHL skills on and off the ice rivaled that of the actual players. He was a leader and an innovator and commander of everything fun and exciting.

When Just Dance starting picking up in popularity, Smile realized that he needed to get involved. When they auditioned dancers he knew he had to try out. More specifically, for the song `Happy` by Pharell Williams. It was an homage to everything that he stood for! Smile aced the audition and landed the main dancer part. If you`re ever playing Just Dance 2015, you`ll see him showing off his happy moves!

As he grew up, he also got louder and his booming voice and happy attitude made him a perfect fit for everything Game Asylum. He is the ultimate kid at heart and brings out the best in both his fellow Party Heroes, and the kids he meets at parties.

Want to be as happy as Smile? All you need is a little bit of fun and a little bit of Game Asylum magic!

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