10 pixels in – my first video game review

by DaniGirl on August 24, 2007 · 9 comments

in Life, the Universe and Everything

Not too long after my recent post talking about how the boys have transitioned from a TV addiction to a computer game addiction, I got an e-mail from a nice lady offering me a sneak preview of “the first video game made for kids 3-6 on Nintendo DS.” The boilerplate advertised that “Storybook DS features skill-based mini-games and read-aloud fairy tale adventures for shared play and interaction between mom and child.” I wrote back to say thanks for the offer, but we only play games on the PC and we don’t have any game consoles. She wrote back to say, “No problem, we’ll loan you a DS console for a while to play to the game. You can keep the game cartridge, and send back the console when you’re done.”

Hard to say no to an offer like that, isn’t it? And that’s how someone who doesn’t really like video games becomes a video game reviewer – or at least whores her children out as video game reviewers. Let the record show that they didn’t seem to mind.

So I have to start out by admitting that I’m a little bit biased against handheld games, especially for the preschooler set. I like to see and hear what they’re doing, and it’s harder to share a four-inch game console than it is to sit together in front of a 15 inch monitor.

Nintendo StorybookHaving said that, I have to admit I was immediately impressed with Storybook DS. I know kids get this stuff so much more intuitively than we did, but literally within one minute of snapping the cartridge into the console, Tristan was using the stylus to colour a picture. A few minutes later, he was showing Simon how to do the same. With no input from us, they found their way through a counting game, a music game, a drawing tablet and a storybook reader.

Tristan and Simon playing Storybook DSBoth boys enjoyed Storybook DS, even if it was a bit on the simplistic side compared to what they are already playing on the computer. Tristan had an easier time navigating and exploring, but both boys could use the stylus to play by themselves. I’m not sure about it being billed as “shared play and interaction between mom and child” – more like interaction between child and video game. I peered over their shoulders a few times to see what they were up to, but three of us jockeying for position around a four-inch screen didn’t work well for us. If you’d like to pick one up, they’ll be available in stores in late September. (Sorry for the lack of links. I had asked for a URL to point to, but never did get one.)

It was nice to be able to test-drive the Nintendo DS as well as the game itself, and Beloved didn’t waste any time going down to the local rental place and picking up a few other games for us to try. I can see the appeal of handheld games, especially for long car rides, or for when one wants to watch TV and the other wants to play games, but I’ll stick with my initial assessment of handheld games. They might be a nice treat for the older kids, and no doubt my 3 and 5 year old would love to have one, but when we finally capitulate to a game system for the family – sadly, with three against one I know it’s a matter of when rather than if – I’d much prefer a full-size, TV-based console rather than a handheld one.

So what do you think? What age – if any – do you think it’s appropriate for kids to start playing with personal, handheld video games? I don’t think I can hold out on this one forever, but seven or eight years old sounds about right to me.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 UberGeek August 24, 2007 at 7:52 am

I have no problem with the concept of a handheld game system for a 3-5 year old. (please include all caveats about balancing time on electronics versus exercise vs. parenting ).

My big issue is the cost of the system and the games and relying on a 3 – 5 year old to take care of that and not lose them. Sorry, I like my portable toys to be less costly.

And uhhh please no comments on the drawer of discarded Nintendo hardware beside the stove, it was all bought used, and handed down from the eldest.


2 Sharon August 24, 2007 at 8:08 am

I agree 7 or 8 seems about right my sisters boy has had his Xbox for 2 years now and he won’t turn 7 till Nov. He seems to love it. Nathan has played it but doesn’t seem to interested in getting one. SO we wait till he asks. I figure that’s going to be one BIG christmas present one year.

3 BeachMama August 24, 2007 at 10:47 am

I am not so big on the hand-held games either. My Sister picked up a Game Boy for her guy for when they go on airplanes and long trips. I personally find that since our eldest spent so many years buried in a Game Boy (since he was many 6 or 7) it has led to his inability to join in real conversations. I should also add that although I did not agree with him having one, I also did not have a say.

We do have both PC games and an Xbox 360. So far J only plays Starwars on the Xbox, but plays many other games on the PC, both educational and just plain fun. And so far he has been really great to turn off a game he feels is too old for him.

For now we are sticking with bigger systems, and hopefully will not have a handheld game around for a very long time.

4 andrea from the fishbowl August 24, 2007 at 2:49 pm

I’m with BeachMama. Personally, I would avoid introducing the handheld game as long as I possibly could. And then some. You said you can’t hold out forever… but you can you know. As a parent you have that power. 🙂

Regardless of how parents to choose to balance screen time yadda yadda, these are totally isolating…. even more so than TV and regular console video games.

I will never forget, years ago Mark and I went on a hike around Pinks Lake in Gatineau Park. Ahead of us on the trail were three preteen boys. I was so impressed! Here they were, together, on a hike! We soon realized they were each head down, not talking, not looking around, but playing their own Gameboys as they walked the trail. I couldn’t believe it! Talk about time and place….

If you’re looking for family fun in a video game console, get a Wii. It gets everyone up and involved – socially AND physically!

5 Beloved August 24, 2007 at 3:18 pm

I agree Andrea, get a Wii. You keep telling her that, over and over again.

I personally didn’t mind playing on the hand-held game, but I think something like the Wii would definately be a better way to make playing the games more of a time to share. An the Wii is certainly more interactive.

The other problem I have with hand-held games is that they are hard on the old eyeballs. I can see a rise in young people wearing glasses and I imagine this could be a reason. So tell Dani we also need a big screen TV with that Wii, would ya.

As far as the kids hiking with their GameBoys, at least they were hiking.


6 andrea from the fishbowl August 24, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Beloved, you crack me up.

I have to hand it to my husband (who’d been nagging me about the Wii for ages) it does get us up and moving.

You should have seen his 82-year old uncle …. boxing!

Here’s Emma. Bowling is her thing, but likes to box as well:

7 BeachMama August 24, 2007 at 4:00 pm

Beloved you are hilarious! I think my Hubby was sorry that we got the Xbox 360 when the Wii came out, but alas we aren’t going to be getting another system.

Good luck getting your big screen and Wii!

8 DaniGirl August 24, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Ahem. Please don’t feed the animals, nor encourage the inmates.

Thank you, the Management.

9 John Macmitch July 23, 2008 at 1:24 am

It’s hard to come across great posts like these now-a-days, keep up the good work!

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