A few weeks ago, I scared my middle school boys by asking them what games they play on the computers when they come in every Friday afternoon. Originally, these two boys started coming for LEGO club but eventually started coming just to hang out on the computers and play and chat with each other. They are wonderful boys, and we love having them every week. I decided that since the only “cool” game I know of is Minecraft, and I have only ever been completely confused by Minecraft, I would ask these boys what they played every week.
Let me start off by saying: I learned you need to preface your questions before you ask them. My lead in was anything by sly, and I think they were about to bolt for fear of being in trouble about as soon as the words left my lips. I quickly back peddled, ensuring them it was just for my own self-interest (an assignment) and I wanted to know what they played. Still unconvinced, and somewhat paranoid, I had to coax the answers out of them. Finally, we got somewhere.
They told me that the new site for gameplay is Kizi (AddictingGames and HallPass from when I was younger aren’t cool, go figure), and one specific one the boys told me about was Happy Wheels. Sounds innocent enough, right? Maybe one of those motorcycle games I haven’t learned to master, but my boyfriend obsessively plays on his iPad. Wrong.
From minds more disturbed than those that created the Kitty Cannon, of which I am all too familiar and would only play with the sound off (but yes, I played), comes a game in which your job is to ride the lawn mower away from impending doom, all the while splattering the blood of the poor souls unfortunate enough to move out of your way. It’s 2-dimensional, so don’t even think about trying to be able to swerve not to hit pedestrians; it might as well be the point of the game.
There’s a reason that youth and teens like privacy, and I’m convinced it’s in part because they know you can never look at them the same once you see the disturbing things they find funny. But also, teens and hormones and a budding sense of independence (I remember it well).
So, I played a few other games half-heartedly on Kizi, noticing that the games themselves may change but many are along the same lines as the ones I would play deep into the morning hours, high on sugar and caffeine at a vast number of sleepovers with a good friend of mine in my youth.
On the plus side, I more recently found a game from PBS (yay public services!) that challenges players to create routes for these little creatures called Fidgits, as they drop from a pipe on the top of the screen, and need to reach a bin on the bottom of the screen.
Disclaimer: I have fairly poor spatial reasoning. It takes me far longer than I think it should in order to determine what a flat shape would look like if folded into a 3-D object.
So some people may find this game boring, but I appreciated the trial and error of placing objects and getting a feel for how the Fidgits would interact with them in order to meet my end goal.
These games are great because players learn critical thinking, spatial reasoning, and problem-solving. I played their other game, which involves creating a city that doesn’t flood. It was informative in a way, but I would say that it lacks in that trial-and-error factor that this Fidgit game does. At any point in creating my route I could see what would happen when the Fidgits fell, and adjust accordingly. This is a great game to get kids started in thinking critically and solving problems, and of course I love it because it came from PBS’ Design Squad which is a great making site!
PBS Kids. (2016). Designit, Buildit, Fidgit [Web-game]. Retrieved from: http://pbskids.org/designsquad/games/fidgit/index.html