For the past two months, Saturdays at the Lindke household have followed this basic schedule. Get up early and watch video game walkthrough videos by K-wing and K-wife with History and Mystery. Have a nice breakfast, take the twins to soccer practice, get in the car to come home, and…then comes the query.
“Can we play Skylanders? But first…can we get a new guy on the way home who has (x) swap ability?”
Activision’s Skylanders game has taken the Lindke household by storm, just like it has so many others. As I see it, the secret to Skylanders‘ success is due to three primary factors:
1) It’s an engaging platformer that has a difficultly level appropriate for 6-year olds that features a compelling story.
2) It utilizes RFID technology to allow players to swap their characters by changing which action figure is on the “Portal of Power” at a given moment.
As a parent, I am particularly impressed by the use of RFID action figures in the game. One of the worries that a parent has when he or she lets children play video games is that the playing time will suppress creative “free play time” with structured narrative entertainment. By providing action figures that kids can play with long after the game has been turned off and the story completed, Skylanders facilitates storytelling and fantasy play by those kids who play the game. Since Skylandia is a great cross between Animatoonville and the Savage Worlds Burning Skies setting, there is a deep and rich atmosphere from which to create new stories…not to mention that there are over 80 different characters that can be played in the game. Additionally, since the interstitial animated narrative sequences in the game don’t feature the player’s avatars — and instead feature Non-Player Characters who hang out with the PCs — there is room for kids to create their own dialogue that isn’t as open as it is in pure avatar story games.
Now I have another reason to be happy with Activision about their plans for Skylanders. This fall IDW Publishing will be publishing the first-ever Skylanders comic-book series, penned by renowned comic-book writer Ron Marz (who can hopefully refrain from any Women in a Refrigerator moments since this will be a kids book). Mike Bowden and David Baldeon will be the lead artists on the project. The first issue of the new comic will be a prequel to the Skylanders Trap Team™ storyline and will provide fans an inside look at where some of their favorite Skylanders came from, and even gives them a first look at a few all-new characters from the upcoming game.
Skylanders has a deep catalog of characters to choose from, but if Marz and crew follow the pattern set by the video game’s narrative instead of a “gotta tell a story about them all” approach it should provide some great entertainment.
IDW will be launching at Comic-Con International: San Diego 2014 with Skylanders #0 which will feature an introductory 16-page story as well as character guides and additional back-up information. The issue will be launched in both print and digital during SDCC weekend.
“We are thrilled to be combining Skylanders, the pioneer of the toys to life video game genre, with IDW, one of the industry’s leading comic-book publishers in the U.S.,” saidAshley Maidy, vice president of global licensing and partnerships at Activision. “The comic-book series will offer fans a glimpse into the backstories of their favorite Skylanders characters, expanding on the universe that they’ve embraced so enthusiastically in the franchise’s short history. To explore the world of Skylands beyond the game is an opportunity we know our fans have long been awaiting, and we couldn’t be more excited to see this manifested through a comic series.”