The most troubling quote in today’s NYT’s article, “Today’s Girls Love Pink Bows as Playthings, but These Shoot” is “toys that stimulate aggression are healthy for children.” To suggest that literal props like weapons are something to be valued (regardless of what color they are) puts the conversation about the value of play experiences back a few decades. Yes, kids have aggression and need outlets for expressing it, but making it part of their play diet with plastic weapons is not beneficial. Most child development experts would suggest art supplies and puppets as appropriate outlets for expressing emotions.
We have nothing against archery – but here the game play (inspired by mega hit The Hunger Games) is targeting other children, not a bullseye. There is a disconnect between the teen/adult audience of the books and movies and the 7-year-olds that are the intended consumers of these toys. While we happily support “girl power” when it comes to STEM toys that encourage girls to be all that they can be, this kind of role play perverts the concept of empowerment. Even in the universe from which these toys have come from, we doubt very much that Katniss would approve arming children her sister’s age with weapons.
I find it confusing to have toys for preschoolers where you make “food” but you can’t eat them – especially when they look so pretty. I get the whole pretend aspect of this toy and that many kids (including some of our testers) enjoy this product, but maybe because I was the kid that would have tasted it for sure, it makes me wonder about the wisdom of such a toy. While I do have a soft spot for Play-Doh extruder accessories, I generally prefer Play-Doh as an open-ended experience – after all, what’s better than making Play-Doh snakes?!
We don’t recommend point and shoot anything, real or virtual. But the idea that you could now have Call of Duty in the real world (with virtual play) made us pause.
This pitch came from a new company that will launch a new product called APPTAG. This new version of Laser Tag allows you to play via a download. Promoted as the “first real-world first-person shooter gun/game combo (it works with a free App so users can play immediately), will sell for $39.99 (single unit) and $74.99 (two-pack) starting in June (available online and in stores nationwide).”
The company sets their product apart: “What makes AppTag different from other laser blasters is that it uses high frequency sound to communicate between the blaster and the mobile device. This eliminates the need for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth - both of which are expensive to implement in toys, heavily consume batteries and are painful for kids to setup.”
Now here’s the best part according to the company: “Even better, AppTag also has an open SDK and its developer, Jon Atherton, expects some fantastic games from the development community in 2012! NOTE: the SDK is being made available for free to all App developers. Imagine over 1,000 people all playing together across an entire city, or 10-20 friends battling it out in a park! AppTag will allow for Real World First Person Shooter Games…it’s like Call of Duty in the real world!”
The company is raising funds on kickstarter. You can watch their video here.
Now if you think this is just some small start up, you should know that Laser Tag from Hasbro has also been upgraded this year with a new APP version. We weren’t allowed to take pictures at Toy Fair of the new version.
The APPTAG group has already received $31,120 – which exceeded their goal of $30,000.
We moved! Did you notice last year that there was no new Tickle Me Elmo? That’s because the Sesame Street license moved from Fisher-Price/Mattel to Hasbro, but not in time for Hasbro to roll out a new collection. In the absence of an Elmo novelty doll, last year Fisher-Price introduced Dance Star Mickey. He made our Platinum List. Our testers loved how he danced not to mention his ability to moonwalk!
This year, here’s what you’ll need to know:
1. It will be a battle of the Rock Star Mickey and Rock Star Elmo. We previewed both today.
Rock Star Mickey is pretty snazzy! He moves, he sings, he dances…and he can even do a Rock Star split (guitar in hand). Move over Mick Jagger! He is also interactive…teaching kids how to rock on! The demonstrator would not play along when it got to the split.
Rock Star Elmo is cute, although he doesn’t move the way Mickey does. But I think fans of Elmo will be happy to see him back. In his favor, he plays the drums, a tambourine and he also sings into a mic (all come with Elmo). There are also musical toys for your child that also magically sync with Elmo–so that your child can play a small guitar, a small keyboard or sing into a mic — and Elmo will be able to sing along. Rock Star Elmo will retail for $69.99 (the add on toys are $19.99 each).
We look forward to testing both. Both are planned for fall 2011 release.
2. Cookie Monster. Ok, I have to admit it…I LOVE Cookie Monster. I don’t really know too many people that don’t put Cookie Monster into the favorites category. This new interactive version, eats cookies. They disappear into his mouth and then the cookies will reappear in his backpack. He sometimes counts the cookies…that’s fun, but I have a sense just feeding him will be the big pay off.
So every year we kick off Toy Fair with a sneak preview at Mattel and Hasbro. The fair officially starts on Sunday at the Javits Center in NYC. So we’re all good…we’re catching up with the pr folks for Mattel. We were discussing how big our kids are (how did that happen?) …all is going very well. There is press event with Jeremy Piven for a new Hot Wheels launch. We are told to be quiet since there were lots of crews filming the event. We opted not to watch the event, but get straight to the toys!
So we start on our tour and then I for some unknown reason BASH into an easel with a sign on it. The sign falls. Yes, it was one of those moments that you wish you could take back…but you’re there…you just have to laugh it off. I know my brother has a photo of me –probably looking horrified and laughing. Oh well.
Tomorrow we begin Toy Fair with visits to both Mattel and Hasbro. This week our mail boxes are FULL of new toys vying for attention at this year’s fair.
This one got my attention: Ravensburger’s largest commercially available puzzle (according to the Guinness Book of World Records). Complete with 32, 256 pieces. It will measure 17′ x 6′ –so the family dining room table will be out of the question!
The puzzle features the artwork of the late Keith Haring. It weighs 42 pounds and comes with it’s own hand truck!
While we do have a general policy against toys that have aggressive themes and those that have projectile parts–each year we do bend the rules a bit for Star Wars. Why? Because I love Star Wars, it’s fantasy play, and at the end of the day good overcomes evil in the universe. Part of the fun of going to Toy Fair each year is to see the new toys in this category. The best news is that because of the Clone Wars cartoon–there’s a whole new generation of kids that love Star Wars. So much of pop culture is generational – so it’s pretty special when a series is able to span several generations of followers. It also means there will be new Star Wars toys for years to come!
This new AT-AT from Hasbro is over two feet tall.
Star Wars Imperial AT-AT (from Hasbro)
It will provide young Star Wars fans with a pretend setting. It comes with a small vehicle and one storm trooper. There are sound effects right from the movie–also very pleasing. There are projectiles that you should remove if you have young children at home so that no one aims at a little brother or sister (by accident, of course). For a complete review and shopping info, see our review. To watch our video, click here.
One of my favorite games when I was growing up was Operation.
The Original Operation
Something so pleasing about getting those little pieces out without the buzzer going off! I’m not really sure how well I did it–but the game remains a fun hazy childhood memory. It’s probably those memories that always make me perk up at Toy Fair when they unveil the new Operation games of the season.
Toy Story 3 Operation
So far we’ve received both the Shrek and the Toy Story 3 Versions. As my son Matthew pointed out this is not the first Shrek Operation — the folks at Hasbro confirmed that there was an earlier version to go with one of the first three movies. There is also a Buzz Lightyear–you’ll notice that this is the first break from the usual image of one large body image stretched out (a la on an operation table). You see all of Buzz Lightyear but now he’s in an action pose. Probably not earth shattering news–but worth noting. Each of these movie-based versions has you going after appropriately themed pieces accompanied by sound effects that go with their characters.
This just came in for testing and we’re eager to hear how kids react to it. Our first round of testers thought it was a lot like bouncing a tennis ball on a racquet – except here there is a very loud voice keeping score. Some of our more sly testers realized that they could “cheat” the machine by bouncing their hand on it a bunch of times. This only came into play when thoughts of beating a sibling’s score came into play. Here’s the demo from toy fair so that you can see the action. Our first round of testers didn’t like the fact you couldn’t turn the voice off or down.