Skylanders: Playing with Magic

AK asks: “My 8 yr old son is just dying to play a video game called “Skylander”.  My first impression after about 1 minute of looking at a you tube trailer online for it was that it was “new age”. . .

“You have an animal (that looks pretty scary) that you place on the ‘portal of power’ and ‘you bring the animal to life’. The site says “they look like toys but are alive on the inside”. They also mention that that they are fighting to protect their magical land from an evil one etc. Besides that it looks a little violent…although it’s cartoon animals they are fighting. At least not violent like some video games where they kill humans.  BUT, it’s still violent. I would like your input on this game. Do you think it is OK or too new agey?   

“Also, any advice on how to tell him he can’t play the game if we come to that conclusion. He was absolutely hysterical about it…(it’s the NEW thing that all the boys want to play around here)  I always hear about these kids that were sheltered too much and go crazy when they get older doing all of the wrong things.  Then I watch shows like the Duggar’s (19 kids and counting) where the kids say things like  “our parents are so wise, they know what is best for us.”  I wish my son would say that.  Instead he’s just mad and is just trying to tell me that Skylanders is not about magic etc. Any advice/input would be appreciated.”

My heart goes out to you AK. I can just imagine how hard it is to tell a child that he can’t have the most popular toy in school, but parents who are not afraid to do so – with patience and love – end up earning the respect of their children somewhere down the road.

All of the points you make in your e-mail are concerning to me about this new game known as Skylanders. It just another one of those toys, like Beyblades, that has a questionable back story that could confuse a child if they delve too deeply involved into the background of the game.

In the case of Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure, as it’s officially called, this is supposedly an entertainment breakthrough in video gaming because it allows players to transport real-world toys into virtual worlds of adventure through the “Portal of Power™.”

According to the Feb. 2011 press release, “These ‘toys with brains’ can come to life inside the game in connection with multiple gaming platforms, as well as on handheld gaming devices, mobile devices and on the web. . . . This marks a wholesale change in the interaction between toys and video games, opening up new possibilities and revenue streams for both industries.”

The game supposedly creates a whole new genre “that bridges the gap between the real and virtual worlds.”

No wonder it’s so popular. It really is a very innovative idea.

But the problem is not with the technology, it’s with the back story.

This is how the website explains it:

“For generations, the Skylanders have used their magical powers and weapons to protect Skylands. But now, an evil tyrant has frozen them into toys and banished them to Earth. Only you can put them on the Portal of Power and bring them back to life in their world to save Skylands forever.

“The Skylanders figures remember their in-game experiences and upgrades. Each toy is uniquely different based on their game play. This allows kids to build a special relationship with them as they develop their skills and characteristics.”

As you can read in this blog about the difference between Christian and occult-based fantasy, the presence of magic in a story isn’t a problem as long as the magic is not used in a morally neutral way, i.e., both the good and bad characters use it. Whenever magic is presented as a good, which it appears to be in the Skylander story line, there’s a problem.  

Children may be able to use this game without becoming too involved in the story line, but it’s there and a parent should be aware of it before deciding whether or not to expose their child to it.

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