Playing nicely in the Sandbox

When the kids every born, I decided expose them to technology as early as possible. To have them use it day to day and understand that its an everyday part of life, which can be used for education and entertainment; a tool, rather than a privilege. This obviously had, and continues to have its own challenges and requires a patient and hands on approach, especially when playing together in a digital space. Sometimes their own natural curiosity and adaptability when it comes to using technology has not always made that easy.

Gaming was always going to part of how the kids used technology, and Pinky Pie’s desire to explore the world of Minecraft, due largely to interactions with children she attends school with, simplified the issue of finding age appropriate games that would not only let her explore her creative side but also provide an excellent way to help develop problem solving skills in a fun way.

For those that are unfamiliar with the game Minecraft, it s a procedural driven sandbox game, which is available on a variety of different platforms, from Xbox and Windows 10, to Playstation, Android and IOS devices.  (The mobile device version of the game does not have the same features and capabilities of the Desktop and console versions, but the core game modes are present, and its still quite a fun little game.)

It allows it’s players to  explore a world, gather resources and use those resource to build equipment and structures. I’m still learning this crafting skills and while I like to fancy that I built my self a quite a nice little survival bunker, I am reliability informed that what I have essentially built  is a cave with a door on it (children can be so cruel at times).

There are a number of different modes, to suit various tastes, these include Survival and Adventure modes (where you can play through maps created b y the online community). There is also a creative mode, where you have access to all of the possible resources and buildable items, but there is no risk of be eaten or attacked by any of the animals or monsters which roam the game.

As the kids both have iPad mini’s and frankly I got sick of having to share the xbox, I installed Minecraft pocket edition on both devices and gave them a quick tutorial on how to use the mobile version of the game.

Pinky Pie leapt into the world with much excitement and enthusiasm, creating over time, in creative mode, massive structures, citadels, structure of awe and wonderment, and then proceeded to fill these structures pieces modern art, paying homage to that most aloof and ambivalent of household gods…..the cat….MILO !!!! PRAISE BE THE LORD OUR CAT !!!!

Groot, also playing in creative mode, preferring to explore the world, above and below, (In a couple of instances digging through to the bottom of the world and falling into open space….score one for the flat earth society or as we like to call them today…the US Republican Party); also experimenting with the various resources, equipment and wildlife that could be accessed.

There were 2 thing I did not know about the Minecraft pocket edition. First there is TNT, the explosive, which in creative mode was readily available in limitless quantities and secondly it is possible for one table user use to enter and interface with the world of another tablet users when connected to the same WIFI network.  What do these 2 things have in common ?? Well dear reader let me tell you.

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon, the kids where entertaining themselves, playing Minecraft in seperate rooms…when suddenly a simultaneous cry of excitement and horror…followed my Pinky pie screaming …….GONE ITS ALL…. ITS ALL GONE…..MILO IS GONE  !!!!!!!!!

It turns out, that Groot had entered Pinky’s world and found her largest set of structures  and had then proceeded to deploy several dozen crates of TNT throughout, placing them close enough together that the explosion caused by one, would cause the dentation off the next and the next and …well you get the idea……….it was, what  Groot confidently assured me was “The Coolest Explosion Ever!!”

After I calmed Pinky Pie down and explained that Groot didn’t understand that he was destroying her world, and everyone had sufficient time in their corners…..we sat down together and figured out what had happened.

During the post-mortem, we collectively decided that we would keep to our seperate sandboxes with out asking permission first, and that if we were going to share a sandbox we would play together and in the same physical space.…I now keep my iPads backup in case of future “incidents” …. Its a brave new world I guess, as a parent I will have problems and challenges that my parents never had to deal with, but the more things change the more they stay the same… long as no one desecrates the statues of the household God!

Building a Better World…One Brick at a Time.

I love Lego games…more accurately, I love the idea of lego games, as do Pinky Pie (8) and Groot (5) . Groot’s barely contained excitement and antipation as the game installs, has him bouncing off things and firing off questions about who he can play as and what he has to do, at a rate that often makes me wonder if he is breathing through gills.

The Excitement soon fades, to be replaced with frustration as he struggles to progress through the prescribed, story arc. ” I need help”… small and thoroughly disheartened voice cries out…. “DAD TO THE RESUCE” …I cry, as I stride over to the couch with a completely overinflated sense of my own ability, a feeling which, disappears rapidly as I discover that I have no more of an idea about what I’m suppose to be doing, than does Groot.  Pinky Pie keenly observing all of this, offers helpful advice  but not long after, we collectively give up and play Forza Instead. (if you ever wondered how much damage you can to the  Australian Outback in a Lambo, keep an eye out for some game footage I’ll post of Pinky Pie at the wheel !!!)….  “why can’t we just run around and build things and fight bad guys dad ?” ask  Groot….” I don’t know son….I just don’t know”



Travellers Tales, subsidiary of Warner Brothers Interactive, have been bringing us Lego games, based around our favourite movies  since 2005s. 2017 see’s a departure from this with the release of Lego Worlds, a single or multiplayer sandbox platform which lets your imagination run wild as you explore and craft worlds in your own image. This game is available on PS4, Xbox one and via steam.

It is a free play style game as with most sandboxes, but there are quests you can complete on the worlds, which reward you with a variety of different rewards, There are “studs”, which are the standard in game currency of the Tt games, franchises, as well as gold bricks which you accumulate to level up and unlock new worlds to explore. As well as special Lego pieces or objects. There are also treasure chests, which spawn randomly around the world, many of which, you need to use the landscape tool in order to get to. They could be buried  far under ground or on at the top of a mountain.

There are NPC’s around which will give you quests to complete, and plenty of special items to discover which adds to your repository of items…everything from  dinosaur bones to a horse and carriage can be scanned and replicated.

The initial tutorials progress you through the use of the various tools at your disposal which will let you shape the worlds you explore, buy giving you one tool at a time and then providing a series of quests in which you much use that tool to complete the quest and again your reward, before unlocking the next tool.

These tools allow you to reshape the landscape, cut and paste objects and structures, paint the world, or build things one brick at a time, using brick shapes you collect during your adventure.This is a multi player platform which lets you visit the worlds other people have created and lets you create and populate your own worlds and share them with other people.

At the time of writing this I have not had a chance to try out the online play, however the general feed back on the single player mode, from Pinkie Pie and Groot was extremely positive. A game that lets them each focus on their strengths and preferences for playing in sandbox environments, I except to see massive complex structure including many statues in praise of Milo, our Tokenise…(or as he likes to think if himself…our household god !) Groot will need to a little more practice with the some of the tools but that didn’t stop him from thoroughly enjoying himself.

All in all we each had at lot of fun with game and look forward to seeing what worlds we will forge.


When big brands make love: Lego Star Wars and ‘The Force Awakens’

The marketing department assigned to Star Wars is probably as large as The First Order, and merchandise is a big part of Disney’s plan for galactic domination. So  it’s no real surprise we have a new Lego Star Wars game to go with the latest movie.

Most serious Star Wars fans by now will have seen ‘The Force Awakens’. By June, those who are content to watch it at home on DVD will probably have had their chance to see it too. That means by the middle of the year, the plot of ‘The Force Awakens’ will be as well known as the weak spot on the Death Star. Throw in the bonus of most US schools being on vacation, and June 2016 seems a reasonable time to launch Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Retelling the Star Wars stories with their signature quirky humour, the Lego Star Wars games are among the most played games on our XBox 360.  Jetite has conquered all the existing games, and unlocked a staggering amount of characters – including  Indiana Jones. The Lego Clone Wars game was also our first attempt at playing something like an RTS against each other. 

As a parent, the Lego Star Wars games have a lot going for them.

  • They’re easy to pick up and play – which means even non-gamers in the family can join in the fun.
  • Cartoon style combat, no bad language and no (obvious) adult themes – makes them suitable for a wide range of ages.
  • Adult ‘in jokes’  – although sometimes quite subtle,  there’s more humour to these games than just the slapstick stuff that makes the kids laughing out loud.

Which brings us to the trailer for the new game. It really does suggest the latest instalment to the Lego Star Wars franchise will be sticking to the formula they know works – poking fun at the movie.

But what about Disney Infnity? Isn’t there a Force Awakens game for it too?

Yes, indeed there is.


And I’ll admit to being a little surprised to see two games going after what I assume will be pretty much the same market.  I can only assume that when Lego rocked up with a bag full of money to buy the licence for the latest game, Disney felt confident they wouldn’t be cannibalising their Infinity product.  It’s even possible the  June 2016 launch for Lego was imposed by Disney, creating a six month window in which Infinity ‘Force Awakens’ could promote itself without competition. 

When Lego finally launch in June, Star Wars buzz will be well past its peak. It’s going to be interesting to see if the strength of the Lego brand, and the legacy of its previous Star Wars games, will be enough to make the game a commercial success. 

A Brave New World.


Daughter (Aka. Pinky Pie….Age 6.): “What game is that Dad  ?”

Son (Aka. Groot..Age 3): “Who is that that guy…what he do ?”

Pinky Pie: “Did you just shoot those people ?”

Groot: “Are they people or robots ?”

Both: “Can I have a turn ?”

ME: “It’s called Destiny…he’s a guardian….yes I did shoot them….their aliens….no you can’t, this isn’t for kids….wait a second……Why aren’t you two in bed.? you know what time it is ??….and how long have you been standing there ????…get into bed before your mother catches us and I get into trouble !!!!!!”

I’m a gamer, that said, I’m never going compete in tournaments, or get my name in the paper. My gaming skills have been rated as “Solid”,  by the  20 something, hardcore gamers in my extended family, which basically means when it comes to gaming I’m a firm “C”…maybe a soft “B”, if their feeling generous.

Gaming was always something my kids were going to be exposed to and get interested in.  Although for some reason I thought they would be older when it happened. In retrospect I have no idea why I thought that, but i did. So when this conversation happened at age 6, I was surprised.

Pinky Pie: “how do you play minecraft ?….. can i install it on my ipad “?

What I thought: “How does she even know what minecraft is ????……Can you even get it on an iPad…..I have no idea how to play…..”

What I said:  “Sure honey, its bed time now though, how about we have a look tomorrow, okay ?”

Satisfied with that answer, Pinky Pie, twirled away and off to bed, and I went off in search of  my iPad and youtube.

This was a new dimension to the one of the problems a first world parent….I had up until this point been primarily concerned  with the suitability of the  content they were exposed to when watching television or movies, but suitable content in gaming, both on console and mobile devices was something I had not thought, I would have to deal with at this age. What is appropriate content  and what is available out there for kids of this age ? and how can I share the gaming experience with them in a responsible way ?

So now I have begun a journey through the world of gaming for kids as a responsible adult. I cant be alone in feeling a little unsure and more than just a little overwhelmed at the shear volume of content available these days. I think there are too many choices when it comes to gaming for myself, so one of the goals of this site is to share my experiences and hopefully it will provide some useful information to you and other parent who like me, stand like a dear in headlights when your child comes home from school and tells you all about this game that their friend told them about and can they play Terraria too ???…”Please Dad…. can  I ???? ….PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE !!!!!!!”

I miss pacman.