My son, Lloyd, loves video games. He's four years old. My other two children enjoy them, but Lloyd's enamoured. His first love was Mario. Whenever he asks if we can deal Bowser another crushing blow, however, what he really means is that he wants to watch me; he can't do it himself.
The problem with traditional games is the controller, be it console pad or mouse. Lloyd is a little chap with little hands. You may as well hand him a dinner plate as a DualShock 3. While he yearns to monopolise the on-screen action, he's physically incapable of doing so. He crumples in frustration ever time he tries. It's baffling to Lloyd that the item he's lusting to hold - the controller - should be the very thing that scuppers his dreams of enabling Pac-Man to eat the blue ghosts. It doesn't make sense to him.
Never more. Apple sent me an iPad on loan a few weeks ago. Lloyd, as a result, is now the gamer his blooming brain imagined him to be. The tap-and-swipe interface for children's games is a revelation.
Lloyd knows how to touch things (watch any pestered parent dragging their youngster away from shelves in a supermarket for collaborative proof), and he had no problem understanding the concept of slicing through pomegranates with his fingers. The speed at which he became au fait with iPad's interface, in fact, was astonishing. Lloyd can now play games.
iPad has allowed Lloyd to interact with the content himself. While you can accesorise Robert the Robot on your PC, you have to do it with a mouse. The iPad version - the CBeebies website automatically detects the device on which you're viewing it - is controlled with touch. Which means Lloyd no longer needs me or my wife to help him create his pirate-caveman ensembles.
While the interface makes iPad more suitable for young children than traditional platforms such as PlayStation and Xbox, a format is nothing without games. Thankfully, enough of the content on the App Store is tailored to infants to justify the expense (warning: iPads aren't cheap). You'll find games based on Fireman Sam, Little Princess and more for just a few quid. If you don't want to spend anything at all, there are loads of free apps available for basic games such as matching pairs. Have a look at this LEGO 4+ thing. You make vehicles, slide models together and drive around unlocking new blocks. It doesn't cost a penny.
Lloyd's happy, then, but iPad isn't just for children. The amount of games on the App Store focused at adults has now increased to a point where I'm never stuck for something to play in the evening once everyone's trotted off to bed. Try the Room, Heroes of Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes (this is brilliant: I've somehow managed to drop more than 35 hours on it in the last few weeks), RAD Soldiers, Plants Vs Zombies and Azkend 2. Have a look at the App Store's game collections to get an idea of what's on offer for grown-ups.
Sony and Microsoft have made valiant efforts at creating family-friendly PlayStation and Xbox content with initiatives like Kinect and Move, but none of it works as well as kids' games on iPad. Little Lloyd will be happy to know I'll be instantly replacing my loan model with a personal one when it goes back to Apple. The cost of entry may be relatively high, but it's allowed my entire family to play games together and made one small boy very happy indeed.
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