Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster
© 2011 Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Teaches: Classification, large motor coordination, collaborative play, socialization
Sound the trumpets and jump for joy -- in this case literally -- in front of your Xbox Kinect controller. Somebody finally has used Sesame Street characters in a video game. And the results are stunning, in part because they break new ground in the area of how children interact w...
Sound the trumpets and jump for joy -- in this case literally -- in front of your Xbox Kinect controller. Somebody finally has used Sesame Street characters in a video game. And the results are stunning, in part because they break new ground in the area of how children interact with computers. The designers are not a group of educational game designers. Instead, this game came from an extremely non-educational company, called Double Fine, best known for games that the ESRB says are not for children. See for example, Brütal Legend. This time, Double Fine has taken on an even harder-to-please audience -- preschoolers. After you log into your Xbox account (required in order to bookmark your progress) a storybook is introduced by Elmo and friends, and you are shown how you can turn pages with a slow wave of your arm. To jump into the page to play an activity, you move both arms slowly as if doing a slow breast stroke. This takes some getting used to, but our testers were soon able to figure it out, in part because many of the screens directly mirror your body position. You quickly discover that there's something on each page that asks you to do a different activity. This includes jumping through an obstacle course (jumping, ducking and leaning left or right), growing a garden by tossing seeds and squirting a hose, flying through a maze by flapping your "wings," dancing, pulling weeds, and calling out your name, to have it recorded by the Kinect microphone. At any point, you can step out of view of the Kinect camera to pause the game. If the Kinect spots another person, it seemlessly logs them in as a guest, assigning them the body of one of the monsters. This "pull you in by default" model of interactivity worked like a charm in Mediatech, where dozens of different kids walk by the Kinect camera every day, and it sets a new standard in the very important and often complicated logging in process. One drawback -- pointed out by Chris Crowell, a teacher, is that this product doesn't do much to reinforce learning, other than following instructions and promoting a LOT of physical movement. Most, if not all of the "academic" types of tasks are below the level of the intended audience. That said, this game offers a wonderful experience with something that doesn't find it's way into the school curriculum that frequently -- playing together cooperatively.