As crazy as it may sound in 2018, a humble sheet of cardboard could be the solution to one of the biggest problems facing games today.
For those of you unlucky enough to catch the ill-informed, sensational A Current Affair segment which branded Epic’s Fortnite: Battle Royale “addictive” and “violent”, proceeding to ‘explore’ the idea that it could lead to an “unhealthy obsession”.
Now it’s no secret that there are plenty of resources out there, the story even closes with Dr Phillip Tan providing advice around healthy digital diet plans. Additionally, my go to recommendation to friends and family with children, Martine Oglethorpe’s The Modern Parent has a wealth of information – fortuitously, the latest article on the site is a parent’s guide to Fortnite. So with all this information out there, how is cardboard our strongest tool?
A couple of days ago I had a few hours of hands on with Nintendo’s latest innovation, Labo – a product that allows you to turn a simple piece of cardboard into almost anything. As I sat there building and decorating the RC Car x2, one fifth of the Nintendo Labo Variety Kit, I was left speechless – something for anyone that knows me, is no mean feat.
Nintendo Labo transported me back to my youth. I had images of time spent with my parents, drawing top down views of cities on printer paper to give me a city to ‘drive’ my Matchbox cars around and the countless hours building epic ships with my brother and father from the random assortment of LEGO bricks we had collected over two generations of Van Daals. It wasn’t just the time spent doing these things – it was the engagement with my parents over the passion I had for these toys and their opportunity for them to relate to me on this, and that’s what Nintendo Labo does, in my opinion, better than any game to date.
Nintendo Labo is squarely aimed at gamers aged 9 through 14. Even if you ignore the fact that Nintendo has arguably the best parental control system and UI. Even if you ignore the fact that using Nintendo Labo’s software you can create your own game that utilises its mix of cardboard, reflective tape and coding to create almost anything. Even if you ignore the fact that the mix of software and hardware open limitless STEM and STEAM opportunities. Nintendo Labo does one thing really, really, well – it affords parents an opportunity to sit with their children and foster an open dialogue around their children’s gaming passions, just like I did over paper and LEGO with my parents almost two decades ago.
This philosophy of parental involvement is woven through the fabric of the game. Nintendo Labo’s perfectly crafted build instructions advise players to reach out to parents when cutting is required end encourages players to one up their build designs when an inevitable fix is required – if only I could have solved the mystery rattle inside my PS1 controller with tape and extra cardboard after jettisoning it across the room during my tribulations at the hand of Abe’s Oddysee.
Now that my sense of bewilderment has died off and I have had a couple of day’s to think of this – in an age of 4K gaming and VR/AR, Nintendo’s decision to invest in cardboard is, well frankly, genius, and we will all be better off for it.