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Parent Trap: Rewriting The Family Gaming Script With Pokémon Art Academy

Posted by Andy Robertson

Family Gamer's Andy Robertson gets his crayons out

What most parents think when you say the words “video game” and what gaming families enjoy are two very different things. Far from the shooting and high impact action many mums and dads assume are the driving force behind the hobby, video games actually offer experiences as creative, imaginative and interesting as any other media.

The challenge is how to bring bridge this parent-game perception gap. It’s important because to get families enjoying games together, they need to have a shared understanding of what they offer.

One approach here is to tell parents about games that offer experiences they don’t expect. Tell them about games like Let’s Catch where the narrative of the characters' lives is as much a part of the play-mechanic as the throwing and catching. Tell them about games like Mario Chase in Nintendo Land that take playground staples and give them a new twist in the living room. And of course tell them about games like Minecraft or Disney Infinity that open a door to creating new worlds.

However, far better than telling is showing, and here a clutch of Nintendo games make for fertile ground. Bringing the video game console back into the living room was unthinkable before the Wii made a big splash with families. Now with the Wii U, playing games like Wii Sports Club, Mario Kart 8 and Game & Wario offer engaging experiences for all ages. Before you know it, the whole family is drawn into playing.

Taking this a step further are a bunch of creative titles on the 3DS that edge us away from combat towards educational experiences. The original Art Academy, Flipnote Studio and Colors! 3D each offer genuine creative output for children and parents.

This month I’ve been putting that to the test with Pokémon Art Academy. As soon as the parents I talked to heard that it was a Pokémon game, they expected the drawing side to be secondary to the battling and collecting. However, as you’ll know if you've already tried it, Pokémon Art Academy offers as comprehensive a drawing lesson as you would find in school.

Watch someone work with the stylus to create a range of Pokémon-themed art and it is clear that real skill and technique is being developed here. This is all the more significant because of the Pokémon theme – it means that parents are less likely to assume other games are just about entertainment or fighting simply because of their familiar characters.

While things start at a low level so that players of all ages can make progress, the game soon opens out to offer a real challenge to players and artists of all abilities. In the families I've worked with, some have even been inspired to revisit skills they had forgotten they’d learnt at school.

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to helping families get more out of games, when progress is made they are always keen to benefit from what video games have to offer them. The Holy Grail here is to get parents leading the way in their family’s choices and play patterns. Games like Pokémon Art Academy seem to do this well.

That’s my experience with family gaming, but what is yours? Perhaps we could put together a list of the most surprising family games Nintendo has to offer? All those hidden gems that not only work with young players but engage us in unexpected ways and offer experiences we wouldn't now be without.

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User Comments (11)

TheWPCTraveler

#1

TheWPCTraveler said:

Now that I know that a Pokémon Art Academy can be made, I honestly wonder what a Mario Paint-style Pokémon game would bring. Actually, scratch that. Even Pokémon Composer would be fine!

I mean, it would be fun to have people share whatever music they created with the trumpets they are so enamored with.

cfgk24

#2

cfgk24 said:

I am totally for more creative art and music titles on Wii U and 3ds, also, more educational titles.
The Gamepad is so suited to a music sight reading and theory title. . I wish I was a Dev!

TheWPCTraveler

#3

TheWPCTraveler said:

@cfgk24 If they want me to throw whatever money I have at them, they better make an Art (and Music!) Academy for every Nintendo IP.

I could see it now, finally being able to draw Sonja, Ike and Marth all in the same frame. Whilst being able to listen to some piece I created using the Advance Wars soundfont set. Posing in Victorian-era London.
>Rides into the sunset with the Intelligent Systems banner in tow

Bisylizzie

#4

Bisylizzie said:

I was surprised, last night even, at how much progress I was making with this game/app...
I did GCSE Art, to compare, and never (that I remember) got taught skills in such an easy to pick up and use way. I liked Art, drawing, so that's why I chose it, and as it went on I regretted the choice, wished I had chosen something else, because I never felt like I would actually be able to improve, because of the way I learnt - I liked being able to work step by step in PAA, seeing each step being done as it went along, and being able to do it at my own pace.
I look at some of the older stuff I did in the app, messing around with the shading/etc briefly, and then some of the stuff I did last night, and there is a marked improvement - because of the way it teaches, because it is laid back, because the skills are easy to pick up...
But, yeah, long part over, I really like Pokemon Art Academy, glad I did make the jump and get it.

I wanna see more titles like this, on the 3DS especially, because I feel the type of "game" it is suits it, the being able to sit down and play and improve skills ~anywhere~.
A music one might be nice, like the sorts of instrument apps/programs you get (kinda like the Mario Paint one, or a bigger version of the one in WarioWare DiY, as that was a really basic one)

k8sMum

#6

k8sMum said:

I don't understand the idea that parents are clueless about video games. Have games developed in a void for the last 30 years? Are all gamers from past decades somehow brainwashed at a certain age so they don't remember holding a controller?

TheWPCTraveler

#7

TheWPCTraveler said:

@k8sMum Like it or not, a lot of people are simply apathetic about video games. It's not that they don't know, it's that they don't care.

Yorumi

#8

Yorumi said:

These games clearly demonstrate how terrible the public education system. When I was growing up I had art classes in elementary school, and took art one year as an elective in middle school. By that point I was still unable to draw and figured it's just one of those things you either have a talent for or don't and there's no real learning. Wrong. I'm now 30 and picked up art academy when they were offering it for club nintendo.

The lessons are so straight forward and easy there's no reason children can't do them and should be taught in some similar way. I just recently bought a set of quality colored pencils and a sketch book and am getting better all the time. 6 years of lessons in school as a kid, nothing, 3 months with this series of games and I'm drawing decent images and progressing more every day.

Iggly

#9

Iggly said:

I should probably pick up an XL someday because I can't draw on my 3DS. I definitely want Pokemon Art Academy, but there's many other games I want and I don't really like the inaccuracy of my 3DS' touchscreen.

Pokefanmum82

#10

Pokefanmum82 said:

I can't wait to get my hands on this game. I kind of hate that I have to wait until October. I wish games would get the same release date globally like they did for Pokemon X & Y. I get why they can't but it would be nice if they could.

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