Author Archive

Paper and Pencils Are Old School When You Have iPads in the Classroom

by Published: Jul 8, 2010

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. _ At Monte Vista Christian School, his­tory text­books could soon be a relic of the past. Ditto for tomes on biol­ogy and English lit­er­a­ture. And spiral-bound note­books and pens _ who needs them?

They’re so old school when you have a 16GB iPad, and Monte Vista has 60 of the lat­est must-have tech­nol­ogy from Apple for use in class­rooms. The iPads were intro­duced Thursday to advanced place­ment stu­dents who will par­tic­i­pate in a pilot project. If all goes well, Headmaster Stephen Sharp antic­i­pates replac­ing heavy and expen­sive text­books with cheaper, inter­ac­tive e-versions. (more…)


Eight Toys That Should Never, Under Any Circumstances, Be Turned Into Video Games

by Published: Aug 26, 2009

In the old days, big block­buster movies would be turned into cheap col­lectible glasses that would come with your meal at McDonald’s. These glasses were fun to drink milk out of through Krazy Straws, but they even­tu­ally wound up being shat­tered in the dishwasher.

Then, as mankind evolved and we put a man on the moon and color on our tele­vi­sions, movies got turned into ter­ri­ble video games (see: every video game made before “Spider-Man 2”). Eventually, as time passed, movies got turned into some­what decent video games (see: “Spider-Man 2”).

Then, as more time passed, we entered a Second Dark Age, when movies got turned into bad video games again (see: “Superman Returns”). Then some­thing strange hap­pened; in a bizarre role-reversal, video games actu­ally began get­ting turned into ter­ri­ble movies (see: “Doom,” “Silent Hill,” “Resident Evil”).

Still more time passed. Things got really odd when rides at amuse­ment parks started get­ting turned into movies and then got turned into video games (see: “Pirates of the Caribbean”).

Now, almost a decade into the new mil­len­nium, it seems any­thing can become a movie or a video game or a TV show or a hit pop/rock song. Yes, it’s offi­cial: The world is com­pletely out of ideas. And when the world is out of ideas, theturns nos­tal­gic and begins to steal ideas from the past. That way, instead of invent­ing any­thing new (which is very, very, very hard), it can take some known prop­erty and pre­tend to give it some grav­i­tas.
I am a full-time gamer, but I am also a part-time activist. I want to pro­tect the past from being exploited. Thus, here’s a list of toys that I have declared totally off-limits, and shipped to an undis­closed loca­tion in New Jersey so that the world never has to endure their inevitable video game tie-ins.

7. Furby

Background: The fuzzy lit­tle faux-sentient gad­get looked and acted like an ine­bri­ated Gremlin with a frontal lobot­omy.
Famous for: Scaring own­ers by wak­ing them up in the pre-dawn dark as the cursed piece of crude elec­tron­ics began invol­un­tar­ily began speak­ing in “Furbish.”

Why it should never be a game: The CGI intro movie alone –of Furbies speak­ing Furbish to one another in their cute Furby vil­lage — makes me dou­ble over and hold my stom­ach and cry hot tears of misery.

6. Slinky

Background: The lit­tle bedspring-that-could was invented by a naval engi­neer in the ‘40s.

Famous for: Walking down­stairs, alone or in pairs; mak­ing a “slin­kety” sound; get­ting tan­gled up so severely that it had to even­tu­ally make its slin­kety sound in the near­est trash can.

Why it should never be a game: I can already imag­ine the pitch meet­ing: “Use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk attach­ment to ‘walk’ the Slinky through the game world.” I can also imag­ine, very clearly, the impend­ing apoc­a­lypse. BOOOOOOM.

5. Rubik’s Cube

Background: Erno Rubik cursed the world in the ‘70s with this six-faced, evil-cube puz­zle. Fun Fact That I Just Made Up: No mat­ter where you are, there are at least two Rubik’s Cubes within a six-foot radius of you at all times.

Famous for: Aiding young chil­dren in their abil­ity to invent new, cre­ative ways to use expletives.

Why it should never be a game: Adding arms and legs to Pac-Man for his ani­mated series and sub­se­quent video games = ter­ri­ble idea. Adding arms and legs to a Rubik’s Cube and giv­ing it a lousy English accent = another ter­ri­ble idea.

4. Lite-Brite

Background: Invented in the ‘60s, this toy was designed to help chil­dren who were just plain ter­ri­ble at mak­ing orig­i­nal arts and/or crafts.

Famous for: Tiny mul­ti­col­ored pegs that would mag­i­cally get lost until you only had about 100 greens left.

Why it should never be a game: No video game could ever match the aes­thetic sat­is­fac­tion of pop­ping a tiny plas­tic peg through a black sheet of paper while a radioac­tive bulb bathes your face in cancer-making rays.

3. Etch A Sketch

Background: Invented in the ‘50s by a French elec­tri­cian, the Etch A Sketch has been the toy of choice for any­one in the mood to draw a very square, very crude dog.

Famous for: With the dual knobs on the front of the unit, the Etch A Sketch bore a strong resem­blance to a tele­vi­sion set that only showed one pro­gram, called “Here Is Another Poorly Drawn Square Dog.”

Why it should never be a game: With IMs, texts, emoti­cons and $4.99 Hallmark cards being the pre­ferred way to com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers nowa­days, the abil­ity to make ter­ri­ble draw­ings has lost all social relevance.

2. Spirograph

Background: Like the Lite-Brite, the Spirograph was also cre­ated to assist chil­dren who pre­ferred mak­ing cool, intri­cate designs instead of doing any­thing truly orig­i­nal or creative.

Famous for: Heavy mar­i­juana users are the world’s biggest con­sumers of Spirograph artwork.

Why it should never be a game: Developers could try to turn this toy into a bona-fide video game, but our guess is that the results would look almost exactly like one of those “self-drawing lines” screen savers from the ‘90s.

1. Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces

Background: This 1975 toy from Kenner fea­tured a bald pup­pet who had the beau­ti­ful, mis­un­der­stood, long­ing eyes of an actor work­ing in a Midwestern pro­duc­tion of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

Famous for: His col­lec­tion of eye­wear (mon­o­cle included), and beards in var­i­ous states of bushi­ness. Everything was applied with a nox­ious, pearl-colored glue that bore a strik­ing resem­blance to Nutty Putty.

Why it should never be a game: Hugo is an enigma wrapped in a rid­dle housed in a cheap pup­pet. While it’s tempt­ing to give Hugo his own game, we still very much pre­fer the mystery.