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The Insidious Nature of Interactivity.

webkinz-pink-dog Yeah, that sounds bad. But come along for a few minutes because I got Webkinz over here, and we need to talk.

So I was talking to a friend the other day. This friend had a kid and that kid wanted Webkinz like you wouldn't believe. Standard thing - kids want the toys the other kids have. Nothing new or bad about that. What got me was once he started talking about Webkinz. So I did a bit of digging, wondering if these things could be as horrible and strange and decidedly wrong as they first seemed.

They're possibly worse.

If you somehow don't know Webkinz they're been around since 2005, released by Ganz. They're stuffed toys with a twist. Not an M. Night Shyamalan twist, but something far worse. Each Webkinz comes with a secret code that can be used on the website to create a profile and play games and do stuff. 

Of course that account only lasts a while, and to keep an account active you have to buy more toys.

Yeah. Really.

Webkinz-logo And on the surface of it that isn't a problem for me. Look, if you want to make money by turning the concept of stuffed toys into a collector's mindset for children, where the kids only want moremoremore so they can use your website? Well, you want to make money and being a drug dealer is a viable choice, I guess.

No. That's not my issue.  My issue is that the toys promote a lack of imagination.  You can shake a stick at TV and blame it, or the internet in general or whatever you like but I am aiming it squarely at things like Webkinz. I grew up on TV and movies and all of it, myself. But those were turned off at some point and I went to play with my toys.

And with my toys I made my own shit up.  A toy car could become anything from a vehicle stolen by aliens to a ride for an undercover spy. Even a Yoda figure could become a trucker. True story, that. I had a Hess truck and Yoda fit inside. I also had another Star Wars vehicle and Darth Vader fit in it so Yoda had to become a trucker to fit the evil of the universe.

But Webkinz? Man they give you a toy and they give you what it is and then tell you the stories of the fucking thing and take you to the website and all these games and crap to buy (but your toy virtual clothes or food or whatever and give us money to do it!) and where's the kid supposed to play here?

There's a bit of it, I guess, but it's locked down a lot tighter just by the amount of stuff provided. When playing with your toys limits your imagination I call foul. I call foul for the future of the human race.

Who will create the next stories? Who is going to invent the next level of interactive that steals the imagination from future generations if we leech it from the kids today? How can we hope to really get deeply innovative stuff if we smack it down when they're kids and tell them that the whole story is already there. All they have to do is drop some coin for it. No muss, no fuss and certainly no thinking.

Is this really a toy we want to give to kids?

I have a friend, not the same one as mentioned previously (yeah, I got more than one friend, for real) who Webkinz-splash-page gave her kids light sabers.  You know what happens if you're a good parents and give yer kids light sabers? You all have light saber fights and play and it isn't all about a story laid out but rather expanding that and becoming it and telling stories and inventing and playing!

Can't do that with a website that feeds you the information by the spoonful. You simply can't. Or, well, you can but the climb uphill is steeper and we should make it easier to allow kids to flex that muscle of imagination, not harder.

So please, don't but these things for kids. Go to an etsy shop, maybe, and buy them an even cooler stuffed toy no one else has. It'll make them the cooler kid, anyway, and give them something to invent. Because if we don't strike at this now I don't know when we can.

Maybe I'm over-reacting. You tell me. What do you think about Webkinz, guys? Talk to me and let's reason at this together.






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Comments

Jen O.

I can't ztand Webkinz. First of all, that'z not a word. Don't go making wordz up like that. And uzing a 'z' instead of an 's' is just confuzing for little kidz trying to learn how to read. If I'm going to let my kidz play on the internetz, there are plenty of gamez that are not only more entertaining and more educational, but alzo FREE.

Pluz, I think the animalz themzelvez are kind of ugly.

Adam P. Knave

it'z all zrue!

Dawn

My daughter has a pink poodle webkinz (same one as in the photo) but because I am a lazy (read: bad mommy), I never told her about the on line game stuff; she just thought it was a cute pink poodle. And played with it as such. For the record: it was a birthday gift and she was...2? Maybe? Eh. And damn, we have lost the code thingy stuff so whatevs. So that is my secret: lose stuff.

Adam P. Knave

See that works for me! That's awesome, I wondered if people did that!

Silver

[makes sign of cross. backs away] No. Webkinzzzz.

Adam P. Knave

We hates them precioussss.

Apryl's Antics

Okay, I'm gonna step out on a limb here and say I don't mind them so much and if I don't *like* them, it's really more in a beanie baby way in that they tend to clog up the universe with crappy collectible stuffed animals. My kids play the trivia (which is actually quite educational) to earn money and buy things like food and furniture. There's some learned responsibility involved making sure your pet is healthy, fed, and kept happy.

One more thing: I've been shocked at some of the ads on game websites aimed at the 7-10 set and webkinz keeps it clean.

bj

yeah, definitely overreacting.

diamondcait

There are A LOT of those toys that try to lure children onto the interwebs. In our house, the evil that is Barbie is just starting to make itself known, as is the Littlest-Giant-Headed-Petshop. You can go online and join their clubs! Gah! What's wrong with legos? (Except the stepping on them part)

Melissa

We have webkinz. Embarrassingly many, in fact. And while I admit I was not excited to have them in my home at first, they have been good for my kids. I have 4 kids (ages 10, 9, 7 and 5) and only the oldest regularly gets online to play. All four kids sleep with them, bring them in the car and carry them on walks in the neighborhood. My kids have created "voices" for all of them, incorporating the sounds the animal would make with talking. They webkinz play board games and card games with my kids. They jump on the trampoline together. They put on plays and create videos with them. I have never seen them act out any of the games from the internet in real life. My kids LOVELOVELOVE computers and video games, and I think the excitement of getting to see their "friends" online got them interested, but falling in love with the animals has facilitated more imaginative play than I could have ever dreamed.
I'm OK with the webkinz. (Stupid spelling aside.)

Chelle

What I like are the daily gambling-style wheel spins and Video Lottery Terminal-esque feel to the whole thing in general.

And by "like" I mean "damn the establishment!!"




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