Roughly six weeks ago, as you might have heard on a recent episode of The Shared Desk, a friend of ours — Lisa-Anne Moore — introduced me, Pip, and Sonic Boom to the new Activision game Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures. Sonic Boom was intrigued by the concept of this game, that concept being that at any point you can swap out characters within a game, all dependent on what you need at that moment. The Boom perked up, however, when she heard about a character named “Sonic Boom.”
Imagine her elation when she found the character of Sonic Boom was a girl.
From the Skylanders Portal Masters’ website, here’s Sonic Boom’s story:
Long ago, Sonic Boom took refuge high atop a mountain peak in the far reaches of Skylands, hoping to keep her griffin hatchlings safe. But despite her precautions, a devious wizard tracked her down and placed a wicked curse on the griffin eggs. Once hatched, the young hatchlings can live for only mere moments before they magically return to their shells… only to be hatched again in an endless cycle. Wanting to prevent such evil from happening to others, Sonic Boom joined the Skylanders and has trained her young to defend Skylands each time they are hatched.
In light of how toy makers stereotype girls, this makes me smile big.
How are toymakers stereotyping girls? If you were not one of the 3.7 million people who saw this video, take a moment:
And take a look at this search result for video games targeted for girls.
Seriously?! Cooking Mama 3?!?
Okay, so maybe girls want to play games that deal with virtual cooking, virtual child rearing, and virtual horse camps, but don’t we game to escape reality? And sure, there are games that feature strong characters out there that are women. Lara Croft. Resident Evil. The Femme-Sheppard option in Mass Effect. But as super-blogger Megan Howard points out, comic book and video game heroines tend to be less about getting the job done and more about being hyper-sexualized automatons. Like heavily-armed Victoria Secrets’ models. Before the comic book geeks tell me about Starfire’s propensity for sex — yeah, sure, I get that, but come on…
And as a dad of a little girl, it concerns me that my kid appears limited to her gaming to either “Imagine Babies” or armored anime girls that are lacking armor across two blatantly obvious targets…
That was before we at Case de Morris discovered Skylanders.
In her second week of playing, after spending the week telling us that she was going to be selecting Eruptor (picture the Hulk if he were made of molten rock and could spew lava) as her latest recruit, Sonic Boom surprised us by selecting Whirlwind. At first we wondered what was up as a winged unicorn was a big step away from a volcanic monster.
Then we started playing Whirlwind, and on leveling up the Boom picked up a “Rainbow Strike” power. Here’s where I cued up the cutesy-cutesy music because, yeah, Whirlwind is a girl and part-unicorn so rainbows have to be in here. So she can fly, and her horn shoots rainbows, strikes down enemies, heals her allies…
Wait. Hold on. She does what?
Turns out this half-unicorn-half-dragon is the Cleric of the Skylanders realm. You know, a Cleric — that throw-away “Why the hell are you in this campaign again?” character class that is standing over you right after an ogre ambush, asking “How’s that axe wound to the gut, Tex? Stings a bit, don’t it?” In one night, our own Sonic Boom turned Whirlwind into the most important character in her collection. She also gave Whirlwind a new nickname: Featherstrike. (She came up with that all on her own.)
And the more we play, the more we’re discovering that all the female characters of Skylanders are some serious ladies not to be trifled with.
This weekend, Pip and I celebrated five weeks of fantastic grades and behavior from the Boom by picking up for ourselves some Skylanders. Pip picked up Cynder, and I unboxed Hex.
Is she wearing a chain mail bikini? No. Is her upper chest doubling as a flotation device? No. Is she, at any point in this game, making me a sandwich? No.
Is she one of the most powerful of the Skylanders? Three words: Long. Range. Attacks.
It was halfway through my first level with Hex that I figured out I could take out a few baddies from a considerable distance. The more I leveled her up, the more distance her powers covered.
Comparing the ladies of Skylanders to the men made me truly appreciate the game on a whole new level. With air-tight writing and voicework, this game is a blast to play with the Boom; and we will both admit that after she goes to bed, Pip and I play because we enjoy it that much. On a parental level, I love that Activision and Toys for Bob went out of their way to make the details of this game appealing to both boys and girls. While the men breathe fire, fly with hydro-powered jet packs, and belly flop the bad guys, the women bring it with dark lightening strikes, undead magic, and tempest attacks. Finally, we got games that work for everybody, where girl characters aren’t pink, fluffy, big-eyed lintballs floating from adventure to adventure using the power of laughter to vanquish their foes. The girls of Skylanders are tapping kegs of whomp-ass and keeping it classy.
Now, we’re in a new week and quickly approaching a crossroads. We are short two elements — Fire and Life. The earlier mentioned Eruptor is a Fire element, and he’s got a lot of power. Who do we have representing the Life elementals?
And here’s what she can do…
My advice to the Boom? Go green.