Whenever people talk about kids and video games, you don’t often hear much said about being creative, but I was thinking today about all the ways video games enhance and support my eight-year-old’s creativity.
Take Angry Birds, for example. If you’re not into video games at all, Wikipedia tells you all about the phenomenon that is Angry Birds. In a nutshell, Angry Birds is an extremely popular puzzle-based video game that first debuted a few years ago as a game app for the iPhone. It’s grown a lot since then, and is now available for other mobile platforms as well as PCs.
Around here, it’s not just Dylan, my eight-year-old, who’s a fan of Angry Birds. Most days you’ll find both Dylan AND Daddy passing Daddy’s iPhone between them as they replay Angry Bird levels. They both wait for updates eagerly, and it’s always cause for celebration when an update appears in the App Store.
A few weeks ago, Dylan was thrilled to discover one of the vending machines outside a favourite Chinese vegetarian restaurant had changed its offerings: little Angry Birds “stuffies”. He now has three of them, and they occasionally get pulled out and played with in various Angry Birds scenarios.
And yes, there’s both creativity and hands-on, tactile, play going on when that happens.
But Dylan does even more with the whole Angry Birds concept.
Every night, after his bedtime reading, he has “drawing time” in bed. Armed with a lap desk, reams of paper, and a bag of Crayola Pipsqueak markers, most nights you’ll usually find him in bed designing and drawing Angry Birds “levels”.
We have a whole stack of these now (he’s been doing this for about three months, and he draws new levels at least four times a week, so that adds up to a whole lot of levels). I asked him to pick out one of his favourites for you:
It doesn’t end there, though. When Dylan finishes drawing a level, he calls my husband up to sit on the bed with him and they PLAY the level. Don’t ask me how they do this – despite the fact that I’m very fond of video games myself, Angry Birds has never enticed me enough to give up some of my time playing it.
All I know is, a whole slew of sound effects floats out from Dylan’s room, along with a ton of laughter (not exactly conducive to a sleepytime bedtime environment, I know …).
Dylan carries the whole Angry Birds thing even further: he’s built Angry Birds scenes out of LEGO. He’s recycled toilet paper tubes, cardboard boxes, scrap paper and other bits and pieces into new levels.
Basically, he’s built Angry Birds levels out of just about anything he can get his hands on. And once he’s done building the levels, he plays them.
The other day, while decluttering the house, I found a stash of plasticene I’d picked up at one time or another for some long-forgotten kids’ art project. Dylan was thrilled with my discovery.
“So, what are you going to make?” I asked. I pulled out a craft book on making things with plasticene that we had on our shelves. “How about a whale, like this? Or maybe a bee?”
“Nah,” he said. “I know what I’m going to make.”
You guessed it, didn’t you? Yes, Angry Birds.
Now he’s trying to figure out how to film an actual scene using one of his plasticene levels so he can upload it to YouTube …