It’s award season and there’s a new one on the block this year: the TOADY.
In case you haven’t heard of it yet (and I hadn’t until last night), TOADY stands for Toys Oppressive and Destructive to Young Children. Sponsored by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the TOADY is meant to bring attention to toys that "promote violence and/or precocious sexuality to children and push branded entertainment at the expense of children’s play." Out of the vast field of toys released in 2008, LEGO Batman The Videogame is one of the five finalists, going up against the likes of Barbie "Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader" Doll and Power Wheels Cadillac Escalade battery powered SUV.
Why, exactly do these guys have it out for LEGO Batman? Here’s the full text from the award nomination:
"How do you turn the ultimate creative toy into a symbol of commercialized childhood? Begin by partnering with media companies to sell that toy in branded kits designed for recreating movies like Star Wars, rather than creative construction. Then, dispense with hands-on building altogether by turning your toy into a video game so that instead of deciding what to build next, children choose which cyber-weapons to use to beat up their opponent. Finally, ignore the fact it was rated suitable for ages 10 & up and partner with McDonald’s for a Happy Meal toy giveaway to simultaneously promote the video game, junk food, and the violent Dark Knight movie series to preschoolers."
I think I must be missing something here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those parents who got rid of cable so my kids wouldn’t be exposed to commercials, but this seems a little harsh. One of the appeals of the LEGO video game franchises, including LEGO Batman, is that the gameplay allows for more of a sandbox atmosphere than many other games and any violence is minimized by the fact that characters are obviously LEGO minifigs, not human beings; the net result is shattered bricks, not blood. Anyone who’s watched a bunch of kids play with LEGO for an extended period of time knows that it’s not all "deciding what to build next" but often involves what to destroy next as well. Is LEGO Batman the Videogame intended to diabolically steer kids away from actual LEGO gameplay? I think not. In fact, my own experience with three kids has been that LEGO-themed video games help to foster interest in LEGO itself. As for McDonald’s, the respective marketing companies may not be making any more fans with saturation marketing, but I hardly think that the Happy Meal campaign is a reason to cast doubt on the merits of the video game.
What do you think? Does LEGO Batman The Videogame get your vote for the TOADY?