Care for Your Own Virtual Toddler with My Baby: First Steps

Geek Culture

Image: Southpeak GamesImage: Southpeak Games

Image: Southpeak Games

When I first received this unsolicited but free review copy of My Baby: First Steps, I thought, oh great, it’s going to be another cutesy game that even the kids wouldn’t like. I was wrong, for a variety of reasons. This game is pretty authentic. Right down to the dirty diapers, bath time, monotonous feeding regimen, doting grandmother and cute toddler. The only thing that seems to be missing is any kind of misbehavior on the part of the baby (though it’s possible that comes later, since I didn’t make it to the end of the game).

When you start the game, you can choose your baby’s gender, or get a surprise. If you choose boy or girl, you can also choose the ethnicity of the child. I chose to get a surprise and ended up with an Indian girl and named her Nola, after my great great aunt. All of the babies that I’ve seen are adorable. You’re only able to have one baby going at a time, though, which is frustrating when you want to share the game with other family members. But when you’re done raising one baby, you can raise another.

The goal of the game is to raise your baby from 15 months old to 30 months old. It is a sequel to My Baby Girl and My Baby Boy, which deal with younger babies. The game is broken down into months, and each month you are given two teaching goals and some new extra tasks and activities. As time goes on, some of the things that you teach her are walking, talking, running, climbing stairs, jumping and variations on those skills. You also get new challenges with feeding, diaper changing, bath time, outdoor play, bedtime reading and so on. She also has toys to play with. Some of the tasks can be really tricky to get just right. It gets frustrating to not make progress, since you can’t move on to the next month until you’ve taught your baby what she needs to know for the current month.

As your baby gets older, the game expects you to be paying close attention to her noises and gestures, as there are fewer and fewer clues as to what your baby needs. If you’re paying attention, this isn’t too difficult, however. You can also go shopping and buy her clothes, and take pictures of her at just about any time. As time goes on, your baby’s hair grows, she matures and she can do more on her own. There is a also pediatrician who checks in on you from time to time to make sure you’re caring for the child well enough.

Since it is a pretty authentic game, I found it fairly boring since I’ve already done all of that with my own kids. In real life, you have more personal triumphs. In the game, it’s less personal. It’s too much like real life for me to want to play it all the way through, though I did get about halfway. But then again, I’m not in the age demographic for which it is designed. It is an excellent tool to teach patience to children looking to babysit or to have their own kids one day. My kids are very much drawn to the game. My daughter is very nurturing, and my son just loves babies.

Game play can be frustrating at times because you get so focused on teaching the tasks to your baby and then the game interrupts you to do things like change a diaper or have mealtime. Of course, that’s like real life as well, since once you have a child, it’s impossible to get anything done in one sitting.

The retail price of $29.99 (for DS or Wii versions) is a bit more than I would pay, unless I had a child who was really interested in learning how to care for a baby. I’m not sure if the Wii version is exactly the same as the DS version that I tried, but it seems to me that it would be harder to be exact with diaper changing and bath time with a Wiimote than with a DS stylus.

Wired: Good variety in tasks to complete, cute babies, game progresses as you take care of your baby, you may develop a small connection with your virtual child.

Tired: Game is a bit too authentic at times, and it can be frustrating to have to do the baby-raising tasks without as many of the real life joys that usually come along with it.

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