We were asked to road-test Airside Andy, the first MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online community) game designed for tablets and phones. Available online from Flying Squirrel Games, it’s free to download and play, with in-app purchases available, and it’s set around an airport.
In case you didn’t know, MMOs let hundreds – or even thousands – of people play at the same time. Airside Andy is aimed at children aged 4-8, though, so the parental controls involved in gameplay are tight.
- there’s no free chat allowed between players. Instead, they have to choose from lists of scroll-down sentences and responses, like ‘nice hair’ and ‘do you want to play a game?’
- parents have to approve their child’s account, otherwise it’s frozen
- parents are given their own account, with notifications so they can monitor their child’s activity
There’s also a set of guidelines for parents, which I ran through with my son (aged 7) before he started play. It’s his first experience of an MMO, but I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the safety guidelines he was already familiar with: give your avatar a fake name, never give out address or personal details, tell a grown-up if someone says anything strange, etc (which they couldn’t in Airside Andy, anyway, because there’s no free chat). I guess schools these days must be doing a good job of educating kids about online safety….
Andy’s airport is large, with a lot of cool features that my son was excited about. You design your own avatar, with a choice of gender, skin colour, hair style and colour. When you’ve earned points, there’s a choice of different outfits, like a flying space suit. You can even turn your avatar invisible, but my son hasn’t quite worked out how to do that yet (he’s desperately trying!).
You can buy points, with a parent’s permission, but you also earn them as you roam about the many zones of Airside Andy’s world, by picking up rubbish, helping planes get into the air and playing STEM-focused games, like catching baggage as it’s tossed from a plane.
My son enjoyed the games; some are multi-player, and he tried to invite some other people to play, with no luck (we were trying it out on Boxing Day, so the airport was quiet). But his favourite part was exploring the many different zones of the airport. He has his own hangar space, which he can buy items for. His top goal: a TV. Pretty similar to real life!
Here’s a little video of my son playing the game, showing some of the features in action:
Airside Andy is a nice app for travelling with, and I can see our children being very excited about helping Andy explore his airport, the next time we’re in one. There’s plenty in the open-ended game to keep children occupied through those pesky flight delays.
“Someone send for Andy…… “
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