Carly A. Kocurek, PhD - Games, Scholarship, Media

Casual Thinking. Serious Gaming.

What I’ve Been Playing: Skylanders Giants

Category : Gaming Jun 27th, 2013

We picked up Skylanders Giants on sale at Target earlier this spring. I’d gotten interested in the game while researching the history and use of feelies, and so I was curious about the integration of the character toys with the video game.

Skylanders giants logo

The Skylanders Giants logo features a number of the game characters.

Since buying the game, my husband and I have managed to complete a full run through of the game, and part of another. We’ve also sunk more money than we intended into buying character toys. This is probably not a shocking outcome for anyone familiar with the game; parts of the game can’t be unlocked without the corresponding type of toy, and this aspect of the game’s design is pretty effective at pushing merchandise. So, we started with the game, one “giant’ and two regular figures, and we now have about a dozen figures.

As to the actual experience of playing the game, I like it quite a bit. For one thing, it’s a truly collaborative game, so if two people are playing together, they are often fighting the same enemies or helping each other solve puzzles. This same element of collaboration means that two players with different skill levels can still enjoy playing the game together, since one player isn’t perpetually wiping the floor with the other. The game incorporates puzzles, and the storyline — conveyed largely through cut scenes — is easy to follow and provides some connection between the game’s various levels.

That said, for me, the character toys are really what make the Skylanders games stand out. The collaborative play is why I’ve been recommending it to some parents I know, but the toys are what make the games so distinctive. They are also what make the games such an investment, since there’s a fair number of toys needed just to unlock all the game’s content, and each character toy really does change the way the game feels.

It’s worth playing, generally, but it’s also worth thinking about for anyone who’s interested in play, transmedia, game marketing, toy franchising, or what Steven Conway has termed “expansions of the magic circle” [source].