Tag Archives: apps

Looking Again at Scribblenauts

In the early days of having smart devices, I used to look at the App store far more often to look for interesting things. In doing so, I grabbed a number of games that – while available in other ways – seemed like a nice addition to my mobile devices. Since then, Katamari DamacyScribblenauts, the early Final Fantasy games, and others have gone largely unused – but I’ve kept them on my devices just in case.

Over time, the games that have been the main-stays for me on my mobile devices have been board and card game adaptations, a growing field of game apps. For travel, especially, being able to bring a number of full-size board games with you on a tablet is pretty fantastic, and compared to their non-digital counterparts, the value is amazing.

Flash forward to recently, and the Geek Baby Toddler. I’ll avoid any long discussion of screen time just to say: there is some. The most common screen time is usually with my phone, and looking through all the photos and videos I’ve taken. Other great apps have included ones for drawing, as the cleanup is easy! However, when looking for something to interact with already on my device, and scrolling through all these board games that aren’t a good choice yet… I went back to some of these older games.

The first one I tried was Katamari Damacy, but that quickly proved to not be a good choice yet. The Geek Toddler is far more interested in pressing buttons and getting feedback from her actions that way. So then I tried Scribblenauts.

Scribblenauts originally came out in 2009 for the DS, and made use of the stylus with that system for gameplay – thus the “scribble.” It is a puzzle game but also a sandbox sort of game. You have an avatar, you’re trying to get the star for the level, and there are various challenges in your way. Then you have the power to draw or write the name of something and have it appear in the game.

Like, anything.

I mean, probably not anything but items from a book or a ball, to an elephant or a dragon, to a lasso or a pair of angel wings… to my personal favorite for any number of challenges, a black hole.

The game is programmed with all sorts of fun interactions, like some animals being aggressive, lots of vehicle riding and rope attaching antics… Cthulhu…

It’s a fun game, and does a decent job if I remember right of leveling up the difficulty as you go. The star can’t be destroyed or you fail, so often you’re left trying to get it out of danger or having to come up with a gentle solution when you can’t just bull-in-a-china-shop your way through. You also have a limited number of items you can have out at one time, so it’s often about both thinking of a way to solve the puzzle and about how to do it without needing too many elements.

If you missed Scribblenauts, there’s a couple of flavors of it now on mobile, as well as in-app purchases, because of course. Because of the stylistic art design and fun gameplay, this game has aged just fine and will I think remain just fine for the foreseeable future.

Which brings me back to opening this game up with the Geek Toddler. The main hub screen is also just a sandbox, with your avatar standing there, and the ability to create things. I have been able to get the Geek Toddler to request things, and to write them in and voila! There’s an elephant!

You can ride the elephant, summon other animals, do all kinds of things. We tried out some of the early levels, as well, and she stayed interested. The early ones are a bit tutorial, with things like creating items to give to working professionals. Then again, something like that sounds a whole lot like a puzzle or book for a young one – what does a doctor use? A fire fighter? These things.

So while yes, I have to read the puzzles and put in most all of the work right now, that’s a starting point. And sharing in the activity on a device is a great way to do it anyway. And over time, there are elements of the game that she’s going to be able to pick up – like manipulating the objects on the screen, brainstorming solutions to the puzzle, and eventually even the reading and the writing (on the iPad it seems to mainly be writing to create the items).

With a toddler in the house, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of levels to a lot of toys – which feels like its own separate discussion for another day! But it’s great to find another thing like this where we can level up her engagement and learning with it over time. I’m looking forward to more Scribblenauts!

Navigating our Data Caps

Dang it, data caps.

That’s where I want to start. We have been dealing with a data cap with our cable broadband provider for years. They used to have unlimited with bundles, but that even has gone away – and with that, over time, has gone our home phone and, eventually, our cable. We’ve chronicled some of these decisions over time as they’ve happened.

As we moved into the disconnected world, watching all our media through streaming services and apps, we’ve really watched our data use. It seemed like the thing to do. Trying to figure out what a normal data amount was, what the right plan for us would be. The thing is, the plan options were 150GB a month, or else then doubled to 300GB. We came to find that our monthly use was roughly 170GB a month, so with the option to add more data in 10GB chunks, it was cheaper to do that than to double our plan.

Now, with that, it still often meant dialing back our use a bit later in the month. Skipping updating devices, maybe tending towards video games or other options instead of watching shows, or DVDs over streaming a movie. Leaving our phones on data instead of WiFi.

Unfortunately, this also meant that there were things we’ve never gotten to download at all… Backups of things, whole seasons of shows we’ve bought on iTunes and never downloaded… There’s a new Mac operating system I haven’t even really thought about updating to…

Last month, our provider increased their speeds and increased their data caps. Yay! Problem solved, we thought. Our same priced plan increased to 250GB a month, and several times the speed. Life seemed good.

However, we didn’t really increase our use much. Our normal sort of start-of-month catch-up on updates we were putting off from the month before… But really, like for streaming things, we don’t have much more time in our months anyway to do more. Plus, we can see the data use by day, so…

Yeah, why was it exactly that our data use increased pretty much completely proportionally to the increase in data?

All of a sudden we hit the 250, and had to add more data. The more data to add is now the same price for 25GB, but still… How did this happen?

We’re guessing. Since we moved from Hulu to watching on the apps for the various channels (which aren’t account based and don’t really have much in the way of “settings”), maybe these apps are set up to stream the highest quality they can. Indeed, maybe most of our apps work like that, and give us the highest definition possible by utilizing our maximum speed. Maybe it’s all a big scam. We don’t know, and at this point, we’ve decided we don’t care.

I understand, we’re lucky. We’re fighting awful data caps, but we live in a place where we have an alternative. What was once the dial up company has higher speed Internet coming through the phone lines, and their competitive difference is that they have unlimited data. So for the same price a month base, we can have unlimited. Their speed is not as high, but honestly, we probably don’t need it to be.

After several phone calls, using their site so many times their Captcha was starting to treat me like a robot, and a bunch of emails… I think I’m expecting a call from a tech to schedule a time to come get us set up? I feel like they have a bunch of artificial barriers I’ve been having to fight to get their service, so it’s a testament to how important unlimited data is these days that we’re still trying to do this. I will say, their customer service folks have been good to work with.

Data is just such a big part of how things work these days, and things are happening that seem to assume an unlimited data environment. Apps are updated by downloading the whole app again and replacing it wholesale. Social media tries to auto-play videos. The best television is on the streaming services. Computers and cell phones are a big part of life, or work. All the talk about fake news has gotten to the stats that a large percentage of Americans (and maybe others in the world?) get their news from social media.

Hopefully this works out for us, and we’ll have unlimited Internet soon! Then we’ll start this great glut of data as we catch up on things we’ve never downloaded…

New TV Channel Apps

It is interesting that for a time Hulu was the only place that we could watch our TV shows online. We had originally started paying for Hulu because we could get previous TV shows and paid a cheaper price with a student discount. But we recently dropped Hulu

I remember talking about how I wish with cable companies you could pick and choose what channels you were going to watch, but that was not an option. Now even though the cable company is still trapped in the typical bundling model we are actually getting more choices with show applications for our devices. This allows us as consumers to choose what we want to consume and from whom. Now some are still making users be tied to a cable subscription, but it feels like it is only time until even they offer a pay-to-watch model or just give other options.

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