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Super Cool Kids' Video Game Trends from E3 2014
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3) is like Christmas in June for gamers, and this year was no exception. The newest games -- many of which are scheduled for release this fall or during the holiday season -- boast features that will make gamers feel more connected, more creative, and more engaged. How does this stack up for your kids? Here are the most exciting trends for kids 6 and up to look forward to this year.
Toy-Game Hybrids. Games frequently have included figurines, trading cards, or other accessories in their collector's editions. These items take on a whole new dimension when they can be plugged into the games themselves, expanding play to an almost infinite degree. (Parents beware: The vast number of items and the intricate ways in which they affect gameplay may spawn a Pokemon-like "gotta-buy-them-all" frenzy that can quickly drain your wallet.) Upcoming toy-game hybrids include:
- Nintendo amiibo, ages 6 and up. The Amiibo is an ambitious plan by Nintendo to swap game data among a figurine, the Wii U, and 3DS (with a special adapter). Each time a figurine is inserted into a game supporting the Amiibo, it gains new experience, abilities, and moves. Players then can customize these skills, meaning your figurine will be unique.
- Disney Infinity 2.0, ages 8 and up. The ability to create games and adventures in the Disney Universe just got superpowered as Disney introduces Marvel superheroes, meaning Captain America and the Hulk can play alongside Mister Incredible and Buzz Lightyear.
- Skylanders: Trap Team, ages 8 and up. The newest title in the popular Skylanders franchise introduces the Trap Masters, characters that let gamers capture enemies in new "Traptanium" crystals and portal sets. Villains can be converted into playable characters in future adventures.
Teamwork. Games used to be divided into single- and multiplayer modes, so if you wanted to compete or cooperate you'd have to launch a multiplayer match and join a team. That's no longer the case. Friends and other players can instantly jump into your games, blurring the line between single- and multiplayer experiences and enriching the learning potential that comes from teamwork and problem solving. Games with enhanced community features include:
- Fable Legends, ages 13 and up. One player takes on the role of the villain, placing monsters, traps, and obstacles in the way of a team of four heroes in the fantasy realm of Albion.
- Evolve, ages 14 and up. This sci-fi shooter casts one person as a gigantic creature that can develop new powers and abilities to defeat the team of hunters tracking its every move.
- Assassin's Creed: Unity, ages 16 and up. Up to three players can join a game in progress to help complete a mission during the French Revolution.
- Far Cry 4, ages 16 and up. PS4 owners of Far Cry 4 can invite friends who don't even own a copy to play.
Do-It-Yourself. The idea of modifying games isn't new, but the tools for expanding and creating have never been more in-depth or easier to use. Three projects -- from Sony, Microsoft, and Electronic Arts -- let players become designers in minutes, amping up the potential for learning and creativity:
- LittleBigPlanet 3, ages 8 and up. The newest installment in Sony's franchise will provide access to millions of previously created levels and content from LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2. That's a huge amount of content from a vibrant community, and users can create their own stages with the game editor.
- Project Spark, ages 10 and up. Microsoft's game editor allows players to create any kind of game they can imagine and provides fan-favorite characters and sci-fi settings.
- The Sims 4, ages 13 and up. The ever-popular Electronic Arts series returns with a new editor that lets players create houses and towns and give their Sim characters personality traits, motivations, and dreams. Any designed items or Sims can be uploaded to EA's servers, allowing others to use your creations in their games in a matter of seconds.
On-the-Go Gaming. Who says you need to be anchored in front of a television with a controller tied to your hands? Developers are coming up with new ways to untether your play. New on-the-go games include:
- Just Dance Now, ages 8 and up. This expansion of the Just Dance franchise will let anyone with a smartphone or tablet connect and, well, dance. All you need is a television, an Internet connection, and the Just Dance Now app. The number of players is infinite, so kids really can get a party started.
- PlayStation TV, ages 8 and up. Simply connect this new micro-console to any HDMI-enabled television, and it'll stream nearly any PlayStation game -- as well as movies, TV shows, and music. If your kids are LEGO fans, a bundle includes a controller and The LEGO Movie Videogame.
- Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, ages 10 and up. Harmonix and Disney have partnered to provide a unique musical experience. The game is inspired by the gestures of the sorcerer's apprentice from the animated movie Fantasia. Kinect lets you wave your arms in time to musical tracks from artists ranging from Tchaikovsky to the Who to remix music and create visually striking performances while also bringing life to a new Disney landscape.