When Big Sis was about one-year-old she fell utterly in love with Roary the Racing Car.
She just could not get enough of the noise and the races and all the different machinery. ‘More Roareeeee, peeese Mama!’ she’d squeal.
Born into the iPhone generation, tablets and capacitive screens are as familiar to her as computer paper was to me. In fact one time – when I first switched from Blackberry to iPhone – I had to get her to show me how to use it. True story.
When I first heard about a new kids’ online game called Airside Andy I knew straight away Big Sis would love it. Actually, first I need to clarify that it’s not actually a game, per se, it’s a MMO; a massively multiplayer online community (don’t panic – I’d never heard of it before either, but it means a virtual world where hundreds – even thousands – of people can play simultaneously).
Basically you set up a free account (parents have a few days to approve it, if they don’t the account gets frozen) and create your own avatar, then it’s time to explore the virtual surroundings for Intercity airport. Using your phone or iPad’s capacitive screen you direct your character through the different scenes.
Airside Andy is open-ended play, which means there’s no real finish point – you can explore the different areas for as long as you like, and new scenes, mini-games and features are always being introduced. What also makes this different from many other games is the fact you can interact with other players, but only by using snippets of preset text (‘Hello’, ‘Will you be my friend?’ etc), so there’s no danger of your children striking up inappropriate conversations with strangers.
As suspected Big Sis was immediately entranced by Airside Andy , and I was amazed at how quickly she figured out the various functions. Although there was no set game she had to play, or definitive objectives, she really loved wandering around and exploring the inner workings of the airport. She soon discovered she was earning currency by cleaning up litter (not eating food off the ground, which is what she originally thought she was doing), and helping to get the planes back in the air. She could then use the money to buy items in the airport shop, including uniforms and a flying superhero suit. Cool, huh?
There is also the in-app option to buy credits or monthly membership – with Mum or Dad’s permission, of course. The more the players earn, the more the airport coffers swell too; when there are enough funds the players then get a say in what part of Intercity is developed next.
As a sneak peak, over the next few months all sorts of new fabulous features will be introduced, including a hair salon, airport pets, your personal hangar space to decorate and loads more games. The Airside Andy developers will also be introducing a lot more educational activities, with a big emphasis on STEM subjects.
Last night I caught Big Sis still playing on the iPad well after lights-out. ‘Pleeeeeeease, Mummy, just five more minutes – this is soooooooooo much fun. I HAVE to figure out how to fly!’
Yep. It’s fair to say AIRSIDE ANDY is a huge hit in our house.
UPDATE: Big Sis can fly!! I bought some points via the in-app purchase option, and she earned the rest by playing the games and picking up litter. Finally, she had enough to buy the superhero and shield, and activate the flying function. To say she was excited doesn’t come close, and I LOVE the lesson she learned along the way – work hard and you’ll be rewarded.
• Airside Andy can be downloaded for FREE for iPhone and Android