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October 23, 2014 / KingsIsle Entertainment

How Much Screen Time is Right for Your Gamer?

chidl-computer

Whether it’s homework or the hot new app, more activities are involving a screen of some sort. Before the rise of iPads and computers, it seemed all we had to be concerned about was how close our kids were sitting to the TV. These days, the tech explosion could cause our heads to explode because screens seem to be within arm’s reach at all times!

Limiting screen exposure can be tricky; they don’t make a lotion for it like sunblock. A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics states that on average, today’s kids spend seven hours with all types of media that involve screens and links this time to attention problems, school difficulties and sleeping disorders. We all agree that it’s important to limit screen time, but this can be tricky since guidelines can vary by age. Here are some rules that we try to follow:

Ages 3 to 8

Most experts on the subject will tell you that any screen time is too much for kids ages 2 and under. However, that’s not stopping toddlers and young children from experiencing technology. Media use by kids 18 months of age increased from 10 percent in 2011 to a whopping 40 percent by 2013, according to a report by Common Sense Media.

These habits will likely stick with kids for the rest of their lives, so it is suggested to build healthy screen time habits early on. Try:

  • Setting school day rules, set a reasonable hours limit during the week
  • Playing with your child, Wizard101 and Pirate101 offers a great family playing experience

Ages 8 to 13

Remember when homework consisted of writing on a piece of paper? Limiting screen time at home can be tough when kids have a project to complete, plus want to get in an hour or so of Wizard101. Some studies recommend around two hours a day for this age range, but it is discretionary to each child and family. Whatever limit you set with your kid, lessons about moderation and budgeting time wisely are key.

Learn to be flexible, but also set limits on when and where screen interaction is allowed. Keep digital devices out of the bedroom, and have a “no screens at the dinner table” rule. It is also important for parents to model healthy screen use, so you don’t end up with a “Do as I say, not as I do” situation.

teen-computer

Ages 13 to 18

Teenagers are an especially difficult group to police when it comes to screen time. There aren’t many teens without smartphones these days, and this can put a wrench in many of a parent’s best intentions.

When setting screen time for your teenager it’s important to remember that studies have shown that higher amounts of screen time contribute greatly to a lack of much-needed sleep. Additional negative consequences from too much time online among the high school set include cyberbullying, not getting homework done and failure to pay attention in class.

Make extra screen time beyond those three hours a reward for good grades, finishing homework and chores. Encouraging after-school activities and hobbies can help your teen be active and find balance.

Other Considerations for Parents

Most studies on screen time and its effect on children include the caveat that what your children are watching does matter. As parents, we should not only be aware of how much time our kids are spending with a screen, but what they are doing as well.

Know what your child is into and be conversant about it. Look for information pages for parents like Wizard 101’s “Family Game” page, which helps us understand the games our kids are playing. Parents are encouraged to set limits with input from their children. Give them feedback on the subject and they’ll be more accepting when it’s time to turn off the computer, tablet or phone.

October 20, 2014 / KingsIsle Entertainment

Trick or Treat: Be Merle Ambrose With These Everyday Household Items

merle-ambrose

If Merle Ambrose is your favorite character from Wizard101, then you’re in for a real treat this Halloween! While Merle is best known as the commanding Wizard who created Wizard City, he is also the headmaster of Ravenwood School of Magical Arts and is currently researching a third triangle of astral magics – one we know little about. You can easily dress as this great and powerful Wizard with items you probably already have lying around your house.

Stuff you’ll need:

  • Purple construction paper or poster board
  • White construction paper or poster board
  • Bathrobe (preferably purple)
  • Long stick from your backyard
  • Tennis ball from your garage
  • Cotton balls from your bathroom
  • Pencil
  • Single hole punch
  • 12″ piece of string
  • Blue paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Glue
  • Foil
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Compass

Making the Mystical Robe

To create Merle Ambrose’s robe, you’ll need to borrow or use your own bathrobe. Bonus points if it’s purple to match the mystical wizard’s wardrobe! Cut stars out of the foil (younger Wizards should ask for help with the cutting while making their costume!) and tape them to the robe.

Crafting Merle Ambrose’s Hat

Use the ruler and compass to draw a large half-circle on the purple construction paper/poster board. Cut it out and roll it into a cone. Make small cuts along the bottom edge of the cone, then bend them outward.

On a second sheet of purple construction paper/poster board, measure the circumference of your hat and draw a circle that big. Then, draw a larger circle around it to make the brim. There should be 3 or 4 inches between the two circles.

Glue the hat to the brim, then use the ruler to make the bends in the hat so it looks like Merle Ambrose’s. Glue more stars onto the hat so it matches the robe.

crafting

Growing a Wizard’s Beard (the Fast Way)

Cut a sheet of white construction paper or poster board in the shape of a beard. It should be straight at the top and cut like a scalloped upside-down triangle. Use the hole punch to make a hole at each corner of the flat edge of the triangle.

Tie a piece of string through one hole, hold the beard up to your face, and pull the string around your head to the other hole. This will make sure your beard fits properly. Secure the other end of the string after passing it through the other hole, but don’t make the knot so tight that you can’t put the beard on and take it off.

When the shape looks like a beard, make it fluffy and more “beard-like” by gluing on cotton balls from your mom’s medicine cabinet.

Creating the Wizard Staff

For Merle Ambrose’s magical staff, head to your backyard and pick up a large stick. Next, roll some of the gold foil you used for the stars and shape it into the curve at the top of the stick, like Merle’s. When you’re done, visit your garage to pick up an old tennis ball. Paint the tennis ball blue and glue the curved gold foil and the ball to the top of your stick. Now you are ready to make magic!

merle-signature

October 15, 2014 / KingsIsle Entertainment

Pirate101 Celebrates its 2nd Birthday!

ratbeard

A baby buccaneer no more, Pirate101 is now two!  To celebrate this milestone, we asked some of the beloved game developers, Blind Mew and Ratbeard, what their favorite thing about working on Pirate101.

Ratbeard
I get to work on pretty much all of the “systems” of Pirate101, so it’s really unfair to ask me which is my favorite– that’s like asking a parent which kid is their favorite! I’m always the most excited about whatever the latest thing is, and we’ve had a lot of really BIG releases in a row: the expansive story update from Marleybone and Aquila, then a massive UI overhaul, followed by a large pet update, and most recently the Tower of Moo Manchu and the Grizzly Beast Pack. When I think about what excites me the most about any of these updates in particular, it is getting to work on them every day, feeling the excitement building up behind the scenes, trying my hardest not to let any spoilers slip and then the great fun of seeing the feedback from all of the fans. I spend a good chunk of every day reading and replying on our forums, processing the praise and the criticism. Our fans are very passionate one way or another with their feedback. No matter what, that level of energy players have is very infectious. So my favorite thing about Pirate101 is definitely our fans!

Blind Mew

I’d have to say my favorite part of the development process in Pirate101 has been watching unexpected things emerge out of nowhere and become not only important, but essential. That’s always part of writing – when you’re in the groove suddenly a line will come out of nowhere that you never planned or even imagined, but there are other things too. Companions were the biggest, I think. We’d never thought of them as that big of a deal in the beginning, and then one day we decided to make them talk during quests – we’d use them instead of a narrator. And they did so much more: they let us have dead ends in quests so they could point you where you needed to go.  They also got to be funny – they were characters we could build over 50 levels instead of a single quest. SO much of the joy in writing for Pirate comes from inventing the quips from the peanut gallery: El Toro, Bonnie Anne, Hawkules, and the rest of them. Once we saw how much fun it was to have them talk, we invented promotion quests – and they exploded. They’re a lot of effort to write, but so worth it because they let us take the characters even farther. The Marleybone promo quests (Bonnie Anne and Ratbeard) are some of my favorite writing in the game – and as the game was originally conceived, they never would have happened.

blind-mew

The other thing I dearly love is to sprinkle in references. Yes, we do lots of movies and books and songs and the rest – those are great fun – but my favorites are the historical ones. Saving Nelson at Trafalgar. Getting to do a homage to the Illiad and the Odyssey, that kind of thing. There’s lots of history lurking under the surface, they we do put our own spin on it. Before I ever got into games I was going to be a history teacher – so sneaking this stuff in is second nature. I’ve said it several times – if I can get one player to read one more book than they otherwise would have, or get interested in some tidbit of history or literature that’s the highest achievement I can do – it takes this job beyond fun or rewarding – doing something like that makes this job truly matter.

Thanks to Ratbeard and Blind Mew for this look into Pirate101 development!  What has your favorite thing been in the last year of Pirate101?