Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Moshi Madness


Moshi Monsters“It's a fantastic money vacuum, fantastically executed”

Moshi Monsters are huge and getting bigger, but why?

You know you're old when you no longer understand why kids like certain things. Moshi Monsters are my coffin nail.

This has all come from an email I got from Amazon this morning, which got me thinking about Christmas and toys and my last post... It was for this:

Moshi Monster Advent Calendar

I looked at the price and almost choked on my prune juice...

I guess the worst thing is that with the speed the world moves now, I've not become "my Dad", but rather  my Grandfather. In my day (see, that's how it starts), I had to program Big Foot using a console pad on the truck. To get a Lego vehicle to move itself, you needed a complicated set of elastic bands and usually the assistance of half a hundred weight of Meccano. Scalextric track was cleaned using a tuppence (and you soon learned about overloading power supplies if you forgot to unplug it). Toy figurines came in the form of representations of characters from a multi-million dollar selling film tie in that lined the pockets of over-paid executives (or underpaid directors; Star Wars fans).

Life was much more complex back then, but things followed a natural order. Want to make something locomotive? Throw it, or design a system to move it. Want to sell a shed load of toys? Make a film or TV series based around them. It's a system that seemed to work for years, and it made a lot of undeserving people very rich (and a lot of parents poor, but their children happy).

Moshi Monsters throws all of this on its head. You buy the toy, that then "encourages" you to play with a virtual version of it online. Or was it the other way around? You played as a monster online and then bought the toy of it. Whichever way, the twist here is that you have to pay per month for "full access" to the monster simulator. The encouragement comes in the form of a code with each "Moshi-tihng" you buy. It unlocks a new thing on your online account, but if you don't pay, you can't take full advantage of it.

It's a little like buying Luke Skywalker, but you need go to the cinema to watch Star Wars to get his little plastic light sabre. It's a fantastic money vacuum, fantastically executed, but I don't quite get what it's all really about.

I suspect the people behind it don't either. They've created a pretty basic interactive "pet monster" website and just sold as many thousand toys as they can think of to attract kids to the website. There is literally some kind of toy tat with a Moshi Monster theme and "code" you could possibly think of. Be it Moshi Monsters, Moshlings, Moshettes, Moshlers, Mushlers, MushiI'mmakingthemupnow; there's something out there and nobody knows the difference I'm sure.

The website side of things is not good. It's very simple puzzle games, and the most basic "pet sim" anyone could possibly have thought up. I understand the appeal of the wildly varied designs of the monsters themselves. I also understand the packaging of them, so you never quite know which one you'll get (with the excitement of ripping open a packet of little plastic choking hazards in the hope of finding something rare). It's all quite clever, but where is the real appeal, the core, base appeal?

Construction toys (including jigsaws I guess) have there own inherent joy and conclusion (limited by your imagination and the pieces you have). Toys of films and TV allow reenactment of your favourite scenes and toys like (whatever the equivalent is now) of GI Joe/Action Man and Barbie are "real life reenactment" toys. Action toys too like cars, planes, boats or even prams and dolls again allow you to recreate the adult world around you and to gain physical enjoyment from toys.

I'd even say that games are often played with like toys - most gamers will understand the concept of "sandbox mode" or "sandbox gaming" and a lot of children will play games in this way using an onscreen avatar instead of a toy to play within an environment.

Moshi Monsters give none of this. The toys are lumps of solid plastic (until you get up to the newer "figure" ranges) and the games offer just a confusing jumble of bad flash animations and birghtly coloured lures to spend more. There's just nothing to play with. I guess it's down to the whole "collect them all" and hype thing, but this is really the biggest thing out there for the 5-10 market at the moment. It's quite scary I find.

Still, there's no avoiding progress, and no avoiding suddenly becoming too old to understand what appeals to children anymore. You just have to go with the flow and remember that in 35 year's time, one of them will be blogging (or whatever the equivalent of it is then) about how much better things were in their day. Little lumps of lifeless plastic when all you get in these future days are complex genome building packages to design and create your own life-forms.

So we're stuck, but I have a little handy hint here if one of your little ones should decide to get into Moshi Monsters in a big way.

Maxi-Minor_Furie caught the bug and wanted a Moshi Monster Birthday Cake. So, we decided to make one ourselves (with Madame_Furie providing the sponge cake and nagging motivation). So here are 4 easy steps for making your little one's day special with their very own Moshi Monsters cake:

1. Get dressed
2. Go to local supermarket
3. Buy ready made Moshi Monsters cake for extortionate price
4. Put away the divorce papers

You can see our attempts below that cost us as much as a pre-made cake; an entire afternoon of stressful, hard work; weeks of vague planning and enough arguments to ruin anyone's birthday ;)

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