Wolverine Vs. Barbie

In this blog I will have a look at two different children’s toys from the 80’s, determine what play features they have and create a simple game using the toy. Afterwards, I will then compare them and try to determine why and how they are different.

WOLVERINE: ARMORED MISSILE VEHICLE

The Wolverine is part of the G.I Joe line of toys and was released in 1983.

37887It comes with a armored missile vehicle, twelve missiles, a towing cable and a figurine of the driver, ‘Cover Girl’.

1983 GIJoe Wolverine Complete with Cover Girl

The toy has limited functionality and there are no automatic actions that it can take: it cannot fire the missiles or drive itself. Therefore, all of its actions and movements have to be controlled by a player.

With this toy, a player could:

  • Roll and push the vehicle around
  • Move Cover Girl around
  • Have Cover Girl drive the vehicle
  • Rotate the missiles 360 degrees
  • Change the elevation of the missiles
  • Remove the hood to expose the engine detail
  • Use the tow cable to tow another vehicle

A simple game that a child could play using the toy is as follows: a vehicle has broken and been stranded in enemy territory. Cover Girl must prepare her tank and go rescue them. To this she must check on the engine, prepare the tow cable, load the missiles and test that they are working. Then she must drive through the dangerous terrain (e.g over the grass in a garden) using tactical maneuvering to get to the broken vehicle. When she gets there she must hook up the tow cable and help the stranded passengers take a seat. She can then tow the vehicle make to base, all the while keeping a look out for enemies. If they encounter an enemy Cover Girl can launch missiles.

BARBIE: WESTERN FUN MOTORHOME

The Barbie Western Fun Motorhome is part of the Barbie line of toys and was released in 1988.

il_570xN.342942317The toy is a motorhome style vehicle that comes with several interior props like plates, chairs and a table. The main function is that it can unfold into a living space and that the front section can detach into a car.

il_570xN.342942029Once again, the toy has no automatic functionality so it must be guided by the player.

With this toy, a player could:

  • Roll and push the vehicle around
  • Have a doll drive the vehicle
  • Unfold the motorhome
  • Setup the interior space
  • Detach the front section
  • Drive the front section around as a car

A simple game that a child could play with this toy is as follows: Barbie and her friends are having a camp party and Barbie must prepare the camp site. To do this she must drive around the camp site and find a nice, flat area to setup. When she gets there she must unfold the camper and set up for a party. She can do this by arranging the chairs, table and plates. When everything is ready, Barbie can detach the car from the motorhome and go pick up her friends. They can then drive back and have a party.

COMPARISON

The two games described above are very different but the toys are mechanically similar. They both feature a vehicle that can drive around, a female driver and additional props. The props fit in with the vehicle and can be arranged and played with. Additionally, both vehicles have special moving parts.

However, despite these similarities, the overall mood of the games are very different. Although both games have a fantasy element to them, the Wolverine game is more dramatic and tense while the Barbie game is more relaxed and focused on fellowship. This has to do with the stakes, the goal and the setting of these games. Wolverine being a high-stakes military rescue operation while Barbie being a relaxed game about setting up for a camping party with friends.

The main thing that influenced the goal and setting for these games were their visual aesthetics. Of course, I could have created a game in which Barbie must dodge enemies fire to rescue a stranded troop but it would go against and clash with visual style. This is not to say that it cannot be done or that it would be wrong to do so. Rather, I tried to create a game that matched the visuals as it would make it much simpler to grasp for a child as their immediate impression would be correct.

Certain visuals have an inherent setting, mood and feeling about them. Due to genre conventions, general media and life experience we have learned what these visuals mean. For the Wolverine toy, the military vehicle, clothing and props make it fit in with the military setting and high-stakes game. Compare this to the Barbie toy, where the bright colours and homey props make it work perfectly for a game about getting ready for a party. Working with the visuals helps the player to instantly grasp the tone of the game.

A good example of this is Dark Souls. Its dark, broody atmosphere and heavy use of dull colours instantly establishes it as punishing and serious:

dark-souls-iii-tgs-gameplay-01However, a game that is similar serious, punishing and hard is Hyper Light Drifter however, it uses a very different visual aesthetic:

1309061Playing against type might help give the piece of media a different or unique tone or atmosphere that the go-to visuals would not be able to. It can convey a message (particularly about that genre or aesthetic) or simply help emphasise certain qualities:

3024485-poster-p-2-reality-shattering-dont-hug-me-im-scared-2Visuals (and other additional features like design, audio and layout) are extremely important in game design as they can influence the narrative, setting and also the play. Identical mechanics with different artistic “skins” can create very different games, as illustrated by Hocking’s Tetris example. Therefore, it is important to understand how these elements can influence a game and what elements can be used to create the experience you want to create.

REFERENCES

DollGirlz. (2016). Barbie 1988 Rare Vintage Western Fun Motorhome [Video]. Retrieved from
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1h7Z4DHaA0

formbx257. (2010). 1983 G.I. Joe Wolverine & Cover Girl review [Video]. Retrieved from
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ucmqb7BLMM

GeorgeVHS. (2013). Barbie Western Fun Motorhome commercial (1990) [Video]. Retrieved from
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnEnPJFuHrs&

YoJoe. (2016). Wolverine. Retrieved 23rd June 2016 from
http://www.yojoe.com/vehicles/83/wolverine/

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