I downloaded an app for Madison called “Nemo’s Reef.” It uses the characters from Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo and applies them to a game template similar to that of Farmville and Restaurant City. I have never played the former, but I spent an entire summer playing the latter. My restaurant was the shit. Anyway, as fate would have it, Lynnette and I are way more into this game than Madison is. “Nemo’s Reef” has already earned “Best Game Ever!” status from Lynnette, while Madison gets most excited to see characters she recognizes so she can shout their names.
The picture below is a screenshot of what the main game looks like. I have labeled aspects of the home screen with letters. I will explain and comment on these aspects of the game.
A. Current Level. As near as I can tell, this meter functions like any other status meter does in that it tells you how far along in the game you are. Our family is currently in the middle teens – that’s what I saw last, anyway. It’s possible that Lynnette stayed up late last night and pulled us into the twenties. But yeah, Madison loves starfish. She has starfish earrings and starfish hair clips. Whenever we earn level points, Madison is prone to shouting “We got a starfish, dad!” It’s cute. I suppose part of me understands that while Lynnette and I are blowing through the game, we will never match my current level status for Bejeweled Blitz which is somewhere between “The Zeus of Jewels” and “How the Hell are You Still Playing this Game in 2013?”
B. Sand Dollars. This is a running count of cash on hand. We need sand dollars to purchase the various kinds of plant life necessary to create a world-class reef. Sadly, Madison doesn’t understand that the purchase of plant life costs money. Last night while I was trying to guide Washington State University to a second BCS Championship in as many years, Madison said “It’s not letting me buy dis plant.” Lynnette did not look up from her Mid-Week. “Maybe you ran out of money,” I said. “I didn’t!” Madison quickly snapped back. I paused my game and took a look. Sure enough, she had only 17 sand dollars remaining and the plant she was attempting to purchase was large and pretty (just like in real life, this means “expensive”) “You did run out of money!” I said. Lynnette perked up. “What?” she said, incredulously. “I had it up to $1,500 last night!” The lesson: It won’t be easy to convince Madison that “she doesn’t need $50 jeans” and that “everyone buys jeans from Walmart.”
C. Algae. Like the Sand Dollar counter, the algae counter is a gauge of how much algae currently in our possession. Algae is necessary to raise plants to their full maturity. It’s like food, I guess. Or fertilizer, as Lynnette calls it. Some of the plant life requires as little as 2 balls – or whatever – of algae, while some, like the Mystery Seeds, require 200 balls at a time. Last night, I overheard Lynnette speaking – ostensibly to the plant on the screen – “Oh, sorry, I don’t have enough algae to feed you yet, Madison spent it all.” The lesson: Yes, Lynnette is a buck-passer.
D. Pearls. Pearls are hard to come by. I think you can only get them by leveling up or completing a quest. Pearls can be used to purchase plant life (always pretty or productive ones) or quickly mature plant life. The following is an exchange Lynnette and I had last night while she, Madison, Abby and myself were huddled into Madison’s twin bed in the darkness, the only light coming from the screen of the iPad.
Lynnette: I’m so ready to spend $24.99 for 150 pearls.
Lynnette: I’m just joking.
Phil: No, you’re not.
Lynnette: I know.
E. Vitality. This has something to do with the overall health/status of our reef. Last night, right before I dislodged myself from the bundle of humanity and dogmanity on Madison’s bed, Lynnette pulled up a screen and informed me that “Our reef is at 19% vitality!” Now, as I am in the educational field, 19% of anything generally has a pretty negative connotation. “What does that mean?” I asked. “I don’t know,” Lynnette answered. “But it’s getting higher. I wish I had taken a picture of Lynnette’s face as she said this. It was aglow from the retina display, but it also featured a smile I have not seen since the day Madison was born. No hyperbole.
F. Quests. The quests are listed vertically on the left border of the screen. Most of the time, they involved the planting and growing of a specific type of plant life. Since the game is aimed at children 4+, the quests aren’t hard, but they require the ability to read. Madison is 4+, but she can’t really read yet. The result is that she goes on spending sprees which don’t align at all with the quests. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got a beautiful reef that has Madison’s touches all over it. But we also have a queue of quests that have not been completed because we currently lack the finances and/or algae to do so. To make matters more complicated, the quests are only fulfilled once the plant grows to maturity, which means that if I or Lynnette or (especially) Madison plant something without the knowledge of others, then we might plant more seeds than necessary, effectively wasting sand dollars. This is a highly inefficient way to play and it kills me. It’s not my game. It’s not for me. It’s for Mad. It’s not my game. It’s not for me. It’s for Mad. It’s not my game. It’s not for me. It’s for Mad. It’s not my game. It’s not for me. It’s for Mad. It’s not my game. It’s not for me. It’s for Mad. It’s not my game. It’s not for me. It’s for Mad. It’s not my game. It’s not for me. It’s for Mad. It’s not my game. It’s not for me. It’s for Mad.
G. Sand Dollar Harvesting. Plants like seaweed and kelp and sea grass produce sand dollars at various rates. As someone who is fond in efficiency, I planted an entire field of cheap sea grass that yields 2 sand dollars every 30 seconds or so. This makes sense to me. But when Madison looks at the rows and rows of yellow bushes, she hates the monotony. “Dere’s too much of dat yellow one, dad,” she says. “Yes, I know, sweetheart, but they make money the fastest,” I say. “But I only like the pretty ones,” she fires back. Whenever an icon like this one pops up, it means that the sand dollars are ready for harvesting. When the icon is tapped, a starfish (for experience) and sand dollar appear. When each of these is tapped, they disappear, giving the idea that they have been collected. What I figured out was that the secondary tapping of these two images is unnecessary. Once you tap the initial icon, the values are added to the total. I guess I didn’t tell Lynnette about this. Last night as we waited for dinner to cook, Lynnette began, “You know when you harvest and the things pop out-” I cut her off. “You don’t need to touch them again,” I said. “It already counts the first time you hit it.” “WHAT?!” she shouted. “MY HAND IS SO SORE. WAS DOUBLE-PRESSING THEM ALL NIGHT! OH MY GOD!” Uhh… so…
H. Algae Harvesting. Madison hates the harvesting process. The coral produces algae in the same manner that the leafy plants produce sand dollars. I feel like a dictator whenever I have to tell Madison “No planting! Only harvesting!” Sometimes she agrees. Most times, though, she turns the game off and watches the Fresh Beat Band on Netflix. I can’t blame her. Lynnette and I can’t really save money, either. We try hard. Sometimes we try, but not so hard. Madison is enamored of the idea dropping beautiful additions OUR reef, but does not want to participate in the work that it takes to get to that point. I’m trying to get her to understand that it’s all a process. It’s not taking.
Epilogue: Last night as Lynnette looked over the status of our reef after Madison had an extended turn with it, she asked if there was a way to run multiple games at one, as in multiple profiles. Maybe there is – I haven’t looked. But I told her that A) I didn’t know, and B) I didn’t think so. Lynnette was crestfallen. At 7:45 this morning – I shit you not – while I was in the process of writing this entry, Lynnette posted the following to my Facebook page:
Must. Stop. Playing.
I didn’t see it coming, but Nemo’s Reef has already entered that rare air for Lynnette. It’s in the Twilight Zone. It’s the fifty-first shade of gray.