Wonder Rotunda


posted 12/31/2009 by Tina Amini
other articles by Tina Amini
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That’s not to say that the content of the information itself is flawed or lacking. There’s definitely a lot to learn. Not only is the content of each expedition vast, and also interesting, but the expeditions themselves are incredibly vast, too. The only problem is that I need a reason to want to learn from this game. The appeal of a video game is that kids want to play them, and the bonus is what they come away learning from it. In this case, a game has been made purely for educational purposes, and completely misses the game aspect. There’s no interaction, no actual playing. You click something, you learn about it. The closest Wonder Rotunda gets to being a game is the game show portion of the map. Here, you’ll get tested on the information you’ve learned about and get a chance to earn Wonder dollars. Key word here is that you’re tested on information. This is more like one of those pop quizzes everyone dreads, not a game that’s fun and engaging.

The Wonder dollars are used to purchase food for your character when he/she runs out of energy. This was clearly meant to connect you to your explorations throughout the park. However, I didn’t feel that connection, per se. I understood that when I clicked on my menu button and my avatar was frowning at me that I should probably get it some food. The two aspects of “gameplay”, however, felt forced and completely incongruent. You can use these monies to buy items at the souvenir shop.

Completing the expeditions gets you a badge of completion, and the opportunity to seek out one of the hidden gold coins around the park. These get you a bonus of extra Wonder dollars. Nothing like motivating the kids with money! Where is the challenge, where is the effort I have to put in to even unlock the other adventures?

I believe I have a pretty good connection to my inner child, and my inner child in no way is appealed to by this game. The fun-sounding activities were turned bland by my zero interaction with them, the graphics are a simple 2-D cartoons that you’d find in a pediatrician’s office, and I felt patronized all the while. You know the baby voice mothers pull out when they’re talking to their children? It’s pretty much that down the line. Kids, especially at the age between 7-12, can definitely handle more complex ideas and don’t need any patronizing. Heck, there are 7-12 year olds who can beat the pants off of me in some games (Halo, anyone?). By putting kids in a more complex situation and letting them play around with it, you’re inviting more of a learning opportunity. Wonder Rotunda undervalues the extent of the 7-12 year old’s ability to comprehend certain concepts, as well as their taste in and abilities with games.

Although I definitely appreciate the thoughtful effort in bringing the more honorable aspects of video games to light and attempting to provide that value for children, this is a classic example of someone who misses the meaning of video games. Video games are fun because we get to do everything and we’re the protagonists. I felt like the dorky dude was more the protagonist than I was. I was back in school with my teacher leading me around a field trip. Maybe this game is more suitable within a classroom, but I warn those parents who are looking for a more child-friendly video game alternative to what your kids are probably already playing. If your child is a gamer at heart, you should most certainly stay away from this game. If you’re looking for strictly educational material with, not an educational video game, but one that is not as bland as some textbooks can be, then this information-stocked virtual guide is great.

Of course, creator and developer Eric Garfinkel states that the goal for the game was to “get kids thinking about our world, finding things that they're interested in, or passionate about, and exploring how they might make their mark some day.” So perhaps this educational value is enough for to reach their goal. As a virtual museum for small children, I can say that this “game” is cute and definitely educational. As a video game, however, Wonder Rotunda is missing the key aspects of what a video game is and what makes it fun.

Wonder Rotunda
is $45 for a one-year unlimited Park pass, with annual renewals at $35.

Wonder Rotunda is not a fun video game, but it is a very educational virtual theme park. With no legitimate interaction, this point-and-click game is more suitable under the label of a virtual educational guide. Although you’ll find tons of great information to learn about myriad topics, don’t expect your 7-12 yr old gamer to enjoy this beyond the realm of a classroom.

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