There's Humongous Rewards in Edutaining Little Kids

by Jacquie Kubin

It all began with an endearing little car, Putt-Putt, envisioned and created by a group out of Seattle called Humongous Entertainment, an Infogrames, Inc. company. Like the Little Train that could, Putt-Putt can do almost anything and his first adventure (1992) took him to the moon. "Putt-Putt is the flagship title of the company," says Brad Carlton, Design Director, Humongous Entertainment, Inc. "He led the way for the children's adventure game genre in a company founded by traditional adventure game designers Ron Gilbert and Shelley Day, who recognized that the market for intriguing, interactive game play for children was there."

Putt-Putt winning the race in children's interactive game play for Humongous. © 2000 Humongous Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Putting Story and Character First
The genesis of the company, which has sold more than 16 million games to date, was to fill a niche being ignored by other game developers -- story driven, versus activity driven, game play for kids. Their first character, Putt-Putt is a caring, loving, helpful little friend within the body of a purple car. Putt-Putt and his other Humongous Entertainment friends, Pajama Sam, Freddi Fish and SPY Fox, reside in richly detailed animated worlds that allow for a child's interactive exploration and learning. Each of these worlds foster fun, companionship, helping and other important life skills.

Dressing up Pajama Sam in the interactive CD-Rom game, Pajama Sam's One-Stop Fun Shop. © 2000 Humongous Entertainment. All rights reserved.

"One of the things that makes us a leader is that the characters are engaging, bringing the kids into the evolving stories," Carlton explains. "The games draw people in and both the children and the parents have fun with the products. We take our roles very seriously here and we want to teach our users how to be social people in a social world."

When creating a new story driven adventure or sports titles, the Humongous Entertainment team begins with the story line and script. The group uses movie and comedy writers, which helps provide entertainment value for parents, while crafting a story that is entertaining and exciting for children.

In the development of their soon to be released (Fourth Quarter/October) The Backyard Soccer MLS Edition, Humongous Sports has added the child personas of fifteen professional soccer players such as Cobi Jones of the LA Galaxy, Ben Olson of DC United and Brianna Scurry and Brandi Chastain from the U.S. Women's National Team, and winners of the World Cup, to the game.

As with other Humongous Sports titles, Backyard Baseball and Backyard Football features a recurring group of thirty children, boys and girls, of various race, religious background, physical and athletic ability. These children include twins Ashley and Sidney Webber, who make a dynamic duo when playing together, brothers Achmed and Amir Kahn, and the sister-brother team of Vicki Kawaguchi, who is an aspiring prima ballerina, and Kenny, who plays games with precision from his wheelchair.

The Backyard Bunch: a line-up worth checking out. © 2000 Humongous Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Adding real life athletes to the game makes it that more exciting for the children, providing positive future life role models based on real live people.

"We did not just create characters and given them real sports stars names," says Elizabeth Stringer, Director of Development, Sports. "When playing the Backyard Sports games, children are as picky as they are in real life and they will choose the Backyard children that they best relate to. Same goes with the professional children, so we went to those sports stars and asked them their favorite colors, foods, music and other things that children relate to."


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