Sunday, May 12 2013 00:48

TEK RECON - Kickstarting More Trouble with Tech Toys?

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This is one of those situations where I get very conflicted. On the surface, there's a start-up company looking to crowdfund a project that they believe in. The intentions seem good, the product solid, and the market is there. Underneath, the problem is that I don't particularly like the product, it'll be obsolete quick, and I wish that the market wasn't there. TEK RECON, which launched it's Kickstarter this week, is being touted as "The First Real-Life Video Game," and was called a combination of "Nerf and Halo" by CNET. It's guns. It's kids. It's tech. So many problems...

The 10-year-old in me digs TEK RECON. As a kid in the 1980s, I spent a bit of time playing PHOTON (an elaborate Lazer-Tag style game) in an arena located in Harvey, Illinois. I also still have in storage one of the notoriously-banned ENTERTECH water machine guns - the ultra-realistic toy guns that led to the introduction of "orange tips" after police accidentally shot children after mistaking these toys for the real thing. I grew up playing shoot-em-up... but those were different times, and my wife and I have some very different opinions on how to handle toy "shooters" with our children. I'm a lot more lenient, and while TEK RECON is calling their products "blasters," they're still guns. And their slick sales pitch contains some disturbing statistics:

  • 93% of kids play games online.
  • 63% of kids have their own smartphone or other smart device.
  • Top Games for kids 8-15: HALO and CALL OF DUTY.

Well... here's what The Rock Father thinks:

  1. I'm not big on the idea of kids playing online.
  2. I'm not big on the idea of kids having these "devices."
  3. HALO and CALL OF DUTY are MATURE-RATED games that kids should not be playing.

No, I'm not some conservative prude here... I'm a 36-year-old man that gets excited every November when Activision releases a new installment of the CALL OF DUTY franchise. I'm all about blowing stuff up good, and I frequently post under the "Daddy Shooting Pixels" tag here on The Rock Father. As an adult, you understand the boundaries between "fantasy" and "reality," and with more and more stories about kids accidentally shooting other kids with real guns (not to mention Sandy Hook and the like), why are we encouraging kids to take the fantasy world of videogaming into real life? I'm not sure I dig the excitement about realistic features like "real triggers" and "recoil" being built into toys... which are "kid tested," and presented in the video below by a facepainted platoon of tweens:

So here we have NERF-style blasters that are "enhanced" by Apps - where the smartphone (iOS device) is placed in a holder on the toy. As I've noted in the past, I'm not cool with any physical toy that is designed to rely on the technology of others. In fact, let me quote from a past review:

"I fear that App Toys will never spawn a truly "timeless" play experience because they're dependent on outside technology to function. As that technology becomes outdated and obsolete, what happens to the toy? We've already begun to experience this with one toy because it's my old iPhone 3 that functions as it's heart and soul. I've switched platforms completely (I use Windows Phone now), and it's already become a chore just to keep the old iPhone charged for playtime. And with a toy that functions on just one platform, the potential user base is automatically limited. There's a lot of kids out there whose parents are Android users. 

Though it might be 30+ years outdated, I can still put fresh batteries in a Teddy Ruxpin and he'll come to life and start telling stories from his archaic cassette tape. Will we be able to say the same about an App Toy even five years from now? I don't think so."


Indeed, the TEK RECON blasters will still function without the App, but the "tech" is the big selling point for TEK. In fact, a Bloomberg video from this past February's TOY FAIR in NYC called it "It’s the perfect gift for parents who want to get their kids off the Xbox for a few minutes and the perfect toy for kids who never want to stop playing Halo." NO. How about some old-school imaginative play? How about some fun outside? How about reading a book? How about not making a bunch of toys that will be in a landfill a few years from now when their "smart device" is also a brick?

The TEK RECON folks are looking for $50K from the general public, and with 29 days to go, they've got just over $7K in. What do you think? Will they meet their goal? The business side of me says "WINNER," while the parent says "JUNK."

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James Zahn

About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) - James Zahn is THE ROCK FATHER™. 

Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the family realm, Zahn is an Illinois-based Entertainment Writer, Media Personality, Commentator, Adventurer and Raconteur. 

He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, a writer for the Netflix #StreamTeam, and serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers.

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for Napalm Records' PRODUCT OF HATE.

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities' Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360, has been quoted in BusinessWire, CNN and Babble, in addition to making appearances on ABC News, WGN and more. In the past he served as a writer for  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

Learn more here

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