EA Sports has inked a deal with Toy Island to create a new line of sports equipment for kids that will "bring the excitement of videogame simulation outside onto the fields of play," which hopefully will include a helmet to protect them from all the flying irony.
"Our goal is to take the EA Sports brand deeper into the fabric of sports, and into new markets that allow more people to unleash their inner spirit of sports and competition," said EA Sports President Peter Moore. "With Toy Island, we've found a partner that shares EA Sports' passion for quality and innovation. We're excited to be working with them to bring to market unique products that are sure to be captivating for young athletes."
The new line of products will employ infrared, motion and equilibrium sensors to work as "virtual coaches," instructing users on form and technique while helping them develop their skills in hockey, baseball, football, soccer and basketball. Among the products will be "interactive training tools" with voice commands and "instructional coaching elements," a "game-in-a-box" with all the equipment required to help kids practice and play a sport, toys that will reward players with electronic cheers when they employ the proper techniques in a game and "a basic line of high density-foam balls to help kids develop throwing and kicking motor skills at an early age."
Products in the new lineup will be available for three age groups: 3-6 years, 6-9 and 9-12. The new sports toys are scheduled to launch in fall 2009, with other sports expected to follow.
And I can't let this one go without comment. It may be that my propensity for telling "When I Was a Kid" stories is nothing more than a signifier of my graceless spiral into old age but here it goes anyway: When I was a kid, we didn't have game companies making toys based on sports that would teach us how to play those sports: We had balls, bats and gloves, hockey sticks and skates. Some kids got together and played on their own, others had coaches to teach them the finer points of the game and a few of us started with coaches, decided they were mostly empty-headed bullies trying to compensate for the failures of their own youth and moved on to figuring it out for ourselves anyway.
The point? Generations of kids have grown up playing sports not to develop proper techniques or take themselves "to the next level," but because it was fun. Because we liked it. Because that's what kids do: They play. Too many kids these days come under pressure from parents, teachers and coaches to excel, to win, to be the best rather than just play the game. It's so easy to lose sight of why kids are out on the field in the first place and products like these epitomize the shift in priority from letting kids be kids to turning them into winners while they're still learning to read.
Which doesn't even touch on the irony of a line of products designed to "bring the excitement of videogame simulation outside" that's based on videogame versions of actual, you know, sports. The more I think about this, the more appalled I become. You want your kid to have fun on the fields of play? Buy him a ball and take him outside for awhile.