A few days ago, Datachick, Karen Lopez (blog|twitter) wrote about Computer Engineer Barbie and a game on Mattel’s website called “Data Diva.” Having a 9 year old daughter, I thought I’d have her check it out. It sounded like something she might be into (seeing as how she is obsessed with the virtual world games like Webkinz). Jason Strate (@StrateSQL) offered the suggestion that I blog about it. Great idea!! Here’s what we found out.
The intro to the game says “You can be a computer engineer. Help Barbie program a robot puppy to do cute tricks.” I was hopeful that there might be some beginner programming skills she could learn through the game. We clicked the “next” button to start the game. The first page asked for a code to unlock stuff. I”m guessing the code comes with the Computer Engineer Barbie. Maybe the game gets cooler or more interesting if you have the codes?
From that page, we clicked on “play.” We were brought to a page with a cute puppy and instructions on how to play. The heading was, “Computer Engineers use a special language called ‘code’ to make programs work.” Underneath, there was a grid of 1s and 0s. I thought maybe it was going to somehow teach my daughter binary (in which case, I should play too, so I can understand my fiancée and my brother when they type binary messages to each other). Instead, the game ended up being more like a game of Bejeweled, or Cash Cow (not sure the real name of that game). You just move columns and rows to line up 3 or more of a certain color box that can have either 0′s or 1′s. When you do, the puppy on the screen moves in different ways. After only one game (you are given a time limit), Grace was bored with it. She exited the game, and saw that there is a Wedding Stylist game. She was much more interested in playing that!
A while back, I wrote about other programs out there to teach children about programming. While some of them, such as the Alice Program may not have had great graphics, at least it taught real programming! Nice try, Mattel… Maybe a younger girl would like “Data Diva”, but I didn’t feel like it quite lived up to the promise it showed.
On a side note, I have to give props to Mattel for their efforts in giving Barbie traditionally male roles such as a computer engineer. They want to inspire girls with their multi-tasking Barbies with the hottest technical gadgets such as a laptop and iphone. Even grown up girls get excited by the find of Barbie in their own profession. I know WAY back in the day when I worked at Pizza Hut, I was thrilled to find Pizza Hut Employee Barbie. A friend of mine, Jes Borland (twitter|blog), a DBA, pretty much counted down the days until her computer engineer Barbie showed up!! They know what they’re doing over there.