Well over a year ago, I heard about a new Nintendo Wii video game that, instead of leading you through the motions to blow up towns or race cars around a track, required players to slice, dice, grate and knead to make various international recipes. Wacky, I thought. What kid would want to make virtual food when they could go in the kitchen and help mom make a salad?
Recently, a friend brought his Wii system over as well as a copy of this game and, I have to tell you, I was right: Cooking Mama is wacky. The graphics seem clunky and flat in this day and age of World of Warcraft and Pixar movies, and the music and narration are just kitschy. That said, Cooking Mama is also a lot of fun and surprisingly appealing (and a little addictive) to kids and adults alike.
The joke that day was that our group of Wii players was made up of 80 per cent professional chefs. We all thought we’d beat the Cooking Mama game in no time and rack up unprecedented scores. Instead, “mama” (the voice of the game) told us to “try harder” at least as often as she praised us for doing ‘better than mama’.
Is Cooking Mama going to teach kids how to make dinner? Not necessarily. Some of the cooking instructions are down right bizarre (how many of you have ever had to open a can to make a scrambled egg?) However, kids will learn that food doesn’t just come out of a frozen package and perhaps they’ll be encouraged to observe and participate in the real life kitchen more often. Likewise, for parents who have kids who like to play in the kitchen, Cooking Mama offers benefits: clean-up happens with the flick of a power button and no one eats extra calories that spoil their real-life supper.
Bottom line: If you need to play a video game, Cooking Mama is as innocent as you can find anywhere and it just may help kids to appreciate food a little more than they did before they played.