My CriBaby app
The My CriBaby iPhone app accompanies the publication of Malorie Blackman’s new teen novel Boys Don’t Cry (Random House Children’s Books, Nov 2010) and was produced by Somethin’ Else.
Boys Don’t Cry opens with the central character, Dante, awaiting his A-level results when his ex-girlfriend shows up with a baby girl in tow. She announces that he’s the daddy and, unable to cope with the demands of motherhood, leaves him holding the baby.
The app takes this central premise and gives the user a ‘virtual baby’ to look after. Once downloaded, the app asks you to choose the sex of your baby and give it a name; mine was ‘Billyboy’. We got on famously for the first day or so. We’d talk, play, he’d nap and I, remembering that all new mums should ‘sleep when their baby sleeps’, would do the same. There are 8 ways to interact with your baby through the iPhone including tapping the screen to produce a satisfying burp after feeding and rocking it from side-to-side to put the baby to sleep. Ah, the joys of motherhood. Unfortunately things began to derail around day 3…
I gasped in horror when I realized that I had forgotten to feed, change, or put Billyboy to sleep for nearly 48 hours! Things got worse. When I reopened the app HE WASN’T THERE!
Had social services taken him away already?! Had he been kidnapped? Either way I was guilty of neglect. My virtual score had nearly reached zero. And no, I wasn’t going to post that snippet of information to my Facebook account – something the app encourages you to do.
Finally I had to reset the game. Billyboy came back. He was grumpy, not that I can blame him. And fairly soon my score was back up to 350,000 or something random. Which brings me to one issue with the app: the scoring seems completely random with any baby interaction generating 1000s of points. You are supposed to look after your baby for a month but, sadly, I lost interest after a couple of days. Aside from maternal guilt, there was little incentive to go back and care for my iBaby.
So, for me, the overall purpose of this app was unclear. Was it a marketing tool for the book? A game designed to appeal to the book’s target market: teenagers? Or an educational app designed to teach blissfully ignorant teens about the round-the-clock demands of new babies.
It almost, but not quite, succeeds on all fronts. As a gaming app, it needs better scoring, perhaps different levels, an indication of success or failure. And a month? Way too long. As a way to promote the book and generate additional sales, the sample chapter included certainly ends with the requisite cliffhanger but other than a desire to read more, I found little incentive to actually buy a copy. As this was a paid for app, could it include a discount code to urge the user to click through and buy a copy?
The idea of looking after a virtual baby is clever and original. The app itself is brilliantly produced and visually very funny (I have no doubt that my 9-year-old niece would find My CriBaby hysterical and would want one for all her friends), but it needed a few extra dimensions to make it a little less babyish for a sophisticated teen market.