Have you ever wanted to breed yourself a colony of blobular lifeforms, only to be stymied by the terms of your lease or ridiculous laws against Thing importation? Well, now you can simulate the experience with Thingdom, a game and webtoy created for the London Science Museum by Preloaded, which manages to make learning about genetics fun. Move over, brown eyes and blue eyes; kids today are finding out how to breed for monostalks.
Proper Thing husbandry is easy to get the hang of. All controls are with the mouse only. First, you lovingly select your initial Thing. Then, you take your Thing into the world and use your cursor and several buttons at the bottom of the screen to interact with your Thing and its buddies. Feed them, brush them, play music for them, and fling them about in the air wildly (a very important Thing need, that). You begin the game in the somewhat boring grassy zone. In order to unlock other zones, you must complete challenges by breeding Things with certain traits, such as square shape or gigantic size. Click on the "mate now" button in the lower right corner, or simply wait for the timer to tick down, and your Thing will shout, "I want to MATE!"
Choose one of several potential mates for your Thing based on the probability that their offspring will have the traits you desire. Then you'll be taken into a mini-game to impress the mate you chose. You may have to keep your Thing balanced on a scale, pull your Thing around to dodge water balloons, jump rope with your Thing, or several other games. The mini-games are fun in themselves and sometimes easier with one type of Thing than another (tiny Things dodge well, but it's harder to hit targets with them). You have a limited amount of time to fill the mate's love meter with successes. If you succeed... the miracle of life occurs, with a fun animation showing the random swapping of genetic material. Hopefully among the new litter of baby Things is a Thing displaying the traits you want. If not, you can pick the baby that has it as a recessive trait and try again. The later challenges will take at least two tries to create a Thing with the desired trait.
Like an increasing number of games, Thingdom integrates with social media, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective. Although nothing is required to simply play the game, to save your progress you must give an email address. The game also encourages you to share and track your progress through Twitter and Facebook. Nothing drives up Twitter follower numbers faster than the news that you've successfully bred a gigantic Thing. Trust me.
Once you've completed all the challenges, the game becomes more of a webtoy. You can focus on the nurturing part of the game by trying to keep all the Things happy, or try to breed a Thing to look just the way you want it. The game has lots of fun touches, from the Boohbah-like bright colors and cute sound effects, to the whimsical accessories you can add in various zones (my favorite is the sombrero and mustache in the desert). Plus, unlike a real animal breeding program, you never have to clean up after your Things. Maybe your landlord had a point after all.