Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The rise and rise of children's online gaming


Although only 11 years old, my son is a regular player on some online gaming sites that are designed for children. Currently his favourite is OG Planet's Lost Saga (actually designed probably for 12+), but before that he played other ones such as Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, Super Smash Flash 2 and some other curiously popular games based on a physics simulator like Dan Ball's Dust. Lost Saga is the only one that runs as a full standalone application and requires a download and install. The others run inside the browser, some require Flash, and others are built using javascript or java.

The first game he ever played and one which he still enjoys is the magnificent, multi-player, educational maths game Mathletics, which was recommended by his school. When he plays this one he actually represents his school online, and the graphic that appears when starting a challenge shows the world map, and where his opponents are from.

It amazes me how he finds out about these games, which is simply through word of mouth - through friends at his school or older members of the family who recommend a game. A successful game can increase its popularity amazingly quickly. In the case of Moshi Monsters, according to its developer, UK-based Mind Candy, approximately half of all children in the 6-12 age group in the US, UK, New Zealand and Australia have played it. Their incredible online success has been followed up by merchandising in the 'real' world in the form of soft toys, books and trading cards. And as with most of these online games, Moshi Monsters is free to play, but there is an optional monthly subscription payment which improves the online game experience and generally results in some sort of higher status or better accessories. Whether this payment is necessary, I'd probably say just wait and see if your child is still playing the game in a months time before deciding whether its worth paying any fees.

Online gaming for children is something which parents need to keep control over and get involved in to ensure your child doesn't spend too much time in front of a computer. A recent campaign I've come across called Unplug+play recommends limiting your child's exposure to all forms of electronic entertainment (TV, Electronic games, Internet) to 2 hours per day ... definitely a worthwhile campaign and one which will benefit both children and parents.

Unplug+play recommends limiting your child's exposure to all forms
of electronic entertainment to no more than 2 hours per day.



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