Long gone are the days when playing “computer games” meant ASCII characters and a little too much leaning on the arrow keys. Nowadays, there exists a plethora of online games for our kids to enjoy, making easy entertainment just a few clicks away.
For today though, I’d like to look at those in-browser, online games that have integrated a more social element into them, where your kids can meet fellow gamers online and interact with them, or even join them on missions and quests. Also known as multiplayer games, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs), you might know of ones that are more suited for a slightly older audience, like World of Warcraft. I asked my closest “expert” (my kid!) about the games she most enjoys and the ones her friends have mentioned. Let’s take a look at two of them.
First off, the Moshi Monsters game – a little peek at the website this evening had me entranced. With Moshi Monsters, players adopt a pet monster and go on fantastic adventures with them. It’s much like an expansion of the Tamagotchi craze we all went through as kids, except this time, there’s so much more to it! There are puzzles, mini-games and missions that players can enjoy, enabling them to level up their Monster, grow flowers in their garden and have fun!
The creators of the Moshi Monsters game integrated a social and community aspect into the game but, as the site’s “Guide for Parents” reveals, it is strictly moderated, monitored and interactions are quite restricted. As a mom, I really appreciate the team’s transparent approach and big focus placed on online safety. You can read more about their approach here. Moshi Monsters is most appropriate for kids between the ages of eight and ten.
Then there’s Club Penguin. Club Penguin has been around for years but thanks to an ever-expanding virtual world and wide variety of mini games, it has remained quite popular. Created by Disney, Club Penguin lets you play for free but many features are restricted to paid members only.
When you login for the first time, you can create your penguin but players can only get going once a parent has approved the activation of the Club Penguin account, which is done via email. Chat and social facilities are quite limited and strictly monitored, and parents can select the level of chat abilities their child can have. The Club Penguin team have also gone to great lengths to commit to creating a safe, online play space for their members. Best of all, a lot of thought has been put into the puzzles and games, with many of them having a very clear educational slant. Club Penguin is most appropriate for kids aged seven and up.
As your child takes to online gaming, there should be definite guidelines in place that you help create with them. Talk honestly with them about the kind of communication they can expect online as they make new friends, and encourage them to interact. Most importantly, remind them that their online activity is monitored, not only for their safety but also for the greater good of the online community. Take the time to get to know the games your kids are playing. If you can, join in the fun and sign up yourself, before they begin, so that you can help them if they get stuck on a puzzle or find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. Most of all, have fun together!