Kickin’ it with Nickelodeon’s Nicktropolis

Okay– first. There is NOTHING more irritating that spending 2 hours writing a post and then having stupid web browsers crash, thus erasing EVERYTHING you’ve been so eloquent and clear-headed about. Grumbles and curses. Must be some sort of Karma.

Anyway. So I’ve decided to jump into Nicktropolis— Nickelodeon’s virtual world, much like Habbo.com, whyville.com, Cartoon Network’s Fostersbigfathouseparty.com, VMK.com (Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom), and other such cyber-safe-worlds for kids.

First thing, first: Let’s talk shortly about Nick.com (home & hub to Nicktropolis).

I love Nickelodeon (have I mentioned that before?).

But– I hate to say it… they’re main site is uber-flashy. I’m not talking Flashy like my grandmother’s style (fuschia frills, sequins, red hairdye…). I’m talking flashy in that “we like to use flash programs… a lot… and layered” Layered in such a way that each little flash element is at war with its neighbors. So really, when you look a the page everything battles for your eye’s attention and in the end no one wins. Like when you put speakers facing each other and they cancel each other out.

Sometimes when I’m checking out nick.com, I’m wondering if I’ll ever truly see everything they’re trying to show me. I want to see it, Nick! I really do! It’s just… so much.

I’ve sat down with a group of kids and watched them surf (you want to watch something interesting– watch a kid click about the web). The girls (6 – 12) liked Disney.com (pre-relaunch)– it didn’t hurt their eyes with blink-blink/flash-flash, and they didn’t have to wait NEARLY as long for loading (which you do on nick, sadly– it’s getting better. Cartoon Network kinda has this problem too, but not as intense). The boys (6 – 12) liked addictinggames.com & Kingdomofloathing.com (which I do too). Nick.com made them blink like rabbits in headlights… I tend to compare brain activity to hampsters on wheels– these kids’ hamsters froze and were thrown helplessly from the wheel, left stunned in a corner (I love brain/hamster analogies… I promise, this won’t be the last in my blog).

Anyway– on to Nicktropolis.com. I’m still puzzled as to WHY they did it– to compete with the virtual community world? To increase brand awareness? To allow outside vendors brand awareness in a safe atmosphere? To be edgy & hip with the trend & fad? Hmmm. If it’s strictly for the cool factor, that rocks. I wish people made more online stuff just for the cool factor. –And THIS is why I am not in charge of marketing/strategy.

First and foremost– Nicktropolis is Nick’s attempt at an online world for games & roaming (and roaming and roaming) in a safe, community-friendly environment. They’re VERY good about being consistent in their safety-reminders:

That’s on every page. Not too shabby. I like being honest and direct. There is at NO point a time where kids forget its a safe enviro.

Signing up is a bit labor intensive– first you need a “nick” name from nick.com, after you achieve nick-status they bring you back to Nicktropolis to finish your sign up. You get to choose your convo patter: Pre-Written Sentences or Predictive Text. Oh, the freedom of it all. I hate both to be honest… however, it does cost A TON for the size army they would need to moderate such a world as this. After you make your so-called “choice” about convo you are asked to add your ‘rent’s email address. YOU may have choosen “Predictive Text” over “pre-written sentences” but that doesn’t mean mom & pops agree. That email is sent out and the parents have to then use the code they get to dive into the parent controls on the site and free your predictive text option. Funny thing– those wee sneaky buggers probably send the parent email to themselves instead. I would.

Launch and Go: You carry on to the main page and launch your Nicktropolis application. Yay! Avatars! Wait… whoa whoa whoa. These wee peeps look an awful lot like lego characters and lego-like Habbo characters, except skinnier and (hate to say it) lamer. You have a few choices on skin tone/hair color/outfit, but those are limited. It doesn’t really matter though– if you visit some other areas in Nicktropolis (like Nicktoons Boulevard) you get to make new characters based on actual cartoons (Danny Phantom peeps, Jimmy Neutron Peeps– who actually resemble Sheen and not Jimmy, darn–and Sponge Bob Guppies, etc).

Now it’s time for roaming. Roaming, roaming, roaming. Nicktropolis acts a lot like a theme park. More like Universal Studios than Disney World (if you’ve ever been to both, you totally know there is a difference). First tier environments: Nicktoons Boulevard (character driven sub-worlds), Kids Choice Awards (like a pretend ceremony environment: orange carpet, backstage, control room– nothing overly exciting), Downtown Nicktropolis (shopping with accumulated points to beef up your own room and empty places to hang with friends?), and The Pier (games).

There is, of course, slime here and there (mandatory Nick element in my opinion). It’s march and they’ve still got winter holiday themes. Lots of space to wander and roam. Some time-consuming games for tokens/points. Eh– it’s everything you’d imagine a virtual theme park to have. There is a LOT LOT LOT of cross-promotion (games & mini videos playing nick-mericials). And there is also a lot of room to add more (me thinks they could outsource areas to drive ad sales? Say: Disney’s “Meet the Robinsons” decide they’d like a game to play on the Pier… well there’s plenty of space for that). They are doing a GREAT scavenger/treasure hunt promo… the “find these ten objects and return here on wednesday for your prize” idea. I fell for it– currantly 9/10 objects. Sweet. Plus, it game me more of a reason to roam some of the lamer areas (like the park). I’ve tried using my predictive text options to ask others where objects are. No one talks. PROBLEM

Okay, yay! Stranger Danger! Okay, boo!
What’s the point of a community if no one interacts? My issues with the Predictive Text aside (give me a moment with that one), perhaps none of the other Nicktropolis-ers don’t have message clearance yet. Or perhaps they’re just being really… really guarded. That’s fine. I’m not really there for convo anyway– just a community evangelist in the name of kids & safety. However, I never see any of the little people moving around the screen interact. I’m the only one trying to talk to the Danny Phantom-bot. I had a GREAT one-sided conversation with some kid stuck next to a garbage can. Convo went like this “Are you stuck?” “How is that garbage can?” “Is it cool?” “What is in there?” “I can’t say Elbow Tiger” and that was about it. Is sad to have all those open rooms with “Rec room” themes and no activities. They’re purely for roaming these days.

Predictive Text. Predictive Text. Predictive Text. Oh, how I love and loath you. It’s great for maintaining a controlled atmosphere. It’s horrible for free will. Okay– free will, I can’t really talk there. I’m forever changing words like “Kill” to “smite” or “Screw You, Jerk” to “I love my rainbow-filled teddy bear of joy” (yes, I think I have a great sense of humor. Let me live in my happiness). And I can’t imagine the amount of effort it would take to human-control an environment like this. Again– armies of moderators & screeners. But in my faux-teen-trolling, I’m frustrated by the clunkiness of the predictive text, as well as it’s general lameness.

When I first logged in weeks ago, “El Tigre” and “Just Jordan” hadn’t been added yet– so they came out “Elbow Tiger” and “Just Jogging”, they’ve since corrected this problem. Now there are other issues:
* “Justin Timberlake,” the host of the exciting Kids Choice Awards 2007, can only be referred to as “Justice Timeless”
* “See” is “Seem”
* And although I couldn’t tell Danny Phantom that I love him– I could tell him that he smells funny.

Awesome. You know what else is awesome? My Nicktropolis room. Nicktropolis lets you set up a little homebase for yourself. You can use the tokens you get from stepping in slime & racking up game points and then trade them for items like big red chairs (like in Blue’s Clues, but not THE chair) or Pirate Wall paper that has a boat sailing across it every few seconds. Needless to say I have both in my room– as well as a treasure chest, some xmas lights, a robot, skateboard, and a chair from Jimmy Neutron’s Retroville in Nicktoons Boulevard. I REALLY TRULY hope they put some Edgar & Ellen stuff in that boulevard once we’re established on Nicktoons. A fan can dream, can’t she?

Anyway… so Nicktropolis is clearly just a wee thing (having only been launched like 2 months ago). There’s plenty of room for growth. It’s UBER-safe (to the point of annoyance for teens, but that’s just fine by me as a mod). There are some games. It’s a shame about the lack-of interaction.

Two things to note: watch the kids’ rooms. Why? Because I recently read an article about smart-alec’s using furniture to spell out email addresses or inappropriate words/phrases. Clever buggers. Also, the message board on Nick.com is linked to Nicktropolis. It is a very odd system (looks like a blend between a blog & a message board). Most of the comments in the Nicktropolis message board area regard “Come See My Room” or “This Doesn’t Work.” Interesting in the community forum-aspect. At least the message boards have two defined moderators who interact with kid chat. You know how I like honesty in that arena. Yay!

So, I’m running out of things to ramble about. Anyone have any questions? If not– I’ll stop here.

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  1. April 1, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    Izzy, insightful and hilarious! I’m going to pull parts (with attribution of course) to blurb the Kids’ Choice awards/aftermath on Shaping Youth…I’m glad the Nick.com flash factor wasn’t just “me” as I felt like an arcade pinball after a few minutes there. sheesh. Talk about ‘turn down the media volume.’ 😉 –Amy

  2. April 2, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Nicktropolis came out in August then closed down for 2 months and then came back!

  3. Jonathan
    April 21, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Zulo, It was released in January, not October… Trust me, I got on Nicktrop EVERY DAY while it was closed, it came back in January. So HA!

  4. Zuko: Fire Nation
    July 22, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    How do I switch my furniture around in my room?

  5. August 28, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Hi,

    So my kids, After getting a password, I can’t seem to get into the “launch application” to create person on get into a room. Can find where you finish sign up on the main page.

    please help. Thanks!

  6. dufroggy
    October 8, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    were are the haloween items?

  7. eli
    November 10, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    nicktropolis is awsome

  1. April 2, 2007 at 8:27 pm

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