Noteworthy: Moshi Monsters!
Want a more clever (I avoid the word “educational” because that usually is kid-speak for “lame”) virtual world experience for your tween? Then look no further than MoshiMonsters.
Currently in Beta (early Beta, I was lucky enough to score an invite), Moshi Monsters is a new way of approaching the virtual pet world experience. First of all– your pet is one of 5 goofy-looking monsters (more to come later, I hear) that are customizable by color (much MUCH more boy friendly, izzy-friendly, and sub-culture friendly than say… those doll sites & stuffed animal sites). And instead of “casual gaming” your child is presented with stimulating challenges.
In an allotted amount of time, your child must recognize the puzzle and pick the correct answer– ex. 4 names of colors are given (pink, blue, green, black)– three of those colors are in fact COLORED to their correct name, while one is not. Which word is not the correct color? Your child has around one or two minutes to complete as many of these mind-puzzles as possible to earn points. You can ONLY do this challenge once a day (at least at the moment, could change after Beta?).
With those points earned you can go shopping in town and buy hilariously gross looking food, or buy creative-variations of furniture for your house (my wallpaper is made up of a collection of eyeballs– rock on). Now, while it sounds more boy-like with its grossness and monster-like tendancies… the colors & general design are totally gender-neutral. Bright, bubbly, and fun.
My favorites: Tickling my monster. FINALLY– a place I can interact with my pet. Let me repeat that… WITH my pet. And when he laughs (cause mine is a ‘he’ btw), I cackle (I’ve raised some eyebrows with that cackle). Oh the joy– I can annoy the heck out of my monster by continuously click’n’dragging across him (hence the tickling). Sure, he giggles and tries to hide/protect himself, but eventually he gets annoyed and unhappy… much like my sister did when I played the space-invading (but not exactly touching) “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you…” game in the car when I was a tater tot. Lesson learned– don’t annoy your pet, he gets grumpy and doesn’t do what you ask. Gotta keep those happiness points up!
Can’t move the monster around yourself with a mouse or arrows. You can click on a spot in the world, which then emits a “come hither” whistle, and hope (fingers crossed) that he comes (he won’t if he’s/she’s crabby). The monster has a few fun movements of his own (mine slicks his hair into a fun wave-like coif) and speaks in monster-gibberish (with subtitles). They also get impatient if you’re not spending enough time hanging with them (understandable).
The interface is very user friendly– simple yet straightforward. And it’s safe (not much opportunity for community at the moment, but that’s sure to come!!). I’ve talked to the peeps behind the big red Moshi curtain, and they’re awesome. I don’t have a doubt that it won’t be one of the safest communities out there– and I’m looking forward to seeing how they rock it out. I’m all about people taking different approaches to this environment (or doing the same as others, but better).
The current downsides: Really, there is only enough to do at the moment to fill maybe 5-10 minutes a day. The short daily challenge brings in tokens, so customizing my monster’s room by shopping is a limited experience since tokens are low. The main street is the only thing that exists right now (construction signs ensure a larger environment for the future). But those things are merely circumstance and will hopefully open up very soon as the world moves into later phases of Beta.
I can’t tell you how much I dig the user-to-monster experience. Very unique. Moshi Monsters will also have cellular-tie-ins, which could be great. UK kids are much more advanced with cell phones than US tweens (and Moshi Monsters HQ is in London, plus… if you have seen any online “mo pod” stores for the UK, you’d see they’re getting pretty wide spread over there), so I’m very interested to see how this part of the experience takes off. From what I’ve seen and heard– when your cell rings, the little monster dances for you (and I’m all about random jig-break outs).
All in all– keep your eyes out for Moshi Monsters. What they have in early Beta is very promising (although limited at the mo), and I’m definitely jazzed about the unique approaches they seem to be taking towards other elements in the tween virtual world arena. AND I’ll no doubt fill this in more once the community opens up and I can see how they are approaching safety & communication.
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