Youth VWs and Prep for the Unexpected

I asked Zookazoo’s Michael Carter (highly respected in Digital Youth Research) since his multi-faceted gaming background enables him to elucidate much further than yours truly, (he’s always opening my eyes to fresh critical thinking in new ways, from different angles) Michael matter-of-factly said:

“WHO are the cheats “cheating?” It’s their time to use, and it depends on what form of knowledge-culture the kids are coming from.”

He even went so far as to say he’d find it ‘charming’ if someone posted Zookazoo virtual world cheats and workarounds —It would just mean kids are “playing a different game.” The incredulous ‘say what?’ look on my face must’ve shown…prompting him to elaborate further…Michael Carter said:

“Look, some kids click through to get the gist, find what’s new, or see if it’s worth returning…Others use it to bridge to new info that holds their interest or when they get stuck…Some social-share with friends…informal learning comes in all kinds of forms, it’s just another way to play the game.”

Hmn. Never thought of it that way…

Diffuses a lot of the angst, saying it’s “just another way to play the game.” See? I told you he makes me think differently.

He also mentioned a player in Zookazoo who’s a ‘quick change artist’ and likes to show up at their virtual summer concerts mirroring the moderator/Zookazoo company presence.

My cartoon thought-bubble snapped to, “Uh-oh, imposter/mirroring–breach of trust potential–danger Will Robinson!”

Regular readers will be amused to hear I even started down the parental path of ‘how do you KNOW it was a child’ age verification inquisitions, before I self-reined hearing danah boyd’s voice bouncing around in my brain on the perpetuation of ‘moral panic’ in media reporting about internet risks)

Shaping Youth » Kids’ Gaming Ethics and Immersive Virtual Worlds (Part 2)

FANTASTIC post by Amy over at today (seriously – I only snagged like 1/10th of it, so click that link peeps)!  Me thinks I would like this Michael Carter over at Zookazoo.  Sounds like my kind of peeps.

Kids & time investment & finding a way to play in a unique unexpected manner is amazing to watch and explore.  Explore, you say?  Explore indeed.  Clearly there is a level of play needed, albeit nefarious, that you might be able to spin on its head so the “nefarious” moves to a positive play.  And really – it also comes down to WHAT KIND OF STAFF DO YOU HAVE running the backend? 

I’ve been lucky enough in the last few weeks to build the beginnings of a rather fantastic mod team (which I will not go on about at this moment, since the veil of ninja-like silence still holds fast over my tongue).  In early stages of virtual worlds it is all a balancing act – as you’re trying to piece together a strong site with strong tools, yet test and prepare for the oncoming onslaught of audience (even in private Beta).  And poppets, no matter how I wish this wasn’t so – nothing is ever perfect (and suddenly I have a wee speck of guilt for any VW I was harsh about in the early stages of exploration & debut). 

New virtual worlds – even up to (and past) their 2 year of existence have a LOT of balancing.  Aesthetics, staffing, tools, strategies, market plans – you name it – nothing is ever perfect.  It’s a living breathing environment, and that “living breathing” needs constant support and attention.  Things will happen, things will fail, things will become WAY more popular than you expected, and you’ll be hard pressed to nail any overtly intended subculture play patterns.  But that’s the brilliance of this market, isn’t it?  It’s the challenge, the excitement of bringing something so vibrant to a child’s fingertips. 

And yes, that child may try to press all the WRONG buttons… but who is to say they are “wrong” in the first place.  Flip it on it’s side, and twist it to the positive. 

Ooo, and this isn’t the post for such a ramble, but remind me to wax poetic on the trials and tribulations of obsessive compulsive tween virtual world girls & their path towards boyfriend dominance… I’ve been watching play patterns lately, and MAN… girls are tough lil cookies with one-track minds… and that one track = scoring a virtual boyfriend.  I’ve watched this for a while, but never from a guy’s perspective (I worked with one of my screeners and saw how insane girls were about approaching him and claiming him – despite his total lack of willingness to play).  Wild.  Wild.

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