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Posts Tagged ‘virtual worlds’

It’s Arrived! FTC’s Proposals for COPPA amendments

September 15, 2011 1 comment

FTC Seeks Comment on Proposed Revisions to Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule Changes in Technology Drive Proposed Updates

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment on proposed amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, which gives parents control over what personal information websites may collect from children under 13. The FTC proposes these amendments to ensure that the Rule continues to protect children’s privacy, as mandated by Congress, as online technologies evolve. The Commission proposes modifications to the Rule in five areas: definitions, including the definitions of “personal information” and “collection,” parental notice, parental consent mechanisms, confidentiality and security of children’s personal information, and the role of self-regulatory “safe harbor” programs.

FTC Seeks Comment on Proposed Revisions to Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule Changes in Technology Drive Proposed Updates

Wow… so, after a year of research and reflection from the COPPA round table in DC, the FTC has come forward with some proposals / amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.  This should be VERY interesting, considering the upcoming push for kids to participate in Social Media platforms (*cough* Hearsay… Facebook *cough).  Take a look at the link above for full run down from the FTC website. Otherwise, here’s a quick bullet list.

Proposed changes include, my notes in RED:

  •  Updating the definition of “personal information” to include geolocation and persistent identifiers such as tracking cookies for behavioral advertising. (Wow. I actually think this is GREAT for all those platforms now collecting location.  Seems like a no brainer in regards to children.  As for Behavioral Advertising?  Man oh man, this should be an interesting shake-down.)
  • Modifying the definition of “collection” to allow children to participate in interactive communities without parental consent. (Sites must employ reasonable measures to delete all or virtually all children’s personal information before it is made public) (I’m not sure how different this is from what is already practiced?  I will need to do a deeper dive to understand what this is in exact reference to, or what this actually affects – if anything at all).
  • Streamlining/clarifying information that websites give parents prior to collecting children’s personal information (adding more information in the notifications, and not hiding in only in the Privacy Policy) (This is great in “theory” – but let’s be honest… it’s hard enough to get parents to see the BIG GREEN CLICK HERE / URL at the TOP of a welcome email, regardless of the information buried within the email.  I feel this is a “good policy” amendment more than something that will prove helpful, which is sad.)
  • New Parental Verification / consent opportunities (Yay! we need new methods!):
  1. Electronic scans of signed parental consent forms (The modern “fax”, lol.  No brainer here.)
  2. Video-conferencing (Bwaha! Dear gawd almighty – this is BONKERS for scaling… Great for quick-fire Customer Service & Skype, nuts for staffing and sustaining large groups)
  3. Government-issued IDs checked against a database (note: promptly deleted after verification) (Interesting! Lots of “Big Brother”-esque thoughts stream through my head, and I don’t necessarily think its a bad thing in regards to children… But that’s because those actions help me do my job in protecting my audience).
  • PROPOSED DELETION OF EMAIL-PLUS (This is a HUGE FTC proposal. It could affect a LOT of businesses and platforms for kids. Seriously.  Not to mention, marketing emails & virtual worlds… People who have been using email plus + great policy are about to lose a LOT of numbers in registrations!  Oooo doggy!)
  • New 180-day proposal for companies seeking “new” types of verification processes to be vetted and approved (or rejected) by the FTC
  • Safe Harbor programs must do annual audits. (Um. Yeah. I feel like there should be biannual audits done, but in a cooperative, friendly manner.)
Overall – interesting day of information.  Commenting has started on these proposed amendments… so get on it if you feel the need to speak out.  The only yellow flag for me = deletion of Email Plus.  It has been the EASIEST method to engage kids… and the lowest barrier to entry for parents (*no comment on the easy work arounds).  I worry that this will just send kids tenfold into adult areas or into opportunities of lying to get what they want.  Overall, maybe it will be a great thing?  I think I’m just foreseeing the crunch various companies are going to have between removing the “email plus” approval system and entering the “full verification” method.  I know a lot of companies have used email plus in a positive method – with extensive filters, moderation systems/practices, and staffing.
So… what do you think?
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Ramble: Why I’m Enamored With Club Penguin

February 19, 2008 4 comments

Okay. Honesty here. I used to despise club penguin. I won’t really get into it, but let’s just say I couldn’t understand why boy & girl tweens would be interested in something that seemed to young.

That was quite a while ago. Now, I’m in awe of the community manager/strategist/PM… WHOMEVER it is over there making that gem of a world. Why????

SIMPLICITY. And Imagination.

There seem to be quite a few things in life that make me giddy. GIDDY. I think I’ve established that in the past. But I’ll tell you what– it’s uber-hard to trump how giddy I get when I see kids living out their imaginative play– uninhibited and free-flowing. It makes me proud to be in this industry– whether or not I have a bloomin’ thing to do with the project. Why? Because people like me are attempting to offer quantities of similar opportunities.

But I digress: Back to the splendor of Club Penguin’s progression. About a month (or more) ago, Rockhopper (Club Penguin’s “celebrity” in-house penguin, of piratey nature) was sailing his ship through the seas. Rockhopper’s ongoing storylines have continually brought new levels of realness– or pretend play– to the world, giving kids someone to aspire to meet, greet, be like, hang with, etc. Grounds them a bit more in the surreal nature of the penguin world. You could see good ole Rockhopper sailing his ship in a low-tech flash video by climbing to the top of the lighthouse and peering through the giant telescope. Well… tragedy struck a few weeks back, having poor ole Rockhopper crash his boat. In response, CP provided PFD (personal float device) for penguins to sport around– which they did in droves. Nothing like giving cool-factor to otherwise lamish safety devices (however, that Titanic camp sound about the PFD’s always made them cool for me, and now I’ve the sound stuck in my head, lol if you know it).

Marooned Rockhopper then became a local celeb, hanging out from time to time, greeting penguins and gifting them with avatar backgrounds of himself (signed too– for extra famousness). If a penguin got this background– he/she STILL has this background. It’s a status thing now. Limited and exclusive and now unable to attain. SMART SMART SMART. Fueling the “citizenship” competition, and encouraging penguins to WANT to hang out more often (they don’t want to miss out).

Well, time has passed. They through an underwater-themed party… which they tied into Rockhopper’s tale by the addition of a submarine game for penguins to explore the underwater wreckage. That’s pretty wicked.

All of this is fantastic strategy & planning & tie-ins for the cross-world interaction. But THIS WEE GEM today floored me even more….

While exploring the temp/new party-aesthetics, I went to the ICE BERG, where the free “minors” hat was, and where I suspected the sub game to be… The “room” (iceberg area) was FULL. Took me several tries to enter. Regardless, it was full. When I finally entered I was met with this site:

club-penguins-trying-to-tip-ice-berg.jpg

 

 

(side note: I just wrote a HUGE inspiration piece about this bloody interaction and STUPID wordpress just erased it. Forgive me, but I’m IRRITATED as I just spend ages writing that…. GRRRRRRROWL)

Anyway. Background about the island: the iceberg is a STATIC BACKGROUND. There isn’t a lick of flash or movement or anything. A few months back, and for days on end, this room would fill to the max with penguins trying to FLIP/TIP the iceberg. Let me repeat: static. image. They would all stand in hordes on the edge– encouraging each other to dance or move so that it might do something to the berg. Alas, it didn’t.

Well, here we are, months later, and Club Penguin staged a themed party of “underwater” delights. One of which was the pimpin’ out of the barren iceberg & a future SUBMARINE game allowing users to EXPLORE Rockhopper’s ship wreckage. Pretty darn cool. Once again– this gives kids a sense of cause & action. This world has meaning. If a ship wrecks, one might be able to see it. So, the clever wee penguins (or not so clever, depending on your value of imagination & play) are once again trying to TIP THE BERG… this time they’ve come armed!!

Club Penguin has continuously added customizations that are action-bound. The fireman costume can spew water from the hose, and the construction worker penguin can jackhammer– complete with jackhammering animations. The users (as you can see) have collected at the bottom of the iceberg and are collectively trying to “break” or tip the berg.

“Why are we doing this?” asked a lemming penguin
“Because it’s fun!” replied four others.
“Rockhoppers ship is down there!” shouts another penguin.
“We’re going to free the ship” adds another.
“Dance or move to do something to help!”
“Get your friends!”

And they continue on– collectively pretending & hoping & interacting. Awesome

Have you ever seen a group of day camp kids @ the beach? I was a summer camp counselor for nigh on 14ish years (ten of which I spent at a day camp for the park district). It doesn’t matter WHO you are– if you’re a kid, you are welcome to join in the mayhem– especially the boys. They build and create worlds in the sand– and the waterfalls they make never stay right, so they build dams, and yell for help, and recruit bucket kids whose sole job is to run back and forth from the water, bringing in water reserves. They don’t even look you in the face, they just include you in the emotional-story-creation.

One of my favorite campers ever– a nine year old named PAYTON decided one day that she HATED this plastic baby toy truck she found on the beach. She and her 4 friends decided to bury it, all the while spewing their wrath on the poor toy, building story lines about the infamous “Farmer Brown” who was painted as the driver of the truck. Oooo, that Farmer Brown! So, I came along, checking in on her and the girls, and they told me of the burial. I suggested that we build Scotland on top of the buried Farmer Brown and then we could have a proper funeral afterwards. So, that morning we spent nigh on 2 hours building mountains and lochs and valleys, etc. We started with six total ‘builders’ (myself included, naturally). When we finished we had forty-three children working with us– some were just locals, not even campers. We each made up folktales about the wilderness and how Farmer Brown was attached to the story. Oooo that Farmer Brown. When it came time, I gave the sermon of Farmer Brown’s funeral. Payton gave testimonials, as did a few others who wished to join in, and then we all… and I do mean all, gave the most faux-miserable, loud-sobbing version of “Amazing Grace” one could ever hear. At some point during the “service” we attracted a HUGE crowd. I couldn’t give you numbers– parents, campers, public, etc. And they laughed and cheered and faux-cried along.

Afterwards, the kids set to “destroying” scotland by trampling it, as a uber-sandcastle should be trampled. I went to grab lunch. When I came back– all the kids were at it again. Burying Farmer Brown & getting into the stories & history of it.

Basically– kids want to be included on the magic, they want to build empires from scratch, they want to emotionally invest themselves in seemingly-silliness, etc. It’s fun. It’s a release. It’s escapism– all the while feeling included and excited.

I see this play pattern/behavior all the time on Club Penguin. From “snowball” wars (which are much more fun in the making then the actual war part, which is why “retreats” are so much fun too), to parties in the igloo (again, much more fun in theory and planning and rounding up than the actual dancing part). Club Penguin provides tools… triggers… that allow the users to “go to town” — making up their own rules & play. Club Penguin tries to support by facilitating pieces of storyline — just enough of a taste that the users will run away with the end.

The staff gives real credit to the power of their community, and the innovative nature of this demographic, and I just dig it. Other Virtual Worlds you see out there have to hard-sell all the brand elements, and try to “knock you out” with their high tech awesomeness. I “get” that in regards to catching enough attention to even COMPETE in this market these days– I do. But, Club Penguin… man, they get a WHOLE LOT out of very little (at least in regards to flashiest of the flashy). It reminds me of the good ole days– a large cardboard box, time, and loads of imagination. I’m not sure anyone could really compete with Club Penguin’s level of simplicity & community any longer because it’s all about the differentiating of “big sells” and catchy 2.0 intensiveness or beat-head-with-education that the corps peeps are looking for– and no longer about the simplicity of the play…

But in the now: Bravo, Club Penguin Staff. I salute you proudly.

What to Look For in Safe Online Destinations for Kids

January 4, 2008 8 comments

Registration Processes:

  • Personal information
    • What do they collect? Do they collect your child’s real name? Your child’s email address? Address? Any type of information that can identify your child?? If they collect this information they should ALSO ask for your child’s DOB (Date of Birth) or Age.
    • And if your child is under the age of 13, the site should ask for your (THE PARENT’S) email address and EMAIL you promptly regarding your child’s online registration process (either a “head’s up, your kids on our site, and here’s some info about why we’re safe” or “Your child signed up and here is your child’s login information, have questions? ask” emails).
    • If they DO NOT collect any private/identifiable information (they only collect: username, M/F, DOB, and/or zip code) that’s fine. They do not need to email you– but personally– if they’re under 13 years of age, it’s my preference to see the site always email the parent. But again, in this case, not necessary for the information attained (yet…)

User Generated Content:

  • User Generated Content (UGC) is ANYTHING your child creates of their own free will (and then shares online). Whether it be a screen name, a blog/forum comment, a blog/forum post, chat comments, a drawing, a story, and uploaded photo, etc.
  • It is my professional opinion that all UGC from U13 users should go through filters & screening processes. Always. But that’s not necessarily always the case.
  • This goes ESPECIALLY for usernames. Registration processes always ask for username identification. The uber-safe sites provide a mix&match screen name builder. Others screen moderate.
    • Eyeballing the usernames: are they screened? How to tell:
      • Freshly created usernames that haven’t been approved yet have four processes:
        • 1) the user is dubbed “Guest” (or similar) until the screen name is viewed by staff (sometimes the user can see his/her own name, but others cannot– they see “guest”);
        • 2) the username has gone through a filter and deemed appropriate by passing through without hitting a blacklisted word/phase (this is NOT my ideal method of screening names);
        • 3) the user cannot play (only set up profile, etc) until approved by staff;
        • 4) the site is stupid and has no corporate responsibility (aka, they don’t care about personal safety or inappropriate content appearing live on their premises)
      • In my HUMBLE professional opinion… filters DO NOT ACCURATELY SCREEN USERNAMES… EVER. Why? Because kids… they are clever. Like the Raptors in Jurassic Park. They’ll find a way. If you have filters first & human screening before a user name goes live? That’s a lot better. Spelling, phonetics, numbers, etc make it very easy to make things look/sound like inappropriate content (remember “80081355” on a calculator? If not, go ahead– stick that in your ancient calc… we used to come up with words like that in 3rd grade)
  • If you– the parent– agree to a child’s participation online, you agree to all that the site has to offer. Technically, once a site gets your sign off, the kid can do anything– because you gave your permission. SO, if the site hasn’t done its darnedest to make you feel safe and assured by their obvious practices… you might want to take a closer look at the site’s offerings, privacy policy, and TOS (terms of service).
    • Further clarification: if you agree to your child’s registration process, you MAY be agreeing to your kid participating in unscreened, unmonitored viewing & uploading of personal photos, sharing information, speaking freely, etc.
    • Most sites for kids make sure that they cover your basis and protect the kid… but some are lazy and do not. So it’s good to double check.
    • If the site DID NOT take any of your child’s personal information, and then they ask for UGC, three things happen
      • 1. The UGC is screened (a moderator/screener– adult– looks at the content and scans it for inappropriate behavior, personal information, etc)
      • 2. The site NOTIFIES you of the child’s wish to display UGC on the site, and either gives you a link TO the child’s material (if already screened and deemed appropriate by staff) or keeps the UGC in a queue until you approve it yourself.
      • 3. They suck: aka they post the information without screening and/or notification (which is shady)… and basically just expect the fact that the child is “nameless” in the registration process to be enough for protection & to appease COPPA legislation (which it isn’t… kids sometimes slip email addresses, phone numbers, pictures of them & their best friends, etc into UGC to make or sustain friends). This again goes back to my humble professional opinion that UGC should ALWAYS be screened by moderators & adults.

Staff and Q&A

  • Something I like to check is:
    • how readily available is the staff? (24 hour?)
    • Are they roaming the site visibly? Or are they the “flag&come” sort that appear when a whistle is blown?
    • Does content go live, or is it screened first?
    • Where do I contact the site’s staff? And how easy is it to find that info?
    • How do I report inappropriate content? And is it visible for kids to use quickly, simply, easily, etc

    Look: you don’t have to bombard the staff with these questions (especially, since then you’re taking the time away from their jobs). Just cruise around and see for yourself. If they don’t bother to share this info with you in a parents-corner or in FAQ, etc… then maybe think again about how you feel regarding the site & your child. Chances are, they’re safe & sound… but really, it’s something to think about. It’s ALWAYS your choice. If you don’t like it, find someplace better. The market grows by day.

Ads & Content

  • If you are paying for your child to play in a site… Banner Ads, well… they tend to be very uncool.
  • If there are going to be ads, I’m a bigger fan of static ads than clickable ads (static = just a picture, clickable = go to another website)
  • Clickable ads (like banner ads) should ALWAYS warn kids, letting them know they are being jetted AWAY from the site.
    If banner ads, or clickable ads, do NOT give you a “Heads up, You’re leaving” page (usually the time count is 20 seconds before automatically sending the user along)… that is wrong. Not everyone agrees with me… but as a parent, you might.
  • Sometimes free sites for kids have less-than-desirable ads flashing by. Why? Because ad revenue systems sometimes slip a non-child-friendly link through. Personally– if a site is going to have ads, I would rather THEY be the middleman, picking and choosing ads for the site instead of someone like Google Ad Sense, yadda, doing it.
  • Off-Site Links: like ads, if it leads you FROM the site for kids, it should have a “heads up you’re leaving us” page attached. Kids click, click, click. Like buttons in an elevator, they tend to press them all. Better to warn then assume the kid knows what he/she pressed.
  • Links: It is IN MY opinion that if a site SHOULD place exterior links on their site, they should know exactly what kind of content is available on ALL PAGES within 2 or 3 site link/page clicks. What does this mean? Well… if I link my site to your site… i better know exactly what content is on every page of your site. And if you link to your brother, well it’s my business to know exactly what is available on his site too. And if either site besides mine has inappropriate content or links or ads… well, perhaps it’s time to stop that webring, yes? Yes.
  • Look for Forums:
    • Forums are a FANTASTIC way for kids to continue conversations & state opinions & explore typing skillz, etc… but, if not properly addressed, they become worse than an unmonitored school yard.
    • Do forum moderators participate?
    • Is the content live or screened to live?
    • What kind of commentary is being passed & chatted about?
  • And sadly… I know it’s wrong to say (and some people might call me out on it)… But i truly do subscribe to the DO JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER. If a site looks less-than-stellar in aesthetics, doesn’t look well established or taken care of, seems to make the important information hard to find… then chances are, it isn’t a great site. The people who really do care about the kids & the community & the site will work their fingers to the bone– rolling with the times, improving, and providing.
  • As for safety– always check it out for yourself:
    • Registration process
    • Privacy Policy
    • Rules & TOS
    • Content: UGC, Ads, and Moderation (Staff)

That’s my tidbit of the day.  If you have MORE info you’d like to share… please don’t hesitate in the comments.  Thanks 😉

Future & Pre-Beta Virtual Worlds

November 16, 2007 25 comments

Okay… I’m trying to mock up a list of all these VW’s for tweens/twids that are not live yet, or exists in early Beta. Please add more in the comments, thanks!

  • Bella Sera: Card game + virtual world based on horses/horse play
  • MoshiMonsters: Monster virtual world based on clever gaming and monster care– easily transitions to mobile technology
  • Club Pony Pals: Based on a book series about ponies, this world will be for the pony pet care
  • Dizzywood: A creative, fantasy virtual world to create adventures and inspire
  • Planet Cazmo: A virtual world based on gaming and MUSIC
  • Freaky Creatures: A virtual world for boys regarding monster/creatures
  • Build-a-Bear: Based on the popular brand, build your bear and play with it online in a virtual world. It’s LIVE now.
  • FusionFall: Cartoon Network’s MMORG, based on Cartoon Network brands & exploring the worlds within the network (i’m looking forward to this!)
  • Little Big Planet: Okay, okay– I know this will be a video game… but it’s community/world appeal are just too awesome to NOT mention.
  • Lego Universe: It’s lego. It’s community. It’s gonna be amazing.
  • Panwapa (it’s live, and been online longer than some previously mentioned): A preschool VW brought to the world by Sesame Street folks. It’s multicultural, it’s unique, it’s going to be the next big VW phase in like 1 year (preschool/kid VW’s)
  • Adventure Rock: The CBBC/BBC’s robot-y virtual world
  • Zibbies: A product based VW (dolls that kinda look like a mix of webkinz & Beanie Babies but with rubbery spikes for hair on their heads). Currently live in early beta.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean Online: Went live a little over a week ago– this pirate existence is a downloadable app (like WOW) and currently in Beta. I love it.
  • Littlest Pet Shop: Also, currently in Beta– this is kinda an exclusive experience, as they products (with the much needed code to play) are hard to get hands on. But you can demo free. No community yet.
  • Wowbotz: An outerspace-feeling VW in beta-live for “preschoolers” I more or less categorize it for kids/twids.
  • Mystikatz Kutties: A Virtual World for girls who like dolls dressed like colorful gypsies. Like it’s brother site “Wowbotz”, this is categorized as for “preschoolers” but I’d stick it in the kids/twids boxes.
  • Magi-Nation: Based on a TV show and a trading card game, this virtual world will cater to the fantasy tweens/kids who might also enjoy shows like Yo-Gi-Oh and Pokemon and Chaotic.
  • Disney’s Cars: A virtual world built on the Disney movie “Cars”.
  • Mini Match: From Cartoon Network comes a MMO for casual gamers, and world roamers. It’s in UBER early beta… UBER. But so far– you can set up your avatar (promising animation, ugly avatar face/hair but that can change?, the clothing layering options = very smart indeed), but from my experience you can’t play yet. Cartoon Network seems to be treading lightly in this space– and with a good brain on their shoulders
  • Pixie Hallow: Not yet in LIVE beta… but will be amazing! Loads of great rumors about this one… It’s Disney’s Fairies VW.
  • T-Works (????): Looney Toon Virtual World that may or may not be launching this fall with several other Warner platforms….?
  • Konstruction Zone: A new (pre-beta) VW based on cute construction characters– encourages online playtime between parents and kids.
  • Papermint: another virtual world for kids– 2D art, pre-Beta (from the looks of it).
  • Hello Kitty World: Not live yet, their pre-beta site offers a decent sneak peek of elements that will be a part of the world. I’m interested to find out what “in game telepathy” is– as they say in their introductory page. It’s all the bright happy bumblegum colors you come to expect from HK. I’m pumped to see what HK brings to the table.
    • I’m not sure what the safety is on this yet– Sanrio Town is NOT for U13… and the HK world will tie in somehow with the pre-existing Sanrio Town community platform. So, stay tuned…. 😦
  • Dragon Play: It’s a medieval world for dragon play (like the name, clever, lol).
  • Chaotic: A virtual worldish(?) experience attached to collectible card-play
  • Ice Age: An MMO based upon the two movies (and third to come) slated for 2009
  • Minyanland: A virtual environment where kids can learn about money, banking, and managing responsibilities while gaining a virtual life. Has parent/chore metagame, etc. Based on the finance site Minyanville.com
  • Planet V-Tech: described as an educational virtual world for 5+
  • Earth Eternal: An MMO with educational elements that can be accessed through social networking
  • Speed Racer: A virtual world (with toy tie-ins) for the upcoming movie franchise
  • Web wilds: A virtual environment to correlate with the puppet-dolls.
  • Hot Wheels: A virtual world to correlate with the toy-cars.
  • Madagascar: A virtual world to correspond with their upcoming sequel movie.
  • Seapals: A product tie-in with VW, like it’s sister product Shining Stars. (It’s gotten more PR than Shining Stars, which has been live for quite some time now– it could be interesting!)
  • MyLife: An avatar/world combination toy for girls to build and share profiles (Playmates toys)
  • Beanie Babies 2.0: A virtual world – pet product combo. Codes. Unlock. Dolls. Yadda.
  • Guppylife: An MMO for girls not yet released, and very little info.
  • Lola’s World: It’s a companion community with vw-elements for tween girls based on the Lola, Think Pink, books. It launches in April 08.
  • Tronji: An MMO game based around the Tronji world is currently in development to be released alongside the TV show.
  • Tech Deck Live: A Virtual world skate part for tweens who like skateboarding. Subscription based. Tech Deck is a toy product (finger skateboards).
  • Dinokids: An MMO (looks just like Maplestory but with dinos) for tween/kids.
  • Treetures: A VW with stuffy product tie in (Russ)
  • Green: A future virtual world promoting green initiatives. Not live yet, very hush – hush. Now live.
  • Kaimira MMO: BBC announced their desire to create a MMO around the Kaimira Trilogy, a book series from Star Farm Productions.
  • KidsWB: Warner Bros platform site meshed with Virtual worlds??? Details still coming through the pipeline.
  • DC HeroZone: Another virtual world from WB that follows comics & heroes
  • WarnerZone: Another Warner Bros stealth-hush hush VW coming summer ’08.
  • Zoopri: A virtual world for tweens, not live yet.
  • Dinosaur Junction: Another virtual world for kids based on dinos with some educational values.
  • JumpStart Advanced Preschool World: a VW for the 3-5 set. Software first, world later.
  • Wizard 101: An MMO/VW for the tween, teen set based on wizardry and magic and fantasy.
  • Elf Island: A tween VW based on being an upstanding member and “doing good,” not launched yet.
  • Topps Town: A VW for 6+ boys (only, seriously, no girl av) based on trading card gameplay.
  • Muppet MMO: A little birdy whispered this one to me that the Muppet MMO is in strategy/planning phase… so take it was a wink & a nod and a grain of salt.
  • AllGirlArcade: Currently a multiplatform community site, future to be a virtual world
  • AllBoyArcade: By the makers of the girl arcade, this won’t be rolling until next year.
  • Kiwi Heroes: A VW in pre-Beta for tweens regarding conservationism.
  • Tootsville: A toy based VW with subscription too based on elephant/pet play.
  • Unnamed MMO: From the folks who created Neopets. Think Labyrinth & Dark Crystal.
  • Revngenz: A car MMO for gender neutral (really for boys) with licenses for gift cards.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: MMO based on the Nickelodeon television show.
  • Huri Humi: Avatar virtual world for tweens based on product to VW purchases.
  • Happy Meal 3.0: McDonald’s version of a virtual world for kids.
  • Action AllStars: A simply MARVELOUS virtual world for sports & tweens, currently in private beta.
  • Saddle Club: VW in development for the book series/tv series (tweens, kids, teens)
  • Twin Skies: An MMO for all ages from the creators of Neopets.
  • Emerald Island: An MMO for tweens based on environmental issues.
  • Garden Party: A virtual world for young tweens about growing plants & playing
  • Ekoloko: A virtual world for tweens based on the “green” initiative.
  • SpineWorld: A virtual world by Playdo based on epic adventure & fantasy

BAH! I know I’m forgetting a ton– curse you, brain cloud (reference: “Joe Versus the Volcano”). Any help here? I’ll keep adding as they come.

Also for those VW researchers/explorers, here are a few oldie but goody links:

A Breakdown of Virtual Worlds & Terminology

October 4, 2007 9 comments

Okay, so I’ve been really REALLY thinking about this for some time now– since there has been such a surge in the VW department not everyone really fits under the same expectations associated to the broad term Virtual World. As of yet, I have not seen anyone really get into depth about this, so I thought I’d share my own izzinology or izzilosopy:

(A-typical) Virtual Worlds:
You build your own virtual protagonist and explore a 3D like environment by moving your character using the mouse or the arrow keys. Contains community components where you can interact, speak (perhaps limited), and engage with others and/or the setting. You might have your own room/house/area to decorate, and perhaps a profile to express yourself. It’s a large sandbox of play– roam, play, hang out, do activities, engage, etc.

Example: Club Penguin

Lockbox Worlds:
Like the above, except there is ultimately no free will. Every option for interaction has been pre-scripted, pre-designed, no room for error. To communicate, you choose from a list of options (or no communication at all). To design your place, it is only so big to fit furniture and no room for furniture-spelling. Basically the only moderated component would be a screen name.

Example: Disney Fairies

Dynamic Worlds:
You create your avatar/protagonist, but it remains in static form– like a still photo or an avatar with limited movement (think waving or blinking). To explore the world, the user must engage in the point & click method. The world is dynamic, yet you cannot move virtually as you might in video games, etc. To engage yourself in the world you examine the map/area, find something to dig deeper in, point, and click. Dynamic Worlds are more engaging to the user directly, as they are not constantly reminding users that they’re playing through a character they have to control. Occasionally there is the drag & drop ability to affect your avatar/room. And sometimes certain Dynamic Worlds allow for a virtual chat room/area where you can actually move your avatar around the flash/chat interface.

Example: Neopets

Story/Content World:
Want more from a book you might have read? A tale you might have heard? Well, Content Worlds are basically just that– a visual tour of places from a story. Usually it’s a drop down menu with people or places. Select one and see it and read about it. It’s very “view finder” if you catch that reference. It’s bringing you the world you’ve seen before, but in another medium.

Example: Harrypotter.com (Warner Bros site)

Choose Your Own Adventure Worlds:
For the goal oriented Virtual World Explorer– this world is less like a large theme park and more like a series of quests/missions. There is rhyme, reason, and anticipated adventure waiting for eager brains. Many of the adventure worlds jump from the A-typical virtual world to the dynamic click & follow worlds, and they can fit easily in the lockbox mentality as well. Community can be involved– as users like to see others inhabiting the world (reminding them of the competition level). Community chat elements can be leveraged for gaming as well– cheat round ups, etc, but not necessary. Some Choose Your Own Adventure-esque worlds have opportunities for non-quest behavior for the bored kids that are stuck and kinda just want to be weird (I have a term for those lovelies. They are what I call the “Go Go Loners” which I will detail another time).

Example: Kingdomofloathing.com or Foster’s Big Fat House Party (Cartoon Network)

Singular World:
There are also the Virtual Worlds (whether A-Typical or Dynamic) that are one player only. The world is your sandbox, adventures await– but you’re the only free thinking element within. Several VWs coming out this year started this way– it’s a good opportunity to see community-free game play, that way you can develop early game-oriented play patterns.

Example: Littlest Pet Shop’s upcoming Virtual World (got to check it out this past weekend at the Digital Life Conference in NYC)

Virtual Dress Up World:
Not so much about the world– Virtual Dress Up (or Dynamic dress up) is more or less following the dress up play pattern. Some are drag & drop/coloring activities (like girl play avatar systems of detail). And some are a little more worldly– allowing you to virtual shop through a virtual clothing store/mall, etc, and buy clothing for your doll/model/avatar. It’s brilliantly crafted for the play pattern alone (with community elements here and there to help encourage healthy competition & inspiration, etc).

Example: Stardoll.com

And (for now, as I might define more in the coming days) last but not least… the little known…

Chat Room Virtual Community:
Not a world by any aesthetic means. HOWEVER, never ever disregard the power of collective imaginations. Blank canvesses make more things happen than any uber skilled designer/programmer. Twenty people on a similar ground of understanding (say… Star Wars location: Naboo Swamp) conversing regularly while wanting to interact in some way with the brand (Jedi-Izzy had a treehouse with never-ending M&Ms that shot staples at the annoying Fetts, while Qui had a hockey rink, and Steph had a red couch– we all watched the daily sith battles as they entered our chat, or interacted in some way with a random Star Wars wedding… YES, i know, I’m a geek– but there’s collective power in the world we built, and it was just as real as the experience created in some of these Virtual Worlds today). If you see– there are forums for major networks where fans/audience/users sit around “drinking” pop or martinis, or blogs where kids are passing “cookies” and falling in pits of “peanut butter.” The imagination is a powerful thing… and it can make virtual worlds out of text and white screens.

Example: Long Lost Talkcity’s Star Wars > Naboo Swamp