No, probably not. WebKinz World has built in some controls to prevent children from spending obscene amounts of time on the computer in their pet’s online world. However, WebKinz does serve as an entry into imaginary world games and massive multi-player online role playing games (MMORPG).
What are MMORPGs? MMORPGs are imaginary world games or massive multi-player online role playing games. They are games hosted on central server where users pay a monthly fee to play. Imaginary world games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft are MMORPGs. According to Wikipedia, WebKinz fits the definition of a MMORPG since players can interact in a virtual world and owners take on roles of fictional pets in a fantasy world.
So will your child’s entry into WebKinz World turn into some sort of crazy addiction where they spend all of their time on the computer and cease being social? Probably not.
Let your child enjoy WebKinz World but know the risks of other imaginary world games and MMORPGs.
In MMORPGs, gamers interact with others to complete tasks to earn money to better their online persona. Gamers establish an online identity differing from their real one. They set up a parallel life, or identity, that is detached from reality.
It is not uncommon for MMORPG gamers to rush home after school or work to spend time in the virtual world. Suddenly they are spending more time in the online world than in the real world. They have more friends in the game than in real life. If you want to get extreme, life becomes like The Matrix. Yes, the movie The Matrix.
Tech Savvy Daddy knows someone who spent over 40 hours a week playing World of Warcraft. He spent as much time in online world as he did working. He also frequented eBay to spend real money to purchase items to enhance his virtual gaming world. This is actually quite common.
Second Life is another 3-D virtual world entirely created by Residents, gamers participating in the imaginary Second Life world. There are currently over 12 million (!) Residents playing from over 100 different countries. Residents are 60% are male and 40% female and range in age from 18 – 85.
I have no experience with Second Life but its popularity forced me to do some research about how it relates to WebKinz World.
Second Life’s website distinguishes the game from most MMORPGs saying that while its interface and display are similar to most popular MMORPGs it differs because Residents can be creative and get a free basic account to participate in the imaginary world. Second Life’s world and your experience is what you make of it. According to the website, the virtual world can be as basic as hanging out with friends or become more involved to include shopping trips, starting a business, or building a skyscraper.
Of course one’s level of involvement in Second Life determines the monthly fee paid to access the virtual world. Basic accounts are free but there is a $9.95 one-time fee to upgrade your account to Additional Basic which is required to become a land owner. Once you have an Additional Basic account you must upgrade to a Premium account in order to actually be able to purchase land. You can pay for your Premium account monthly ($9.95), quarterly ($22.50), or annually ($72).
If you choose to get land in order to live in the Second Life world, work there, or build your own residences, you pay additional fees based on your activities in the imaginary world. And if you want more than your 512 square meters that you are allocated at the most basic paying membership level, there are more fees.
Maybe you decide you want your own island. While I love the idea of owning my own island, I can’t fathom paying for a piece of land that doesn’t actually include sand I can lie on. Nor am I crazy about the price. A virtual island in Second Life costs $1,675 (real US dollars!) for 65,536 square meters (about 16 acres). Additional monthly land fees for maintenance are $295 (yes, real dollars again).
Just as WebKinz has its own currency called KinzCash, Second Life’s currency is called Linden Dollars and the Marketplace is where real money changes hands. The Second Life website says you can make real money in the virtual world but it seems like more money is being spent than actually made by Residents. Right on the Second Life website there is an eBay link advertising for Residents to get their own land for dream homes, a business, or an island. Of course eBay only accepts real dollars, not Linden Dollars. But you can buy Linden Dollars on eBay with real dollars.
Second Life is just one example of MMORPGs. MMORPGs aren’t just for adults. They exist for children too. A quick Google search for children’s MMORPGs turned up some interesting results:
- Hello Kitty Online is centered around the “magical and cute online world of Hello Kitty.” Still in development, it claims to be “highly anticipated” and seeks to “provide a brand new experience even to veteran gamers.” It is also going to be more than an MMORPG since players will be able to “meet and socialize in a warm and friendly environment.”
- Entry into Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom is free and has over 5000 players in their online world. The goal is to create a character, play, and win stuff. The Virtual Magic Kingdom forbids adult themes, sharing of personal information, and pay to play situations where players must pay to enter a room or game.
- BBC Television is developing virtual world suitable for children between 7-12 years old. Called CBBC World, a spokesperson says, “It will give children a chance to move around a safe, secure world where they can not only interact with familiar characters but have an opportunity to make that world a more fascinating place with their own imaginations” Details about how the world will work and cost are still are not yet available.
This is probably so much more than you wanted to know. All of this research is bringing me back to grad school days and final papers/projects!
Thanks to Elise for asking about WebKinz! Her initial question fueled a week’s worth of posts on Tech Savvy Mama.
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Original post by Tech Savvy Mama