Saturday, July 05, 2008

What can make a 4yr old beg for a membership


Since her sister is playing (or should I say living) day and night in her first virtual community ClubPenguin, Angelina (4) has been begging 'make me a number' which can be translated as 'make me a member'.


What hooks kids up in this kind of environment:
1. the social component of making friends, chatting, and hanging out, which usually evolves from I have hundreds of friends I don't even know, to a nice organized list of a few buddies I know (some personally from the outside world). We tried other games before, such as Jump start DVDs, and nick jr, etc, but the social thing really takes things to another level. MyePets, only adds to the social component apparently when kids know each other from the outside world, and being so much more on the safer side did not make the trick for Nicole. Combined with phone or skype with real friends I saw it be as addictive as can be imagined.
2. the freedom they feel by living the adult life of earning their money, buying their stuff, going to places on their own (coffee shop, night club, pizza place, etc).
3. Having this early experience of being "adults", in control, learning to spend their money, adopting pets (that would run away if not taken care of) balancing their time between the earning of the coins (games mostly), the spending and living their lives, seems like it could be so beneficial compared with generations that did not have this simulation chance and went all the way to the real thing.

Why is it so exciting to me?
1. I see it evolving into a virtual world where they will do most of the things we are doing outside, such as: watching tv/videos, listening to their music, syncing their ipods, sending emails, having school like activities, checking their cellphone voicemails, texting cellphones, uploading their pictures and videos, buying/selling real stuff.
2. Facebook would become so pale compared with a social network like the one they could build inside their virtual world including their virtual homes (in ClubPenguin their igloos).
3. Today being this a kids software there is all the usual paranoia about safety that we can all understand and be thankful for; but these kids that are playing in virtual worlds today, will not use "flat" software ever again. For them, Second Life type of communities would be just a natural thing. The open architecture of Second Life makes it the perfect virtual world for the future; the place where we all might be conducting most of our business in the next few years.
4. Summarizing, the excitement for me is the usual, having a little glimpse into the future. Imagining how "immersive" these virtual reality software will be in our lives. The kick I could not have using Second Life (I'll give it a second chance soon) I could find in these kids communities such as Club Penguin.

If only some explicitly educational features could be merged so every so many minutes they had to go through some reading/writing/math, it would be just heaven to us parents.

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