Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 06, 2008
Younger demographics for MMORPGs

As a follow-up on the last open Sunday thread, I'd like to talk a bit more about MMORPGs for younger audiences. The discussion was kicked of by somebody mentioning SOE's plan for Free Realms, a game combining MMORPG elements with mini-game elements from social kid spaces like Club Penguin. And although it sounds like a joke from the WoW South Park episode, Hello Kitty Online just finished it's closed beta. And then there is new game in the works called Wizard 101, which looks suspiciously like Harry Potter Online without the license. And of course there is Lego Universe, which isn't quite so surprising if you consider that the Lego Star Wars and Indiana Jones computer games were actually rather good.

Massively claims that there are now over 100 youth-oriented virtual worlds. So question is, can those games be fun for somewhat older players too? I tried Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean once, when I got a beta invite from somewhere, but didn't like it all that much. But I sure did like Puzzle Pirates, another mini-games based MMOG. I signed up for the Wizard 101 beta, but didn't get an invite yet.

Fortunately I'm past my teenage years, because teenagers have to steer clear of kiddie stuff, to preserve their street cred. :) Once you are a bit older, you actually have the freedom to look at a game, ignore the fact that its graphics are targeted at kids, and judge the game only by how fun the gameplay is. Young kids are often much harsher in judging games than teenagers, and simply refuse to play stuff which isn't fun. So sometimes a lot of surprisingly good and innovative gameplay can be found in games targeted at childrens. For example some of the best RPGs available for the various Nintendo Gameboys are the Pokemon RPGs. Of course there are also a lot of bad children's video games out there, cheap ripoffs from some children's movie and similar horrors. But just because a game is "for children" doesn't automatically make it a bad game for adults. If the gameplay is good, does it really matter if your avatar looks like Harry Potter and the world around you has lots of pink and bright colors?

So what about you? Are you going to even try one of the upcoming MMORPGs for younger audiences, like Free Realms or Wizard 101, or are you simply dismissing them as kid's stuff?
I haven't actually noticed any of these games until you mentioned them in your blog.

Which makes me wonder where kids are seeing them.

I'm fairly interested in Puzzle Pirates, seeing as how I loved Puzzle Quest but probably will only dabble while the "adult" MMO servers are down.

Personally, I think children should be outside playing with real kids than interacting with virtual kids from across the globe. Or at least, just as much.
If I had infinite time and didn't work full time I might be curious to try - but I have trouble keeping up with one MMO!
My own kids have played several of these : Club Penguin (excellent),Buildabearville (excellent)and Miuchiz (shoddy). DOMO (not safe for kids). The good ones really do have cross generational appeal offering a mix of casual games in an online world with limited social interaction.

These games need to be well moderated though - remember many of the players are very young children and adult players need to take this into account.
I got into the beta for Toontown Online (six+ years ago?) and just loved it. My account is still active though I admit I haven't played in quite some time. What it really had(?) going for it was that 'gags' (throwing pies, or using a $5 bill with a fishing rod to lure a mob onto a pile of marbles) used on "Micromanger" and "Spin Doctor" mobs is hilarious as an adult.

The 'kid safe' stuff that limited communication definitely reminds me of trying to cross-faction communicate in wow, but at least there was an option to input codes on both sides to be able to actually type out a conversation. The limits of what you could express with their chat options and the 'grouping' for 'buildings' was a bit frustrating for an adult mmo gamer.

Still, it kinda makes me want to play it again. lol. Gamers. Overgrown children, the lot of us. :)
My 10 yr old daughter and I will give Free Realms a try .. looks like fun. We have both been tracking its development for past six months.
My wife and tried Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Online, but we couldn't figure out how to get onto the same server to interact. We decided to stick to WoW.

A young high-school cousin of mine swears by Maple Story, another MMO.
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