it's a website sponsored by national geographic kids. diana's loved publications by natgeo kids for ages (still does, in fact, but we could both really do without all the advertisements). so, i felt pretty safe letting the kids explore in this MMORPG. diana has all but abandoned minecraft in order to play this every chance she gets. this does not surprise or worry me. before minecraft, she liked playing papa's pancakeria and its variations until she grew disinterested in it. ander plays sometimes, too, especially when they are working together on the computers at home (hooray for weekends and school's-out-because-of-snow days).
i've thought about why my kids, especially diana, are so drawn to this game:
- she loves cute animals, like littlest pet shop toys, with their gigantic eyes and oversized heads. they have the same appeal as hello kitty. this game is full of adorableness.
- she can *be* the animal. animals are the players' avatars. they can name themselves, change appearance, and accessorize.
- she can adopt animal pets. i know! animals with pets! the hamsters are especially sweet. the puppies drool a lot. but the pets follow you around and keep you company.
- she can earn plushies. omg. it's like being at a fair and playing the arcade games and winning All the Stuffed Animals Ever. she's overflowing with plushies and they only take up virtual room in our house. win-win.
- she can design a den. lots of dens. ok, this has got to be one of the main factors-of-awesomeness for diana. she loves interior design. she does it all the time at home with her room and for her characters and their escapades. now she has access to a multitude of den elements, so she can create and design and change and upgrade to her heart's content. she gets so excited every time she creates something new and has to show it to me right away. and it's not just living space: she's made trading centers and a school, too, that looks so inviting that i'd like to attend (spaces dedicated for music, art, patterns, reading, discussions, and communal eating).
- she's learned how to navigate and work the system. you cannot buy or sell, but you can trade. she's acquired many a feature or item otherwise difficult to attain by finding people willing to trade for something she has. she knows what to look for, how to ask, and what to offer.
- she's able to work with large sums of gems (the currency) and experiment with delayed gratification as she has to decide when and how they will be redeemed. she must manage her disappointment with poor decisions and feel the pride in figuring out how to make a good choice.
- she's also working with real money decisions, too. she can play a lot for free but can gain access to more via membership, which she pays for herself. she's considering how much of her money she'd like to invest in the game and how she wants to earn/save for it.
- she's become an adventurous explorer in this gaming environment. during most of her young life she's tended to
shy away fromrabidly avoid games that involve competition or a time element or loss of points, every so often building her courage to try one and then getting frustrated enough at her first failure that she swears off trying ever again. slowly but surely, though, she's been working at different challenges requiring varying levels of skill, recognizing that she can improve with practice. in this environment, her persistence is paying off in hard-earned feelings of competence and confidence. ander has been watching and listening to her, too, and gauging his desire to branch out of his comfort zone and try new games based on her outspoken triumphs due to hard work.
- she can be online buddies with her friends IRL. they play games together without being in the same room. it also allows her to guide ander via their avatars.
it's just another thing i can joyfully embrace.
update: steve has acquired the app for aj jump for her to play on our ipod. now she can be a kangaroo.