Virtual Worlds for Kids Under 12 as Playgrounds
Director of Marketing and Community Management, Paul Alex Gray explains how we’re working to create a positive, fun and safe environment for kids:
The best analogy we can think of when describing virtual worlds is a children’s playground. If you have kids yourself, or you can cast your mind back to your own childhood experiences (or if you are a kid!) you’ll know that at any time the kids in the playground can be doing all sorts of fun things.
Some of them might be playing a game of football or flying a kite; others might be having their lunch as they chat and gossip about the latest movies or pop stars; you may see some kids out exploring the outdoors, looking at plants or making daisy chains; others still might just be relaxing with a good book.
As with any playground, the interactions of so many children can be positive, beneficial and off course fun. But we all know that sometimes kids like to test their boundaries or might make decisions that impact others in not so nice ways.
In fun virtual worlds for kids like Little Space Heroes, the interactions between players enhance the overall gaming experience, but there can be occasions where the actions of some kids have a negative impact on others.
Virtual world rules and regulations
It’s very important to have rules regarding the expectations of players within a virtual world for kids under 12. These rules tend to focus on key areas such as:
- Not sharing personal information
- No bullying or harassment of other players
- No cheating, scamming or attempting to hack the game
- No bad language
Little Space Heroes has clear rules of play and these are important to ensure that the virtual playground we nurture is one that is fun. We also use advanced tools and technology such as continually evolving word filters and monitoring of chat logs to spot and respond to inappropriate behaviour.
Doing the right thing
In designing virtual worlds for kids under 12 we wanted to look beyond rules, which can often be quite negative in their messaging, and focus on how we can encourage good behaviour amongst our players. Rather than just give them a big list of “do not do this!” we’ve looked externally for inspiration on how best to make children want to be good citizens in their community.
We’ve been doing our homework and have spoken to school teachers and educators as well as reading up on the recommendations by teaching and parenting groups, scouting and guide groups, karate and judo classes as well as taking inspiration from stories or themes that kids enjoy. Imagine the ethos of a valiant knight – this classic character lives by codes of honour that help guide his or her actions.
We’ve therefore been developing a Code of Conduct Charter that will use to encourage good behaviour in the game. It’s a work in progress and it’s something that we’ll refine over time as we see how kids engage with Little Space Heroes and what their expectations are, as well as those of their parents and carers.
Some key elements that we have written into our code of conduct include:
- Sharing – Working with and helping other players is a great way for kids to enjoy Little Space Heroes. It’s much more fun to go on adventures, solve mysteries, explore the universe and have a great time as a team than by oneself.
- Take responsibility – We help kids to understand that their actions have consequences and that theyare solely responsible for this. If kids are thoughtful and considerate of other players they will all benefit.
- Lead by example – By demonstrating that they are a kind, courteous and friendly Space Hero, kids will encourage similar behaviour in others around them.
- Help others – Remember, we all start out as beginners. If kids see other players who are new to Little Space Heroes we encourage them to lend a hand and show them the ropes?
- Accept differences – Through the diversity in game play and characters, we want to help kids understand that each of us is different and that it’s our differences that make up a fun and vibrant community.
We’re identifying ways to recognise and reward good behaviour too and we’ll share more on that in future.
In developing our virtual world for kids under 12, we’ve worked hard to create the best possible experience by looking at all areas of the game that players enjoy. As community represents such an important part of a virtual world, we think that establishing a code of conduct will help make the experience better for all players.
Have a sneak peek at Little Space Heroes at http://www.littlespaceheroes.com