Here’s another crazy observation from my kids’ use of Club Penguin. My kids (the older two – nine and eight – have Club Penguin accounts) swap logins with their friends so that they can go online and score in-world currency on their behalf! Oliver told me “Joseph logged in as me last night and earned me enough coins to buy a plasma for my igloo”.
First, isn’t that just kind of mind-blowing in its own right? Under-10s behaving altruistically? Playing for hours to score points for friends when they could be accumulating the coins for themselves? Shurely Shome Mishtake. Second, if this behaviour is widespread (and I’m pretty sure it is since my kids are not famously generous), how on earth do we accommodate this kind of consensual spoofing in our privacy and child protection regimes?
At the weekend I watched my older two kids do something fascinating. They played hide-and-seek. They’re nine and eight so they play hide-and-seek all the time. This time, though, they were playing in Club Penguin, a slick, Disney-owned virtual world for kids. Hide-and-seek isn’t a game offered by Club Penguin, though. There are lots of other games but not hide-and-seek.
So my kids here in the house and another nine year-old friend in his own house five miles away improvised a game in the busy public spaces of Club Penguin. Of course, they didn’t think this to be in the least bit remarkable.
So, to get started, Billie stood in front of the computer in the kitchen, closed her eyes and counted to twenty while Oliver, at a laptop in the living room and Joseph in his house waddled off into other Club Penguin rooms to hide. Of course, Club Penguin would have allowed Billie to find both of her friends at the click of a mouse via her buddy list – so the kids invented a ‘no buddy list’ rule – and they stuck to it.
The seeker wandered from room to room, peering into the crowded spaces for her friend’s avatars. And since avatars in Club Penguin are all… well… penguins, this was definitely not easy: it was all down to accessories like scarves and hats. Billie eventually found both of her penguin friends and then it was somebody else’s turn. What should I conclude from this observation? I guess kids will treat these environments much as they do the real ones they play in every day and will adapt them to their needs just like the real ones.
…in an anonymous office park somewhere in the South East, young people – the brighest of their generation – confidently pilot the nation into an uncertain future…
What I don’t understand (not being a gamer) is how come it’s taken so long for the Wii‘s kind of motion/orientation stuff to show up in consumer consoles. These things have been integral parts of every VR rig since about 1985 as far as I can tell and must certainly be ¢10 components by now (what were those things called? Those little things that used to cost millions that they put inside VR gear to detect orientation? Began with a ‘p’ I think. God I’m getting old).
Update: I remembered! ‘Polhemus‘. Hah!