You may notice a new affiliation badge in the right column of this blog. This badge is for a kid friendly role playing site called "Club Penguin".
Club Penguin is one in a growing genre of online computer games. Others in this genre include Neopets, the General Mills owned Millberry, and the Disney owned Toon Town. These are all really a suite of games wrapped in unifying virtual world, targeted at the 'Tween set.
You might notice a high level of conglomerate sponsorship here. Most of these sites are trying to instill a sense of brand loyalty very early in the consumer life cycle.
Each of these tries to provide a fun atmosphere, with a limited amount of player to player interaction. Some do not allow player to player interaction at all, while others provide either highly limited or strictly controlled interaction. Toon Town for instance requires a lot of
cooperation between players for some of the games, but the players can only communicate with an extensive but innocuous menu of phrases. However, each player has a special password that they can give to friends to enable open chat capabilities. Since there is no way to give the password to someone else within the game, only those players that your child knows in real life will be able to contact your child. (however, never underestimate the ingenuity of children. Covert channels have been devised for signaling the passwords within the game.)
All in all, the games provide a lot of fun entertainment, while preparing children for the next level of virtual reality games like WOW, EverQuest, etc. I am not sure if that is a good thing, in fact I am pretty sure it is not, but I may be wrong. And fun is fun.
By the way, I do not play these games my self, although Toon Town is kind of fun to watch. But Club Penguin has discovered affinity badges and my son Joshua insisted I add one to my blog, which started this post in the first place. (By the way, Joshua's favorite character in Shrek II and III was Puss in Boots; he practices Puss's "sad eyes" look all the time, which is why I
agreed to add the badge)