Runescape - Online Gaming for Kids

As you've probably seen from a few recent posts of mine, our son is really into computer games at the moment. One of the things Duncan really wants to do is to play games with his friends.

This is easy when he's right there with his buddies, and they'll use a PC or a friends Xbox. (We've also bought him a Nintendo DS Lite for Christmas -- shush, don't tell him!).

He'd also like to play these games in the evening after he's finished his homework, at times when his friends aren't available for in-person visits. So we started looking at online games that are suitable for kids. And preferably free or allow cheap short-term engagements, as he has a tendency to get bored with things like this very quickly.

The first one he tried was Club Penguin, which is a kid-friendly virtual world where children can play games, have fun and interact with each other.

Not bad, but he was looking for something a little more challenging. On a recommendation from a friend, we tried Runescape.

Per the Wikipedia entry (yes, I remembered to look there this time),

RuneScape is a massive multi player online role-playing game (MMORPG) that is programmed in Java by developers in Jagex Limited. With over nine million active free players and more than 850,000 paying members, RuneScape was rated among the most populous online games in the world.

RuneScape offers both free and subscription content and is designed to be accessible from any location with an Internet connection and to run in an ordinary web browser without straining system resources.

We decided on the free subscription for now, which allows players to access more than twenty quests and plenty of items and skills, totalling many hours of gameplay. That should give us an indication of whether he's going to really get into this.

There is a tutorial to work through that tells you all about what you need to do. It takes a while to complete the first time, but it's a great introduction. Then you are into the game, trying to keep healthy, stay alive, face challenges and overcome them and earn extra points to improve your lifestyle. A bit like life really.

He's learning that you can die in these games (unlike adventure games from LucasArts). When that happens, you create a new login, go back in, wade through the tutorial and start accumulating points again.

There is also an interesting side-effect. Whereas we can't currently get him as addicted to books as his parents are, playing Runescape has helped improve his reading as he continually has to read the text on the screen to find out what he should be doing next.

We're very impressed. I hope he perseveres with it.

See the Runescape web site for more details on all aspects of this virtual world.

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