Saturday, March 3, 2007

Club Penguin for Moms

A couple of months ago, my kids heard about a site called Club Penguin. They heard about it in the same place they hear about everything good -- and bad -- that I wish I could steer them clear of: the good ole schoolyard.

It's not a bad place at all, Club Penguin, and all three kids have their own penguins. It's a virtual world. You name your penguin, you dress your penguin, you house your penguin, and you play games to get more "coins" to buy more things for your penguin, its house and its pet. (Yes, pets!)

[Please save the consumerism sermonizing for someone else, thank you. I understand I've essentially put them in a training camp to buy, buy, buy. In that regard, they graduated from that long ago!]

It's a whole village of penguins, and I've got to believe that thousands of kids are playing it at any one time. You ask fellow penguins if they want to be your friend, and then you can play at their igloo or chat while at the pizza joint, etc.

The inner selves of my children are revealed at CP. The 10-year-old boy considers the name of the penguin before accepting an invitation or declining. Is it a boy's name? Is it's name cool? Is it dressed cool? He turns down many a penguin who come a'knockin. Not so the gregarious 8-year-old daughter and almost-5-year-old son. They accept all comers. "Oh, please, yes, do come in and visit my igloo. Want to play?" They've got dozens and dozens and dozens of friends.

Anyway, CP isn't as guaranteed harmless as a computer game you can buy, but nearly so as it's monitored. And, as they say in their literature, "Players who engage in inappropriate behavior can be silenced or banned."

It occurs to me that I'm a penguin, too, living a virtual life on the web. The primary one, for me at least, is Maya's Mom. The similarities to CP are striking. You can create an avatar. You pick a nickname. You write whatever the hell you want to describe yourself. You ask folks to be your friend. Other folks ask you to be their friend.

You can hang out in the "village" all day long, really. Interested in talk? There's plenty of groups to choose from to chat with: working mothers, bloggers, pop culture, general chatter, etc. You can enter folks' "homes" by visiting their journals or looking at their profiles. I don't know it for sure, but I'm guessing Maya's Mom would also ban "members who engage in inappropriate behavior."

I'll try to keep all this in mind when the kids are clamoring to again play CP or, the latest incarnation of the devil, Nicktropolis. I'm wondering if this similarity extends to any adult versions of Chuck E. Cheese's out there? I could get into that.

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