150 Kids’ Virtual Worlds: 95 Live, 68 in R&D; How Many Are Worthy?

Seems everyone is in L.A. for the Virtual Worlds Expo except me right now, with e-mails and schmooze plans flinging back and forth like a gamer leader board.

No, gang, I can’t make it to dinner, but yes, I DO wish someone would crosspost some of these fly-on-the-wall conversations on Utterz as I’m sure key connections will transpire and I want to track anyone using innovation for education or championing positive change.

Looking at the 150 list and links to all the sites on the schedule, I’m particularly eager to hear more about EduSim, (free, 3D, open-source, multi-user collaborative learning) Me2 which is a virtual universe that literally ties play/points to how much kids get moving offline (requires a purchasable gizmo) and Elf Island which I first heard about via Izzy Neis here and now here, which holds considerable promise in Gaming for Good (TM), with kids helping in the real world, and online to offline positive practices.

As you can see by their Elf Island blog, this month they’re focusing on kids confined to the indoors, which reminds me of all of the ‘virtual good’ VW entities can do from trauma recovery to state of the art medical simulations to cancer support and “Virtual Ability” as the Heron Sanctuary in SL and similar ‘good quests.’

I’m counting on keepers of the collective conscience like online community safety guru Izzy Neis, Joi Podgorny, and their Metaverse Mod Squad moderator pals to keep me abreast of kid concerns as well as fun new finds that do more than dress up, decorate, or ding you for dollars. (even if they ARE virtual, it still seeds ‘consumption’ as a training ground, bleh)

As for the ‘retail to rev gen’ model of purchasing something necessary to engage online (Webkinz toys, Bella Sara horse cards, etc.) I WILL say the Me2 universe (avatar sample at left) is the first device that actually makes me think, ‘hmn’ since it’s tied to ACTUAL exercise in yet another fitness attempt to tackle the gaming+obesity equation.

Much like DDR and Wii Fit, Wii Sport, Wii Healthy dedicated to gaming/fitness/lifestyle experiences…the Me2 has some interesting twists. (Wii, Wii, Wii…reminds me of  the nursery rhyme, ‘this lil’ piggy’) Ironically, HopeLab was working on a similar pedometer style device that measured movement, that I got to see at our YPulse roundtable lunch on games for change this summer. (post still forthcoming, late, yah, I know)

HopeLab’s Ruckus Nation was brilliant with all sorts of clever media/marketing ideas to get kids moving and engaged, so if Me2 is remotely close on the solutions front, it could be watch-worthy indeed.

No question we’re all working to solve some tough conundrums on the childhood obesity and public health front…Is a VW/media/marketing interplay the e-ticket? Hard to say.

I’d love to hear from the innovation for education VW Expo speakers like Barry Joseph, whose teen social change agents have just launched their new Tempest in Crescent City game about Hurricane Katrina through their Playing for Keeps (P4K) program at Global Kids. (visual credit at left: AMD)

And if Liam O’Donnell of Feeding Change or our own Shaping Youth Correspondent Sara Grimes of Gamine Expedition are there, please let me know if we’re making any headway in hopscotching over coinage and consumption into more meaningful content in the virtual world arena, ‘k?

Sara may be awol too though, as she’s been busy researching the worlds of women, girls and gaming, writing pieces like this new one, “I’m a Barbie Girl in a BarbieGirls World” just released in The Escapist…

Sara makes solid points about kids’ virtual world conduct, and ‘men in black’ amidst a pinkwashed plethora of ‘super nice’ mandates. (you’ll have to read it)

Sara also offers some universal VW advice to developers (and parents) which makes lots of sense to me…

…”It’s important to remember, that the workarounds and codes represent a secret, and very meaningful, parallel universe that the players themselves have created out of a world that was not meeting their needs.

And this is something that Mattel and other creators of children’s virtual worlds really ought to take note of. It’s inevitable that girls will say and do things in their play and online that many adults won’t agree with. It won’t all be “super nice,” and it won’t always correspond with a particular brand identity. That’s just the way play is.

If the rules are too restrictive, some girls will try to find ways to rebel and to make it their own. But wouldn’t all girls’ interests be better met if they didn’t always have to fight so hard for play opportunities? Or if conceptions of girls’ play were flexible enough to allow for different kinds of play (subversive, rebellious, creative, quiet, etc.) while also providing parameters specifically aimed at reducing risk?”

Amen to that one.
Meanwhile, Dizzywood is DEFINITELY “present and accounted for” in L.A., as Co-founder Scott Arpajian is on the speaker schedule covering “Virtual Worlds in Schools.”

This intrigues, since we’re looking at some after-school YMCA testing grounds and media literacy content teaming with existing entities in this realm…(screenshot at left from Willow Chillow)

Scott is sharing the podiurm with Patti Purcell, Principal of their elementary school pilot program where they’re using virtual worlds to impart core values and ‘character pillars’ such as caring, citizenship, fairness, respect, responsibility and trustworthiness, so I’m interested in the outcomes.

Speaking of outcomes, our friends at Playnormous have a great series of posts on how to scientifically test a ‘game for health’ critical for our work at Shaping Youth, which I’ll write more about soon…check it out educators! (and thanks SO much, Melanie!)

Dizzywood’s team continues to nudge forth casual introductions of important values-based learning like how “to play by the rules,” “protect the environment,” and not just cooperate but collaborate with others…

My favorite deforestation/renewal of 15,000 VIRTUAL trees planted online, which grew into a partnership project with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 15,000 REAL trees offline…is an outcome in and of itself.

Also see “Treetures” partnering with the USDA forest service along these lines, and as mentioned, the “Mirrored Gaming” Elf Island hopefully brings forth.

My interview with Scott Arpajian will finally post on Eco Child’s Play Friday of THIS week and continue on Shaping Youth NEXT week as we kick off the fall B2S season with an all-star selection of uplifting, positive picks!

If you’re wondering about my choice to post all of these inspiring minds on Eco Child’s Play PRIOR to my own blog at Shaping Youth, it’s quite simple…I know myself well enough to know I can’t hush up and will need MUCH more room to tell the full story of their promising plans for more meaningful content out there! ECP keeps it ‘short’ with so many fresh bursts of info in their Green Options network!

I’m also hoping for cross-promotion of these worthy entities in both spots to show folks out there that there are plenty of people with strong ideas and tenacious convictions using media and marketing in positive ways, like our friends at Quantum Shift TV currently running an online machinima contest in virtual worlds called “Quest 2 Change Real Life” (lots of eco messages there; wraps up Sept. 22nd, there’s still time, kids!)

Next up after Scott’s interview on ECP will be thought leader and Chief Playwright Michael Carter of Zookazoo…followed by Jason Devaney of Living Folklore and GiggleBubble Media and a check-in with the HulalaGirls “green gaming” site .

Which reminds me…any young passionistas and garage-gurus in the 18-25 year-old range eager to bring projects to market with world changing concepts, have at it…prizes range from $5000-$30,000 in that category!

The Young Innovator Awards in the Digital Media Learning Competition via the MacArthur Foundation and Hastac are underway and INTERNATIONAL this year…More on the DML competition in a full feature tomorrow, but for now, all of you Changebloggers and young gamers that are meeting tonight at the Virtual World Expo, heads up!

Some of those ideas scribbled on the back of a cocktail napkin could probably make it into the DML deadline by Oct. 15th!!

Alas, I’m too ancient for the ‘Young Innovators,’ but I’ll be tossing the Shaping Youth hat in the ring on some digital surprises; meanwhile, have fun reporting on the Kids’ Virtual Worlds friends…Los Angeles can be a pretty surreal snapshot of life itself…

Especially when some of the humans look like avatars, and the avatars look more lifelike than the real people! Let me know when you click ‘teleport’ to exit the main grid and return home…

For those like me who could NOT make it to the Virtual World Expo in L.A., word has it we should save the date: November 13 to attend Kids Online: Balancing Safety and Fun. An ‘UnConference’ On Issues & Best Practices organized by Kaliya Hamlin, Joi Podgorny, and Denise Tayloe CEO of kids’ COPPA compliance privacy site Privo.

It’s slated to be at the Computer Museum here in the S.F. Bay Area…Okay…THAT one is now in PEN! 😉



  1. Video Gamer says

    So I found this interesting site. http://www.garrysmod.com/?dont_buff_my_pylon=615&BerlinWall_map_released!

    Its a Half Life 2 mod that allows the player to live as an east German trying to make their way into US controlled west Germany. I downloaded it and played it last night. It was quite small as far as mods go, but very well done. I cant help but wonder what kind of history lessons could be gained from game ideas like this.

    Of course there are plenty of war games that are very true to what actually happened, but not all of history was war. I would love to see a game based on 1776 Philadelphia. An RPG experience that could teach students about the formation of this country by actually living in. You could even attend a meeting of the continental congress. How cool would that be?!

    I have hope for the future Amy, there are plenty of talented developers out there and plenty of kids willing to learn.

  2. VG: VERY promising. I’ll check out the link pronto and I love the 1776 PA idea! (hey, you should submit THAT to the Young Innovator Awards competition!!! Or team with SL on it! Or Barry’s crew!) 🙂

    I still have the virtual jazz world in my queue and need to do a piece on recreating same…just not enough hours in the day.

    Back atcha soon! –a.

  3. All: Safety goddess Anne Collier has just sent a recap of her experiences at VW L.A.—I loved her points/picks as usual, as she always has such balanced POV and erudite commentary in terms of what she has to say.

    For those who aren’t familiar with Anne, see our sidebar under ConnectSafely.org and NetFamily News!!! She’s awesome.

    So here’s her scoop re: the L.A. Expo:

    “Virtual Worlds field trip by Anne Collier Net Family News”

    “One of the most interesting comments made at the second-annual Virtual Worlds Conference I attended in L.A. this week was from Jon Landau, producer of Titanic and of a project-in-progress called Avatar. Landau said, “I grew up being taught to worry about ‘big brother’; with the Internet we have to worry about little brother.” I don’t think anybody else heard that quite as acutely as an advocate of children’s online safety would. Not only is little brother watching, little brother (of any age, basically everybody on the user-driven, fixed and mobile network) is commenting, uploading, producing, entertaining, collaborating, socializing, and exploring identity, as well as creating imposter profiles, gaming the game system, sending nude phone-snapped photos, etc. We’re dealing with a new set of blended conditions, with online life not just mirroring “real life” but changing it as well, in subtle ways we don’t yet fully

    One thing that’s clear from the research but was confirmed everywhere I turned at the conference: digital ethics and citizenship have to be central to the discussion as we learn how to negotiate this new space where — definitely for kids, in any case – the line between online and offline is fading. Learning how to behave ethically in community whether digital or physical is central to children’s well-being online, right now and increasingly as we move forward.

    Really exciting projects are going on in and with virtual worlds in schools around the US and world. Check out the collaborative work between schools in California, Japan, and Australia at PacRim Exchange ; among youth librarians of the Eye4You Alliance ; on virtual islands for public school students (Ramapo Islands) in Teen Second Life ; and in Second Life and New York City (which is which?) with nonprofit Global Kids, which aims to help “transform urban youth into successful students as well as global and community leaders” (I want to zoom in on some of these in future posts). I also spoke with a northern California elementary school principal, Patti Purcell, about her school’s powerful project teaching students digital citizenship “in world” and in the classroom with the help of children’s virtual world Dizzywood.

    (my emphasis, not Anne’s, because we’ll be teaming with them soon on some VW testing)

    “…A few general virtual-world-industry themes I picked up on (signs of where things are headed): not making users download special software, but bringing virtual environments to them right through their Web browsers; whether kid virtual worlds should “grow up” with their users; predictions of a merging of social networking and virtual worlds; your avatar going wherever you go on the Web (not locked into a single virtual world); and other signs of interest or movement toward interoperability…”

    —MORE FROM ANNE COLLIER AT: NetFamilyNews.org

    (see our sidebar) HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!

  4. okay, so voila…minutes ago, Anne just posted the full text of her newsletter on her blog, so you can read it in full here much easier:


  5. Amy, thanks for the meaty post, including the kind words about my field trip report. I did end up saying a bit more about the Bel Aire school’s very cool pilot with Dizzywood in my site than in the newsletter.

    I’ll be posting about Sara’s report on the BarbieGirls phenomenon – thanks for pointing it out.

    Didn’t run into any Elf Island folk, strangely – wish I had.

    Watched the Me2 demo, which was compelling as a concept but didn’t impress me that much. I’m all for getting kids away from screens and active, but they’d have to convince me of their kid market, not just how compelling parents might find it. Reminded me a little of the LeapFrog phenomenon, which really targeted parents and looked full of fun stealth learning (I bought the system for my 6-yr-old at the time, and he lost interest faster than it took me to shop for it). Me2’s kid focus groups may’ve found it cool, but do kids in non-artificial, non-focus-group settings really want to carry around *two* “cool” phone-size devices in their pockets (when many already have the real thing)? Gosh, am I getting cynical? Tx again for all your great thinking!

  6. I like tapalpa

  7. um…okay, would that be the real one or is there a virtual world?

  8. woogiworld.com is a very safe website and my daughter loves it!

  9. and roblox.com

  10. and clubpenguin

  11. There is no end in site as to the number of kids virtual worlds in development. It’s not until a number of prominent games fail that VC companies will shy away. http://clubpenguingang.com
    .-= Virutal Worlds For Kids´s last blog ..Mimo Plays Woozworld! =-.

  12. There’s a lot of VW for kids, I think you should take a look on http://www.thegmodfree.com for more information regarding Garry’s mod

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