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MMO Family

MMO Family: Is the Google generation losing its inventive spirit?

Opinion, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  Is the Google generation losing its inventive spirit
I was witness to an interesting juxtaposition over Christmas vacation. On one end of the breakfast table was my laptop, with an article about an inventor who warns that the "Google generation" of children is growing up "brain dead" and without the ability to invent and create. But right next to it was my son's laptop, and he was deeply engrossed in a game of Minecraft with his sister and two cousins.

Are our children really losing their inventive spirit because of the internet? Should kids put down Minecraft and pick up Meccano instead? Let's take a look at inventor Trevor Baylis' concerns.

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MMO Family: Winter roundup of kid-friendly MMOs

Events (Real-World), Events (In-Game), Opinion, Browser, Casual, Free Realms, Kids, Wizard101, MMO Family, Family, Pirate101

MMO Family  Winter roundup of kidfriendly MMOs
Winter is always my favorite time of year for family-friendly MMOs. Holiday events tend to be the norm now in most MMOs, but they're tailor-made for games with a younger audience. Winter also seems to usher in lots of new changes and updates as well, so it's time again to revisit some popular titles to play catch up.

Over the past year, we've looked at several new titles and visited veteran MMOs titles to see what's changed. From Club Penguin to Pirate101, we'll look at recent updates and upcoming news in MMO Family's winter roundup!

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MMO Family: Are virtual presents a worthy holiday gift?

Polls, Culture, Economy, Opinion, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family Are virtual presents a worthy holiday gift
When it comes to picking out holiday gifts for younger family members, it's amazing how quickly it can escalate to the equivalent of organizing Operation Overlord. As I wandered around Toys "R" Us yesterday, I watched two mothers trying to make sense of Skylanders and figure out how to coordinate and buy the right packages. (At one point, one was having trouble understanding that the "Giants" weren't really that giant.) Picking out a gift for a kid might sound simple, but to the adults who aren't up to speed on the latest craze, it's not only complicated -- it's a potential nightmare.

Virtual presents and currency cards are two gift ideas that are growing in popularity. Young gamers are comfortable with the notion of in-game goods, but while the in-game MMO community has begun to accept it, it's not quite accepted by the mainstream as a valid gift option. I think there's good reason that it should be, though. In this week's MMO Family, let's take a look at why virtual presents still aren't seen as valid gifts and examine why that's worth reconsidering.

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MMO Family: How Khan Academy redefines learning

Business Models, Culture, Opinion, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family
In past editions of MMO Family, I've looked how games have attempted to teach and entertain -- and how challenging it is to do both. This week, I'd like to flip things around a bit and look at an educational site that, while not an MMO, does incorporate some gaming characteristics. It's a site called Khan Academy, and it offers free instructional videos on a variety of topics for students of all ages.

This week, we're replacing our virtual swords with keyboards and substituting our colorful avatars for colorfully drawn instructional videos. We're taking a week off from cute pets and monster-slaying to look at how Khan Academy is turning the current system of public education on its head.

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MMO Family: What Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures should borrow from the SOE stable

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, Free Realms, MMO Family, Clone Wars Adventures

MMO Family  What Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures should borrow from other SOE games
There was a lot of news at last week's SOE Live, and both Clone Wars Adventures and Free Realms had big announcements as well. The two games have seen a burst of new content and game updates over the past few months, and from what we learned last week, that rapid pace is going to continue.

Over the past year or so, we've seen an increase in the cross-over of ideas among the various SOE titles, and the announcement of Player Studio in several MMOs is just the latest example of a shift towards centralizing things. With all of the news about upcoming titles and new approaches to future design, there's plenty that could work well in Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures (and in kid-friendly MMOs in general!)

In this week's MMO Family, let's look at what Free Realms and CWA could borrow from other SOE MMOs.

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MMO Family: Exploring game writing for short attention spans

Culture, MMO Industry, Events (Massively's Coverage), Kids, MMO Family, Family

MMO Family  Elizabeth McLaren explores writing for short attention spans at GDC Online
Trying to create a virtual world that's engaging and compelling is no easy task. But for an adult designer, trying to do so for a young audience is even more challenging. Kids' interests are not necessarily the same as adults' interests, and their life experiences are much different. On top of that, you can't even lump all child age groups together; a four-year-old, nine-year-old, and 12-year-old are all tackling vastly different challenges in their lives.

At this year's GDC Online, Elizabeth McLaren from 1st Playable Productions gave a talk about this very topic, titled Short Attention Span Theatre -- Writing for Child Gamers. In it, she looked to the book publishing industry to see what themes and interests exist for particular age groups and how they can be integrated into video game writing. Read on for highlights of the panel and a brief look at the mind of a child gamer.

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MMO Family: How kid-friendly games can treat MMO malaise

Opinion, Free Realms, Wizard101, MMO Family, Family, Clone Wars Adventures, Pirate101

MMO Family  How kidfriendly games can treat MMO malaise
Let's face it: It hasn't been a banner year for MMOs. We've witnessed disappointing launches, studio layoffs, and even studio meltdowns. There have been reports questioning whether MMOs are a good investment, and some studios have even signaled that they're shying away from traditional MMO development in the future.

With all of these dark clouds looming overhead, it's sometimes hard to stay cheerful about MMOs. But ironically, the kid-friendly genre might actually buck the trend. KingsIsle's launch of Pirate101 and SOE's recent updates to Clone Wars Adventures and Free Realms might help curb the malaise with a blend of old and new styles of gameplay. In this week's MMO Family we'll look at what's new with these titles and why kids both young and old have reason to celebrate.

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MMO Family: First Impressions of Pora Ora

Opinion, Browser, Hands-On, Hands-On (Massively's), First Impressions, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  First Impressions of Pora Ora
I'm always on the hunt for MMOs that are educational because I think it's a genre with enormous potential that is still largely untapped. At the same time, the skeptic in me always becomes wary of any MMO that calls itself "educational" because it usually turns out that it's mostly "game" and very little learning goes on.

So I was cautiously curious to try out Pora Ora, an educational MMO that's aimed at kids ages 5 to 13. As it turns out, the game embraces learning and has several features that make it a viable educational game not only at home but also in the classroom. This week's MMO Family is a first impressions look at Pora Ora.

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MMO Family: Lessons from an MMO-light summer

Culture, Opinion, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family
Ever find yourself telling your kids to log off while you're holding your smartphone in one hand and have one eye on your email/Facebook/Twitter/browser/game of Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies? I admit it, I caught myself doing that back at the beginning of summer, and it happened to be around the time I stumbled on an article from David Gelernter titled Make it a Summer Without iStuff. Around the house, we stay on top of gaming time and try to stick to hard limits so that it doesn't dominate the day. But summers in New England are fleeting, and having been inspired by Gelernter's article, we decided to cut back on gaming even more.

What I noticed during our dialed-down summer is that there's a lot more to it than just shutting off the iStuff and that MMOs might not be the "mental purgatory" that Gelernter says is created by iToys. Let's take a look in this week's MMO Family!

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MMO Family: Pirate101 and the Pixar effect

Fantasy, Previews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Casual, Hands-On (Massively's), First Impressions, MMO Family, Family, Pirate101

MMO Family Pirate101 and the Pixar Effect
Back at the ranch, it's been a pretty busy (and off the grid) summer. We've spent the bulk of it at the grandparents' house at the beach, complete with snorkeling, beach combing, hikes to a nearby island, and lots of late nights discussing the finer points of the Harry Potter series. That made for many late nights, but a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly didn't have to struggle to get my kids to go to bed. Turns out, they wanted to play a certain game to wrap up their day, and that game was Pirate101. What's interesting is that they liked it for different reasons than I do, and I actually found myself rethinking my approach to games by watching them play.

In this week's MMO Family, we'll look at some first impressions from a kid's-eye view and explore how KingsIsle is able to hit all of the right notes (again) to make a compelling game for both kids and adults.

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MMO Family: Clone Wars Adventures' tale of two card games

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Business Models, Game Mechanics, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Trading Card Games, Free Realms, Kids, MMO Family, Clone Wars Adventures

MMO Family  Clone Wars Adventures' Tale of Two Card Games
Even though Clone Wars Adventures is a kid-friendly MMO, I've always been a fan of the title, partially because it sort of came out of nowhere and launched soon after it was revealed and partially because it's done a terrific job of matching content and itemization with the TV series. The Darth Maul content update was a household favorite, particularly because the pint-sized players in the family got a chance at going face to face with one of Star Wars' major baddies after seeing him on the animated show. Talk about an epic moment for a CWA fan!

The most recent update, though, left me scratching my head a bit. Clone Wars Adventures has had a trading card game called Card Commander for quite a while. Recently, though, SOE added a completely new trading card game called Card Assault. What's the new game like, and why would an MMO have not one but two card games? This week's MMO Family will take a look at the new game and theorycraft on why we're neck deep in cards!

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MMO Family: Moving beyond the mundane in kid-friendly MMOs

Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family Moving beyond the mundane in kidfriendly MMOs
We're about to enter the "dog days of August," and lately, I've felt as if I'm in the dog days of kid-friendly MMOs. There are many titles to choose from, yet many of them feel all too familiar, and after a while, they start to blend together. Of course, there are some that push the boundaries and shine, and I've been trying to cover those in this column. But in this week's MMO Family, I'd like to get my rant on and look at a few characteristics of kid-friendly MMOs that really need to go. They've outlasted their welcome and are holding back the genre, so I'm calling them out!

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MMO Family: Jumping into learning with JumpStart

Opinion, Free-to-Play, First Impressions, MMO Family, Family

MMO Family Jumping into Learning with JumpStart
When the subject of kid-friendly MMOs comes up, it almost always ends up with a discussion about whether there's any educational value to them. Many of them are safe, provide fun, and bring families together, but actual learning doesn't seem to be the focus. And some games that do focus on learning end up starchy and bland. JumpStart, however, is one of those MMOs that tries to bring together fun and education for kids who are in preschool and elementary school. It launched a couple of years ago, and the world has expanded quite a bit since then. Does it deliver on both fun and learning? Read on for some first impressions!

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MMO Family: Open-world combat and old school gaming in Free Realms

Opinion, Free-to-Play, Free Realms, MMO Family, Family

MMO Family Open World Combat and Old School Gaming in Free Realms
There are many times lately when I've experienced the full power of the generation gap. As my kids get older and more game-savvy, I sometimes find myself trying to catch up with how the younger generation games compared to how I did it during the good old days of gaming. So it was a pleasant surprise to see a little taste of old school gaming in the latest update to kid-friendly MMO Free Realms. The normally peaceful Shrouded Glade has come under attack, and players have been swarming to the zone to help turn back the tide of invaders. It's a prelude event that will usher in some new content to the game, and it features several fun activities while the event continues, but the most notable change is the introduction of open world combat. For the first time in Free Realms, the bad guys are out and about in the Glade rather than corralled safely away in instances. That's brought some interesting changes to how players are interacting in game.

In this week's MMO Family, we'll look at the Shrouded Glade event in Free Realms and see how it's bringing a little throwback-gaming to the pint-sized gaming generation.

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MMO Family: Roblox first impressions

Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Hands-On (Massively's), First Impressions, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

MMO Family Roblox first impressions
In last week's MMO Family, we had the chance to talk to Roblox CEO David Baszucki and hear how he took a physics-based simulation program and turned it into a successful game design tool that's enabled players of all ages to build and explore an endless variety of game worlds.

But what exactly is Roblox? It's been compared to LEGO and Minecraft, but there's actually a lot more to it than that. In this week's MMO Family, we'll dive into the game for some first impressions and explore why everyone, both young and old, should check it out!

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