Wow, there is hope in the “kiddie” virtual world market. Someone sent me a link to an article posted at Worlds in Motion.Biz Atlas on Millsberry, a General Mills virtual world (well, sort of a virtual world, read on):
Apparently this world has been online since 2004. I’ve not tried it yet, so this information is straight out of the article. The article is quite detailed, and I encourage you to go and read it.
After my rant on “junk food” kiddie virtual worlds below, I stumbled on Millsberry. This world is aimed at school aged kids. General Mills has created this virtual world where kids can play games via their virtual avatar. However, this world does have some redeeming qualities:
- Custom avatars with personality traits and interests
- No live communication, only email between players that know each other
- Historical information on Millsville (mirrors Golden Valley, General Mills Headquarters)
- Personal houses for avatars
- Earn Millsbucks by playing games, and then deposit them in the bank to earn interest (what a concept!)
- Books that can be checked out of the library, with late fees if not returned on time
- Foods in the cafeteria linked to food groups and nutrition
- Mini games for cleaning up the local park or running a newspaper for five days
- Fun arcade and puzzle games for earning Millsbucks, and a boost to the stats of your avatar (like increasing intelligence or physical fitness)
But does it appeal to young kids? A quote from the article states:
“The over-arching messages of civic responsibility, proper nutrition and fitness are all very well-intentioned, but not too well-integrated into the game environment. Their relevance is not very strong in the game — just a set of stats to keep track of — and you sort of have to search to be educated on why they’d be important to a real-world person. More importantly, the extension into how kids could translate the ways of Millsberry into useful life skills isn’t very strong, either.”
This game was put online in 2004. It’s not a fully realized 3D virtual world. And if I’ve not heard of it before, it’s definitely not that popular (hey, I’ve got four kids that are online). But it does incorporate some of the attributes I think need to be included in ANY virtual world platform that is aimed at elementary and middle school students.
Pressure should be put on companies entering this demographic to put some content in for developing smarts along side of reflexes in the young residents they are trying to attract to these virtual worlds.