A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a massively multiplayer online game (MMO). While there are two kinds of chats available, neither is activated until a parent consents to their use. On option is Restricted Chat where kids can only use a limited, predefined menu of phases to communicate. For older kids, parents can authorize the use Safe Chat, where kids can type messages limited to words from within the Emerald Island Safe Chat dictionary, which prohibits inappropriate language and the sharing of personal information. While free to play, the subscription membership offers a more robust experience including a wide range of parental controls. These controls allow parents to set the maximum daily play time within the game, restrict play time to specific hours of the day, determine whether their child can trade items within this world. For Earth Day, the game is partnering with www.TreesForTheFuture.org so that when kids plant trees within the game, real trees are planted in the real world as well.
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What's it about?
EMERALD ISLAND (www.EmeraldIsland.com) is a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) where kids enter the game as an animal avatar that they design. Tasked with fighting off eco-destroying rodents known as PiRats, kids go on a series of quests to save this world from pollution, deforestation, and other ecological disasters. Upon entering this world, kids are provided with a home and land on which to plant a garden. This world is populated with other kid players as well as non-player characters who act as your guides throughout the world. As with most virtual worlds, you can change the look of your avatar, safely chat if parents approve, and decorate your crib. But the focus of this game is completing eco-themed quests and planting a garden to raise crops for sale and to keep the habitat "green."
Is it any good?
Emerald Island is a fun world to explore. Many MMOs can be confusing for kids, but Emerald Island eases this discomfort by providing cute, in-game movies that explain the game play and stationing many characters within the game whose sole purpose is to help you play. By exploring the minigames scattered throughout the world, growing vegetables to sell, and doing quests, kids earn coins to buy things in this virtual world which can include furniture for their home, and land in which to grow a bigger garden.
Most quests have an ecology message, and the economy within the game requires you to plant a garden, so kids will learn about ecological issues and how to grow different kinds of plants by playing the game. During the weeks surrounding Earth Day (April 22), in-game actions of planting trees results in real world actions of tree planting by Trees For The Future, so kids can do good in the real world by playing this game. While still a little buggy, this is an MMO that kids ages 6-12 will enjoy.
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