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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) like this one, with their quick reward systems, can be very compelling. Players can be drawn into an online world and lose track of time while playing. Although rated by the ERSB for 10+, and originally designed for ages 6 and up, this game's End User License Agreement recommends 13+ with parental consent. This is mainly because, even though the cute factor is a draw for 6-year-olds, teens and up comprise most of the players and instances of bad behavior and language are always a risk of joining online communities. Although free to download and play, this game can get expensive: players can use real money to buy virtual items in the online mall or cash shop, and those items expire after 90 days -- at which point players are prompted to purchase them all over again.
Maplestory not a kids game, full of child predators.
I have played Maplestory since I was 9 years old. I am turning 20 now and I guess I've played this game for over half my life. YIKES. Though the early years were completely innocent and fun, this is when I actually enjoyed the game very much. Of course, my academics suffered as a result of my addiction to this 2D player game, like many other kids who are addicted to Maplestory. I do not blame Maplestory like the many other kids for my failures in high school. I own up and acknowledge my own mistakes of not being balanced enough between homework and video gaming. But what I do blame Maplestory for is the lack of protection it has for underage children. Though Maplestory is a game designed for 12 year olds, the vast majority of the population of the video game is aged 17+. There are countless stories of older men taking advantage of little girls as young as 9 on the video game platform and it happens quite frequently because parents view it no more than an innocent video game. Usually these predators will lure the children outside of the video game where they will have contact with the victim. Though I have played this game for what is now 11 years, I did not hear about this until about 3 years ago. So I urge you parents to please keep your kids away from this game. The countless horrible stories I've heard from people and witnessed, don't let this be your kid. Feel free to message me for context.
Innocent Fun, Becomes a Habit, Burns Through Your (or a parent's) Wallet - and You Didn't Even Know It
Yes, I have succumbed to this game in my middle school years and I have survived it to this day with a bit of back and forth. I've watched as this game grew from an open beta to the worldwide phenomenon it is now and I have a lot to say about it when it comes to the generation now and the ones climbing right behind. I will tell you now that it becomes all too real as you're sucked into the world of pixelated heroes.
I began playing the game just like how most of the other players began playing the game: word of mouth. The time I began was before Internet advertisements (and even TV advertisements) ran through their campaigns and before the premium currency cards were distributed anywhere (in short, a super-long time ago.) At first, I played through the game and learned the ropes - attacking, skills, "levelling-up" attributes I thought were necessary (and later learning thoroughly) and getting stronger for the bragging rights to my friends. Innocent, fun gameplay, right?
= MONEY =
(I feel this is appropriate to talk about first because that's what most parents are going to feel the most concern about.)
All of a sudden, the ride of a fun game became blinding because, everywhere my character went, I saw other pretty-looking, well-decorated players with clothing that made their characters look cool and flashy... some with pets and the ability to perform special actions. Obviously, what I saw was what I wanted. In the past and, of course, in my younger age, I thought, "Money!? Where am I going to get that much? $15? $30? I need to get money fast." Of course, my parents, luckily, said "no" back then. Of course, I went to seek alternatives, so there were (at the time.)
At the time, there was an underground-ish marketplace that required innocent players to perform advertisement-filled marketing surveys and data-mining websites to earn an average of $0.12~$1.00 per approved submission (which would often-times fail due to the development of cross-checking public records because the younger and more-desperate visitors would most likely submit fraudulent information to those third-party websites.) The visitors would also be rewarded for flooding the Internet's many mediums of communication with "referral links" to supplement their already-slow earnings. In the end, after around a month or two, these desperate players would submit for their ultimate reward: PayPal funds or a Game Card for the game. I can only provide you this information because I was sucked into doing such things and, believe me, I've earned and I've learned. (If money motivates your youngster, let them know their future now because they can "Maple" all they want when they earn big.)
Did I mention that, at one time, you can pay in Cash through the mail? Crazy, right? (Now, it's MoneyGram for the United States-based payers.)
The total money I've spent, you might ask? Almost $400. Talking big? Yes, I am. Not only can the money be spent on playing dress-up or buying add-on items to enhance your gameplay, you can even "get married" in the game, get random/rare items with an expensive ($2.70-per-play) random-dispense ticket. Don't get me wrong, there are items that cost $27 as an entire package meant to save money (but let us not forget their expiry dates.) Add up some "black market" possibilities like using real money to buy the virtual currency "mesos" obtained immorally and infamously by underpaid Chinese "farmers" who, much like the manufacturing plants for our electronics, live and work in terrible conditions.
Let's not get depressing here, I want to get to the good parts.
= GAME FLOW =
Pre-"Big Bang" era, the game was not a quick flick-and-go flow... and that was the best part of it compared to what it is today. Players had to invest a lot of time into increasing their characters' skill levels, abilities and overall level while balancing out on obtaining the virtual currency, procure items that make their characters tactically stronger in battle and venturing with other fellow players to train with each other through grinding or playing through "Party Quests", or "PQs" as it is abbreviated. Advancing to the 70th level was the goal many were "all-the-rage" about as new skills were learned after the largest gap between "job advancements", which was what every class of character had to add to their arsenal of skills (which are, nonetheless, impressive in battle.) At the time, getting sucked into the game was pretty hit-or-miss because you were either motivated to level-up or tired of it and give up after a few months due to the higher time of investment needed. Spending all that time after-school made me re-think myself.
Following the "Big Bang" era came the game's largest revamp - the maps and design were given a major facelift, which supposedly gave new players an advantage to easily navigate throughout the world and gave old/veteran players a challenge and a reason to return to the game. What it did manage to do is butcher the game enough to remove the excitement of leveling up with some effort. (Hint: You can now go from Lv. 1 to Lv. 120 in a week.) There were tons of new quests to embark on, but the game quickly grew to become more repetitive than ever. "Inflation" took a gigantic hit on the in-game economy and the simplicity of a once-innocent game became a complex shopping center involving virtual and premium currency. No one knows why, but it just increases the amount of money spent. All games have to "grow-up", but sometimes, growing up isn't for the best.
= COMMUNITY =
I should remind the readers that it's a part of the Internet where a lot of things fly and the nets won't stop them all. The game does teach you a lot of how weird and vulgar the Internet can be. "Trolls" are inevitable, but they're there 24/7. There is a fresh mix of tweens, teens and young adults on the game, so results of online interaction DO vary greatly. There are a mix of innocently-generous people and ill-mannered people. Not all vulgarity is censored and some censored vulgarities are only marked in asterisks (where, in the past, the entire message was downright erased and the sending player receives a textual warning.)
Keep in mind that there is, apparently, a feature where a chat room filled with random participants can be initiated at any time. Some may be complete strangers as participants or it could be a private "friends-only" room. Either way, that's worth noting now.
= OVERALL =
The game today has lost some of its quality and originality once seen in the long-past. It should not be mistaken that this game can really act as a vacuum to a wallet and the irrecoverable time investment towards this game can become a really lengthy thought process, as you've probably read from my reflections above toward this game. It has really been a crazy ride and I go back to see what has changed from time to time - which also makes this game able to re-capture me back for shorter periods from time-to-time. Too much is too much, so moderation is seriously needed for the players of this game and it takes mutual contribution by the parents, players and game developer/publisher to make sure this game does less "invisible harm."
MAPLESTORY is a 2-D, side-scrolling MMORPG that looks and feels like a \"platformer\" -- a type of video game where players have to get their characters onto platforms. Cute and colorful in an anime style, it's a game that's easy to get into and play. The entry is easy and the PC requirements are low. Like most MMORPGs, gameplay centers around exploring dungeons (maze-like environments) and killing monsters with swords or magic to earn gold -- called \"mesos.\"
Gameplay is simple as you move forward and backward with the arrow keys, jump with the Alt key, and perform combat with the Ctrl key. Aside from exploring dungeons and killing monsters, there are mini-games that are found in the game and on special quests. Most of the quests are of the \"Kill X creatures and bring me Y pelts\" variety. Mini-games can be played solo as well as multiplayer and include a tic-tac-toe variant, a matching cards memory game, rock-paper-scissors, and pachinko (a variant of pinball).
Is It Any Good?
Pets provide another layer of depth in this game, but must be bought from the cash or item shop with real money, and like any items purchased from the cash shop, they last only 90 days, whereupon the owner must buy a "water of life" and perform a quest to revive it. The cash shop also provides "fluff" avatar customization items and it's easy to get in a never-ending cycle of buying items with real cash. Platform gameplay can be very engaging and the large community a draw into this game.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why games like these can be addictive. Parents can also discuss social etiquette online. What's OK and what's not? Have you ever noticed bad online behavior? What did you do about it? Also, how is teamwork an asset in this game?