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) and virtual world. Kids enter the world as an elf and can interact with others within this world. Kids under the age of 13 must get parents permission (an email is sent to the parents) before they can play and chat. Chat is made safe because kids can only use predetermined words that are found in Elf Island's closed dictionary. Further safety features include live monitoring of chat. By playing in this virtual world, kids' in-game actions make a difference in the real world beause the game matches online quests to real-world solutions.
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What's it about?
In ELF ISLAND (www.ElfIsland.com), kids enter a lush virtual world as an elf. While they can design their own elf avatar, buy it a house and decorate it, play fun minigames, and safely chat with others within this world, what makes this online game stand out from the over 200 others is its overarching theme of being an elf means doing good in the world. The game ties the story of unlocking the secret of Elf Island to doing a series of "Good Quests" in this virtual world, which are then mirrored in real life.
The current "Tree Good Quest" has kids playing games to earn seeds to plant fruit trees in the desert of Niger. Working with non-profit Plant-It 2020 (www.plantit2020.org) and the Eden Foundation (www.eden-foundation.org), when the in-game goal of planting 20,000 trees is reached, 2000 actual fruit trees will be planted in Niger. In the game, kids are introduced to this challenge by watching a video of an actual child in Niger who asks for their help. Kids learn about how planting trees in Niger will help the people there to grow their food and change the ecosystem so that life is more sustainable in the desert. While playing, kids can also learn more about the partnering non-profits.
Is it any good?
This is a great concept to help promote digital, as well as actual, social responsibility. With more Goodquests being added all the time, Elf Island has the potential to guide kids toward philanthropic pursuits both on and offline. There is an occasional lag between "Good Quests," so kids might want to check back in after a few days if they hit that period of time where there isn't a "Good Quest" running.
While kids can enter this world for free, they don't get the benefit of Elf Island's "Gaming for Good" without becoming a paying member. Only paying members can go on "Good Quests." Membership starts at $5.95 for a month, $29.95 for 6 months, or $57.95 for a year. Since the game is actually contributing money to the non-profit partners to do good in the real world, this membership cost makes sense. Plus this way, Elf Island is a site that has no advertising.
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