A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a social networking game for cell phones that can also be played online in a more limited version. Users ages 13+ can sign up with an email address, password, and username, and can opt to receive promotional emails. The object of the game is to increase the status of your avatar by socializing with other players, including chatting. The chat has a filter for profanity that can be turned on or off; either way, since it's an open text field, players can still have iffy conversations or exchange personal information. Two upcoming game features, Fight Club and Love Lounge, seem to have violent and sexual content, respectively. Profiles have a privacy settings.
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What's it about?
Ready to take social networking on the road? EGO-CITY.COM -- aka EGO -- is a multiplayer game designed for cell phones, but a limited version can also be played online. The main goal is to increase the social status of your \"super avatar,\" or EGO, by interacting with other players -- chatting, competing in games, flirting, debating, giving gifts, etc. Activities like these earn points, which can be used to unlock rewards like a new selection of hairstyles or \"toys\" like a chemistry set. They also shape your avatar's personality and abilities, allowing it to pass through stages of life, beginning with High School and ending with Enlightened.
Is it any good?
Dressing your avatar and buying accessories is nothing new in the virtual world, but watching your avatar "evolve" through social interactions and activities is a fun twist. And when was the last time you had an ESP battle online? Next up, EGO plans to launch "clubs" where avatars can hang out -- including the Love Lounge, where you can find a soul mate (or cheap date) based on a personality assessment. EGO might be headed in a too-hot-for-teens direction, but overall, it's a creative and well-designed game. (P.S.: There's an EGO application for Facebook.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Internet safety with social networking sites and how nothing is private on the Internet. What information is OK to share, and what information should you keep to yourself? Families can also talk about what virtual communities are. What appeals to kids about using an avatar rather than a true identity? What does an avatar tell you about the real person behind it?