A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that RuneScape discussion forums can be read by anyone, but only paying members can post messages. Some of the topics contain barely disguised vulgarities and sexual references, though there are moderators who keep an eye on things and who can ban users who get too out of line. Under the terms and conditions agreed to at sign-up, players must use the chat feature only as an extension of their role-playing activities. The terms and conditions document warns against inappropriate behavior, and extensive instructions are given to help the user block unwanted communications using the built-in game functions. Combat and dueling is an important part of the game; however, according to passionate discussions in the forum, there is a lot of cold-blooded murder going on, too.
What's it about?
Before you enter RuneScape's virtual world, you'll have to be trained on Tutorial Island, where you learn a few essential skills such as fire making, fishing, cooking, mining, slaying monsters, and throwing spells. Once you've completed the tutorial phase, you're free to wander anywhere you like. You may be sent on a quest to find ingredients for a cake, or you may be asked to go on a spy mission. Successful completion of a quest brings a reward. Two versions of RuneScape are offered: one is free, while the other requires a paid subscription of a few dollars per month. Paid members get access to additional lands, skills, and quests. In the game, avatars represent players. You choose your avatar's appearance from a limited selection. As you watch the movements of other players' avatars, you'll notice many have rich clothing or heavy armor. Items can be won, bought, or traded with other players.
Is it any good?
Teens and tweens, especially boys, will be fascinated by this role-playing game. But parents should look over their shoulders and see what's really going on. Is the player slaying dragons or other humans? It is possible to play this fascinating game without the murder and mayhem, so RuneScape gets a cautionary yellow for "know your kid."
Online interaction: There's lots of online interaction in this immensely popular, global massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Swearing is discouraged, if not outright forbidden. The interactions can be impassioned -- borne of a love of the game -- but aren't mean-spirited.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the pros and cons of this game. What do you learn that may be valuable in the real world? How do you feel about the violent aspects of the game?
Families can also talk about online chat. Should parents give kids under age 13 permission to use the site's full chat features? Why or why not?