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 sophisticated social gaming site allows users 13 and up to chat and post in forums. There's no language filter, but the site's administrators and community members are very committed to keeping things family friendly. (Both adults and teens participate.) We didn't come across any strong language, sexual content, or hating. Although there are "assaults" and "battles," they're of the Dungeons and Dragons variety -- they don't actually depict violence. The site is very complex, and some teens may get frustrated trying to figure out what to do. There's some rudeness and scatological humor.
What's it about?
URBANIACS.COM begins with a simple concept: Create and control your very own superhero. The parts you choose will determine your superhero's unique combination of powers. You'll need those powers to successfully do battle with other players. Also, you'll want to choose a disposition to show your allegiance to a crew. Heroes? Villains? Or the more nebulously named nomads, vigilantes, or beatniks? If you don't know the difference, don't worry -- you're not really supposed to. Getting started in Urbanville is a lot like moving to a new school ... in a new country. Get out there and train, explore, play games, and engage in a few throw-downs, and you'll earn powers and Urbos (currency), as well as valuable life experience. If someone gives you props, it's polite to give them props back. You'll learn this and many other lessons as you settle into your new online digs.
Is it any good?
Urbaniacs.com has all the typical features of a virtual world, like games, chatting, and shopping. But it also has a complex -- and friendly -- community with a rich back story. Plus, there are creative touches like a virtual savings account, a citywide lottery, and a studio for mixing your own four-track superhero theme song. (You can put it on your UrboPod and embed it on your MySpace profile.) Teens who enjoy the challenge of learning sophisticated social games will feel right at home in Urbanville. Yes, there are games about farts and wedgies, but even superheroes can't be serious all the time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about joining established online communities. In addition to the site's official rules, there are some unwritten expectations about etiquette. For instance, if someone gives you props, it's nice to return the favor. How do you pick up on these social cues? In real life, how do you act if you're joining a new group or club? Families can also talk about setting appropriate time limits for game play, since this site can be very absorbing.