Massively multiplayer online games have really taken off over the past few years! For the new generation, online gaming worlds are as popular as the Sega Genesis was when I was a kid.
If you’re not familiar with the concept, players create “avatars” which are virtual representations of themselves. They then traverse the game world to complete various objectives. Players can play alone, or as part of a larger group depending on the mission.
There are even online worlds aimed at kids, such as Club Penguin.
New on the block is Herotopia, a massively multiplayer online game aimed specifically at kids aged 6 – 12 years old.
What makes Herotopia unique is that it confronts the issue of bullying head on… Here’s a quote from a USA Today article discussing the game:
The missions send kids teleporting around the earth to find clues and solve problems caused by a gang of kids called the Bully Bunch. In one mission, the Bully Bunch is planning a prank to deface the Statue of Liberty by painting the crown. Luckily, the bullies leave clues and riddles for you to find. In this mission, you must deduce where to go from riddles that mention a Forbidden City (to China), a famous art museum (to the Louvre in France) and a statue of Prometheus (to New York City’s Rockefeller Center skating rink). Upon arriving in those locations, kids must look carefully to find hidden objects.
Super cool. Basically the kids become hero’s in the game world that take a stand against bullying. Heck. Freaking. Yeah!
Part of the problem is that kids received mixed messages from the media. On one hand, they shouldn’t be bullies. On the other hand, bullies often appear in movies, TV shows, and video games as the hero’s. Herotopia tackles this head on by directly associating positive actions with progress in the game.
One more thing… I love the approach they’ve taken to teach kids about bullying without preaching at them:
“Herotopia” is a rare find in the crowded kids’ online gaming space. It is exciting to play, gorgeous to look at, filled with positive social messages that get internalized because they are baked into the gameplay (i.e., send friends positive messages or pick up garbage to earn points), empowers kids to fight back against the hijinks of bullies and teaches them about the geography of the world they live in.
That’s exactly the same approach we take with our school assembly programs. By baking the message into the show, kids learn while having fun. They don’t feel like they’re getting preached at.
If you’re a parent or educator, Herotopia is definitely worth taking a look at. It’s a great way to supplement your bullying education while letting kids have fun!