Since 2005, Club Penguin has been wowing audiences in a MMOG (massive multiplayer online game) universe. It combines the best of many worlds, online social networking, gaming, and a safe environment to do it in. Club Penguin is owned by the Walt Disney Company, giving many users a reason to trust in its ability to be a kid-friendly environment. When the site was designed, it was specifically targeted toward six to fourteen year-old kids, while many other aged users are on the site, most users fall within this age category.
When you join the site, you are given a cartoon avatar, a penguin. You have the ability to waddle your penguin around in a snow-filled virtual world where you can play several games and interact with other users. Many of the users like to customize their igloos, similar to the SIMS computer games where you can create homes. To customize an igloo, you must have a paid monthly membership so you can buy the furniture and other items. The monthly membership cost is $6 a month.
Since the site is continuing to grow among children in this age group, the Walt Disney Corporation launched a product line of stuffed Puffles, t-shirts, key chains, and many other things that are used to keep the site running. The biggest competitor to this MMOG site is Webkinz, which is similarly targeted to the same age group.
The reason why Club Penguin continues to grow is because of it’s ‘Safe Chat’ feature. Unlike social networking sites, you are not uploading personal photos and personal information. With this site, you are represented by the penguin avatar and you create a virtual world outside of your personal life. You have the option to meet other penguins, but most users only interact with users they already know. Disney has several moderators on the site to insure the safety of children using the site. The moderators will protect users from revealing personal information along with improper conversations or foul language. Any user that is caught in violation of the site agreement will be removed from the site for twenty four hours. If the user continues to use inappropriate language, they will eventually be removed completely from the site.
It is easy for children to become addicted to the site since there are several games and avatars to create. While the Walt Disney Corporation encourages parents to discuss with their children about improper use of the site, they have also set time limits on the site. This will essentially boot a user off the site if they have been on the site for too long. Another nice feature of the site is that it doesn’t offer advertising. Since advertisements can often be misleading or cause children to click on third-party sites, Disney has restricted advertising in order to protect them.
The benefit of purchasing a monthly membership is not only to buy clothing for your penguin, or puffle, you can also participate in member-only parties and games. A free membership only allows you to color your avatar blue or red. Paid members can basically design their avatar in any way they want.
Many of the site users express how they are feeling with emoticons, a popular tool used in the chat rooms, on cell phones, and a number of other sites. The emoticon will appear the head of the puffle as a smiley face, frowney face, etc.
In order to decorate your igloo or to purchase items for your avatar, you need to collect coins on the site. The coins are collected by participating in the mini games. All members have the ability to collect the coins, but the non-members are limited on their ability to purchase the same items as a paying member.