So, what is Club Penguin?
A massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG)
Erm... and what's that, exactly?
An MMORPG is an online game set in a vast virtual world which players can explore in the guise of their game character (also called an 'avatar'). Players complete missions and tasks along the way to gain in-game prizes. You've probably heard of World of Warcraft - think that, but with fewer elves and more penguins.
How does it work?
Players create their own penguin character and travel around Club Penguin Island, a detailed virtual world with mountains, beaches, towns, shops and even an ice rink for inhabitants to explore.
By completing mini-games, such as high-speed pizza making, surfing or ice hockey, players earn in-game currency. They can use the money to buy clothes, special items and even their own pets - cuddly creatures called 'puffles', who need constant care and attention (much like your old Tamagotchi).
And just how big is it?
Pretty damn big. The game currently has somewhere in the region of 200 million registered accounts, of whom 150 million are active users. Try and wrap your head around that. That's the audience of the 1986 Eastenders Den 'n' Angie Christmas special times five.
Why won't my kid stop banging on about it?
Probably because of the Skinner Box effect. BF Skinner famously conducted experiments in which rats in a box learned to press levers to get food pellets. The same applies to most MMORPGs - the game is addictive because new rewards are constantly being dangled in front of players to keep them interested. Just five more golden rings to find and my character gets a new hat!
If you've ever had your mum or auntie nagging you to give them '10 power points' so they can get to the next level of 'Cookie Quest' on Facebook and asked yourself 'why?', you have seen this principle in action.
Anything I should be worried about?
Parents often blanch at the thought of their kids interacting with strangers online, but Club Penguin is designed for players aged six to 14 and goes above and beyond to protect safety. The chat feature is filtered so that any inappropriate language is blocked. In addition, in-game moderators patrol the same to make sure the atmosphere remains safe and fun.
"That lamp would look great in your igloo!"
"Wouldn't you rather read a Penguin classic?"
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