Living and Learning on

Multiplayer games and worlds have increased in popularity with millions of players now spending dozens of hours or more online each week. We know surprisingly little about what younger players do in virtual worlds like Teen Second Life, Habbo Hotel, Club Penguin, Virtual Laguna Beach, There and others. Discussions about their promises and problems have been initiated among researchers, parents, developers, and policy makers. The purpose of this blog is to make our current research publicly available about one such teen virtual world called Whyville and to solicit feedback and initiate discussion. currently has over 2 million registered players ages 8-16. In Whyville, teens are encouraged to play casual science games in order to earn a virtual salary in ‘clams’, which they can spend on buying and designing parts for their avatars, projectiles to throw at other users, and other goods. The general consensus among Whyvillians (the citizens of the virtual community of Whyville) is that earning a good salary and thus procuring a large number of clams to spend on face parts or other goods is essential for fully participating in the Whyville. Like other virtual worlds, hundreds of cheat sites have been developed outside of Whyville to reveal shortcuts and introduce new players to virtual customs.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, UCLA researcher Yasmin Kafai and her team study many different aspects of Whyville including science learning, avatar creation and virtual identity, the role of cheating, and flirting and dating through Whyville.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Real Car, Virtual Car - Same ANNOYANCE!

This week there was a curious synergy of car problems - both with my real car that I drive to school and such and with my virtual car that I drive around on Whyville. My real car needed a renewed registration - a 3-month long hassle of DMV letters that never arrived, checks sent that were sent back, and finally a last-resort visit to the DMV. My virtual Scion (a limited edition winter scion - see picture with me in my new fedora posing suavely next to it) had a similar barrage of problems this past week as well. Trying to be on top of my Whyville banking, I had paid my weekly car payment early (I owe 1086 clams a week through April) but unfortunately Whyville's server had a bug in it and while the money was deducted, they didn't "see" the payment. This resulted in my receiving a letter about a LATE PAYMENT!

Now, I am doing all right for myself on Whyville, with three accounts now, and one beautiful head selling pretty well, but I can't make two car payments in a week, so I quickly ymailed a City worker who ymailed back and told me to EMAIL City Hall, from whom I recently got an email saying they were investigating it. But meanshile, they've already deducted the extra 1086 clams from my account, as soon as the money had been earned (they watch the bank account carefully, I guess).

I guess virtual cars can be frustrating too, but I wasn't expecting virtual ownership to be such a pill!



Sunshine Cook said...

Well, there goes the escapism aspect of your motivation to play... :)

Deborah Fields said...

Well, today I got an email from City Hall saying that my extra payment was refunded. Hooray! I guess City Hall beats the DMV by a power of 30 or so. :-)