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.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Science Learning reports

Virtual Playground for Millions reviews the three categories of online science games (casual, collaborative, and community) available for users of, and examines the instructional and social significance of each in a 10-week middle school study.

Life in the Times of Whypox focuses on Whypox, a virtual epidemic that took place in Whyville, and how it impacted community life during and after its scourge.
Download PDF here

Patterns in Scientific Problem Solving reports on teens' use of the virtual simulators in during the outbreak of the Whypox disease. Results show that a select number of online players use different approaches, scientific and engineering models, to improve their prediction performances.

Of Monsters and Sick Computers looks at children's folk conceptions of a computer virus such as Whypox and what connections exists between virtual and natural viruses.

Where in the World is the Science in Whyville? Analyses many of the potentials for science learning in Whyville, including participation in science games, responses to the virtual epidemic of Whypox, uses of simulators to understand Whypox, understanding of computer viruses based on Whypox experiences, and uses and influences of player-developed "cheats" on science games.

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