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 2, 2009

A two-car Whyville household

I have upped my status in Whyville with a new car. I had lost my other second car after too much international travel last summer where I didn't remember to log into Whyville everyday to get my salary, my loan went into default and I eventually lost it. Yes, this can happen on Whyville.

So I saved money, putting most of it in cds (they earn 3% if you put them in for six weeks - they must be compounded quite a lot because I think I earned more in clams that I do on my cd with dollars) until a cool special edition car came out on Valentine's day. Note the nifty accessories - under car glow, why wheels (I was tempted with smiley face wheels but thought these fit the design better), roof rack, and lights. Complete with a license plate number. I didn't even know Whyville was an "island" until I read the title. And I paid in 'cash' (clams) so no need to make loan payments.

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