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.

Friday, April 20, 2007

latest fashion trends in Whyville

Every once in awhile I browse through Akbar's Face Mall (where all the face parts are available for shopping) to see what's the latest and greatest, or at least the oddest in looks on Whyville. Yesterday I went through the "Hall of Fame" and "New Arrivals" to see what was around. Here are some of the interesting new things I found.

Musical iPods are everywhere - I especially liked this one with the music exuding from it. Rock on!

Hand signs seem to be in, in multi-colored skin tones, which is encouraging. Here are a couple that I found. Anything to show expression in a static, non-animated avatar?

A puzzler - can someone enlighten me on this one? - is that I've seen several signs with dorks and hearts, for instance: "I love dorks" or the one pictured ot the right. Is being a dork or loving dorks cool now?

Finally, I found this gorgeous hair, called "proud to be African". I combined it with a face that I myself designed - I think it looks beautiful, though the face needs to be one skin tone lighter since some of the extra cornrows don't show up (being the same color as the skin). I'd wear it around, but haven't found a matching body yet, and as a floating head I didn't think it'd be very accepted on Whyville.

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