This week, we here at Independency HQ have felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of parental voices suddenly cried out in terror … because school is out for the Summer and their kids have NOTHING TO DO.
Whatever your parental mode, (Stay at home, Go Out to Work, Telecommute, any and all combinations thereof) we understand that there is nothing so destructive, so completely and utterly derailing to a carefully planned work schedule as one’s own offspring when they are bored out of their little gourds, and looking to the nearest adult to entertain them. It’s as if the days expand and there are never enough craft projects, cartoons, trips to the pool, park or library to fill them in. Seriously, we’ve been there; we feel your pain.
But this is The Future, after all and we have the Internet! There’s nothing wrong with filling in some of those expanded summer hours with a little virtual adventuring. It’s a way to get some much needed parental downtime, while saving wear and tear on both the car and everyone’s nerves. (Not every day can be an educational, geocaching, botanical garden hike, ya know?) Besides, if the gods hadn’t meant for mankind to play MMOs, they wouldn’t have allowed Prometheus to steal the secret of WiFi. Or something.
Therefore, in a gesture of gamer (and parental) solidarity, we present to you a selection of Indie MMOs with which to help occupy your kids this summer.
Wizard101 - https://www.wizard101.com
The flagship title of KingsIsle Entertainment, Wizard101 began small and, in a few short years, has grown to millions of players. Young kids (and up) with a magical bent can cast spells and defeat monsters through eleven complete worlds. Combat is duel style, turn-based and full of spectacular animations. Drops are individualized and, with the exception of treasure cards (additional spells) items can only be traded within one’s own account, minimizing the chance that your kids can get taken by in-game con artists.
The basic game is free to play and new areas are available via “crown” purchase (premium currency) or subscription, both of which go on sale regularly. There is a cash shop, but many of the items there can be purchased with in-game gold, as well as with crowns, making it possible to have a whole host of houses, housing items, mounts and pets without breaking the budget.
Pirate101 - https://www.pirate101.com/
The second title from KingsIsle Entertainment, Pirate101 is more for early tweens and up. Set in the same universe as Wizard101, but with a twist, kids can visit many of the same worlds and see them from a new perspective. Pirate has a map-based combat system, and requires a bit more strategy than its counterpart. However, the same basic player protections that work so well in Wizard are also present in Pirate: Menu chat for younger kids, heavily filtered chat for older kids, no item trading and no competing for drops.
As with Wizard, the animations are fantastic. In a recent battle with some ettins, the animation was so entertaining that I had a sudden desire to fly to Austin just to hug the animators. The writing is also excellent and the humor is reminiscent of MST3K. Parents can play either game with their kids without fear that they’ll soon want to gouge their own eyes out in boredom.
Prices are the same for Pirate as for Wizard, and as accounts are tied to each other across games, crowns are account specific, not game specific. The crowns you buy for Wizard will be there if you decide so switch to Pirate, (or vice versa) so parents don’t to buy twice, or risk losing premium currency with a game switch.
Moreover, KingsIsle doesn’t do merch, so parents don’t have to contend with extended buying sprees that leapfrog from game, to toy store, to fast food premiums, to clothing, bedding and beyond.
Space Heroes Universe - http://www.spaceheroes.com/
Kids not feeling the magic? Are they not of a piratical bent? Perhaps a rocket ship to deep space is in order! No, I’m not talking about launching your kids into orbit, (though mine have sent me there a time or two, if you know what I mean.) I’m talking about a kid-friendly MMO of a different genre: Space!
An established game by BubbleGum Interactive, Space Heroes is also F2P with a premium option. Subscriptions prices are extremely reasonable, and not only expand gameplay options, but also come with a supply of in-game currency as well.
Space Heroes utilizes both menu and filtered chat, preventing things like ages, addresses and phone numbers from being given out by players. As with the above games, parents are given a great deal of control over player options, making this one of the safer virtual places to let your kids explore with minimal supervision.
The Missing Ink - http://www.missing-ink.com/
Created by RedBedlam, and currently in open beta testing, TMI is quirky and fun without the pressure of most adult MMOs. Kids can enjoy the graphics and play in a computer animated world of cardboard cutouts of knights, and monsters and wandering adventurers dressed as enormous cupcakes, whatever elicits a giggle.
Combat is simple enough for the kindergarten set, but make sure they’ve got the hang of it before you go back to getting your own work done, or you’ll be running back and forth from that to the computer at every battle. (As I said, we’ve been there.) There’s also a building element to the game for kids who are either bored with adventuring or don’t care about it in the first place.
So far as I know, however, the chat system is not in any way filtered or moderated, so parents will have to check in from time to time just to make sure Junior isn’t giving away the access codes to the household vault.
The cost to parents is blessedly minimal, with current cash shop items being largely cosmetic and travel modifiers.
So there you have it, a handful of options for your entertainment arsenal. Use them wisely, knowing that September will eventually arrive to contract the days again. Here’s hoping you and your kids have a great summer!
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