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MMO Week: Industry has been irresponsible with kids

Fri 09 May 2008 12:00pm GMT / 8:00am EDT / 5:00am PDT
Online

Club Penguin's co-founder thinks the industry has treated children irresponsibly, leading to great cynicism

Club Penguin's co-founder and general manager Lane Merrifield says that the virtual world was created in part as a reaction to the way that the games industry has dealt with children in the past.

"I think one of the biggest challenges is the irresponsible nature with which our industry has taken care of kids for a long time - so there's a great cynicism out there, and understandably so," Merrifield told GamesIndustry.biz.

"I'm a parent myself, and part of why we created Club Penguin was my own frustration with what was out there."

Merrifield also thinks that there is an over-reliance on technology that ignores the human element, which is why they've decided to devote two-thirds of the company's staff to positions such as safety moderators and customer service.

"We know the limits of technology, even though I would put our filtering software up against anybody's, especially because of that human element - we're adding 500 to 1000 words every day to the filters, simply because of slang that works its way into the language.

"And every new pop song that comes out is inevitably going to reference something that was innocent the week before, but isn't so much now," Merrifield said.

The company faced a challenge trying to explain the concept to people who would try to compare it to Facebook or MySpace - the antithesis of Club Penguin, which encourages kids not to reveal any personal identifiable information.

Despite the number of players coming through during the past two years, the company has not had a single reportable incident.

"There's a lot of human intervention, and if there are any gaps, they are spotted pretty quickly and dealt with before it can become an issue."

The complete interview with Club Penguin's Lane Merrifield is now available.

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