Safe virtual worlds for Chinese children?
I’m going to tell this story backwards from the way I read it on billsdue, because I have a different take on it.
Part 1: BaoBao BengBeng (宝宝蹦蹦)
BaoBao BengBeng is a safe, candy-coated virtual world for kids. See the video above — there are rooms, cutesy avatars, items/inventories and casual games built in. It looks like it’s targeted towards elementary schoolers.
(Listen to Danwei’s interview with their CEO here. Visit their website here.)
Part 2: 17-year-old boy burns classmate in retaliation because he’s a WoW Fire Mage
The boy responsible gave his classmate a third-degree burn on 38% of his body and is being sent to jail for 8 years. Talking reporters after the trial, he said:
我喜欢模仿游戏人物，特酷，有种“一统天下”的感觉。到后来，虚拟和现实界限已模糊，分不开了。(I love the characters in virtual worlds, it’s cool, and there’s a feeling of “being on top of the world.” Afterwards, the boundaries between real and virtual worlds blurred in my mind.)
(See original 新京报 article here.)
While some have suggested that BaoBao BengBeng (above) is a safe alternative to violent worlds like WoW, they’re actually two worlds for two audiences. BaoBao BengBeng is for elementary schoolers and WoW is for teenagers. You’d be hard pressed to find teenage boys roaming on BaoBao BengBeng for fun (unless there’s a meeting girls component…).
To take a step back: I really think virtual worlds are not the solution for virtual worlds. In this case, there’s blame attributed to the behaviors promoted by the virtual world, and these behaviors have been catalyzed by an intense attachment to the virtual world. But if the boy had other things to do, other things to play, other places to hang out — perhaps he wouldn’t be roaming the halls at school as a fire mage with a can of gasoline in his “inventory.”
One comment on “Safe virtual worlds for Chinese children?”
I’m no apologist for violent games but it does seem that someone who can’t differentiate between real and alternate reality but later can might well be playing a game.