Webosaurs is a social networking massively multi-player online role playing game (MMORPG) that was launched in October 2009 by Reel FX Entertainment. It began as a free beta test site until all programming issues were corrected. The site is aimed at children from ages 5 to 12. Dinosaurs have always been popular with children. With the rise in popularity of virtual worlds, it was only a matter of time before a company seized the dinosaur theme and created a virtual world around it. The dinosaurs that children choose as their avatars are animated cartoon dinosaurs who roam an island landscape.
Children can explore the website for free; however, this limits the activity they can have. Paid memberships begin at $5.94 per month. A 6 month membership is $29.94 and a 12 month membership is $49.94. A paid membership allows players to enjoy the full features of the world, including games, activities, adventures and chat. Parents should know that in order for the game to operate properly, several technical requirements must be met. The computer must have Adobe Flash Player 10; Internet Explorer 7; 1 GB of RAM; and a connection speed of at least 512Kbps.
Once children become members of Webosaurs, they choose a dinosaur as an avatar to be their online personality. Players then choose a home for their dinosaur (known as a cave) and can alter it as they see fit. Members can also adopt or buy virtual pets. Pets that are not taken care of don’t die – they run away. The currency of Webosaurs is simply called ‘coins’. Players earn this currency by successfully playing the online games and taking quizzes. The ‘coins’ buy everything from cave items, clothing, food, armor and pet supplies. Armor is the most-wanted item in Webosaurs because it protects the avatars when they engage in battle. The different levels of armor must be purchased in this sequence: leather, wood, bone, steel, molten and gold. Dinosaurs need armor because most of the games are action-oriented. A dinosaur is better protected to win a game if they have the most advanced armor. Members can also chat about their dinosaurs with other players in a chat room.
The graphics of Webosaurs are very well done. When animating or creating dinosaurs, the tendency is to make them look too cute or very scary. The website has found a nice balance between the two extremes. Webosaurs will appeal mainly to boys age 8 to 12. The website knows who its audience is and has created a virtual world surrounding that demographic. There are no adult themes in the virtual world or on the website. There is no drinking, smoking, drug use, sex or offensive language. Moderators who monitor chat rooms and the games are plentiful. If something inappropriate is said or done, the offending player is muted or ultimately banned.
Webosaurs has an interesting educational component. On the home page, members can view short clips about animals and nature called Webosaurs Shorts that are hosted by Nigel Marven, a wildlife expert and host of BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Park. The website didn’t have to do this, so they are trying to incorporate some kind of educational component into a mainly game-focused website.
Violence may be an issue for some parents. Though there is no blood spilled or any gore, parents should be aware that Webosaurs is an action-oriented online game where the players take the form of aggressive dinosaurs. Recently, the website has undergone an update that includes the addition of an antagonist called Spike who is threatening to take over the island. As well, there are new monster battle games where players battle an evil monster called Okvango. Players use weapons to defeat these monsters. It would appear that as Webosaurs evolves, it is becoming more aggressive, with more threatening antagonists. These recent changes may concern parents.
Though the website’s biggest assets are the online games, like every other virtual world, a chat room exists for players to socialize. There are two chat modes: safe chat (the child clicks on a predetermined chat message) and open chat (the child types in their own message which is moderated). Children should feel safe and comfortable using Webosaurs because moderators are always live on chat and in the games. This is an important aspect of online safety that Webosaurs excels at and other virtual worlds should adopt.