April 12th, 2007

ClubPenguinSex7.jpg Up this afternoon at Joystiq is my column, “Searching for Sex in Club Penguin”. Club Penguin is a massive virtual world for kids, one that Raph Koster has been talking about for a while (Yes, we know, 4.5 million uniques in December). My question is, if there are so many darn people playing, shouldn’t there be sex in the game? It would be the whole Habbo Hotel thing, you know? Unfortunately, it’s damn hard to do research without feeling totally skeevy, so I’m still pretty much in the dark.

Undoubtably, someone is going to call me a pedophile for just suggesting sex in a game designed for kids.  And that’s definitely what it is.  I mean, just look at the options for picking your age.  A cane?  Bifocals?  I’ve never felt so old at twenty-one.  The fact of the matter is, Club Penguin is just begging for someone to ask the question.  Check out these screens shots; they are par-a-noid.  Safety first, of course.  But it makes you wonder, what exactly are they so worried about?  Maybe we should be more suspicious.

Also: On an unrelated note, an interview of mine from GDC went up at Gamasutra the other day.  It’s about using MMOs as ESL training grounds.  Specifically, I talked with Edd Schneider, who conducted an American/Chinese project at one of the Suny schools.  It seems like the time difference was a pain (students waking up the middle of the night and such), but besides that he said it went great. As someone who’s thinking about going over to Southeast Asia to teach ESL in a few months, the fact that I might be replaced by an international server… Well, it’s still pretty cool.

Tags: Blog

32 Responses to ““Searching for Sex in Club Penguin””

  1. Patrick Says:

    Don’t worry Bonnie, once I finish The Aristocrats I’ll take all the scrutiny off you.

  2. Bonnie Says:

    Oh, is that right? Do tell.

  3. Phalligator Says:

    wow…people really got pissed. I’m still happy you wrote it. I commented as ‘superantigen’ at joystiq.

  4. Bonnie Says:

    I have to admit, I wasn’t really planning to read the comments, since I figured people would get strange, and sometimes I have a weak stomach for that, but it’s good to know my readers have lived up to expectations :).

  5. MthdDirector Says:

    My daughter is 10, and she plays on Club Penguin regularly. It’s one of the few truly “family safe” sites on the web, and the only one where I’ve allowed her to set up her own profile.

    If nothing else, your article proved that you’ve got no concept of the boundaries which needs to exist around children’s spaces on the internet. You assumes the voice of someone interested in finding sex s on Club Penguin. It’s voyeristic, and pedophilic.

    The idea that you would go to a children’s site and then try to exploit the sexual novelty of it makes my blood boil. The fact that my daughter may have been on the site makes it personal.

    Now, don’t come back and say that you’re doing “investigative journalism” to identify the ways that these kinds of children’s sites can be compromised. Because that’s NOT what you’ve done. You assumed the narrative voice of an adult looking for sex on a children’s site. FYI, that’s not exactly PSA material. You do know what narrative voice is, don’t you?

    If this is the kind of writing that you do, then perhaps you, too, have lived up to expectations.

  6. Bonnie Says:

    Thanks for visiting. I’m so glad you enjoyed the article. Now that you’ve had time to vent your misplaced anger, let’s be logical for a second:

    1) If your daughter plays in Club Penguin, this should make you feel better. Whether you approve of it or not, what I do is write about sex in games, and as far as I can see (something you also don’t approve of, apparently), there is none in this game.

    2) If there was sex in the game you’re daughter is playing, wouldn’t you rather someone told you about it? Me not going in and casting an eye around is not going to make sex disappear from the game. Now at least you know she’s in a safe environment.

    You’re welcome, and come again soon!

  7. ionous Says:

    am i reading the “ultimate safe-chat” page correctly?

    it’s safer somehow for your child if they can only *say* certain things? maybe the idea there is that way they can’t release their real name, phone number, etc. but it seems a bit strange to me. something like a known friends list for *seeing* full chat or the like would seem to make more sense.

    maybe instead the game should just speech synth all chat so the parents can listen in as their kids play :)

    last thought: if nothing seems to be going wrong how do parents know it wont? how do they *know* those moderators walking around are real trusted people and not just a bunch of software bots controlled by a single bored employee who’s not paying any real attention to the screen??

  8. Bonnie Says:

    how do they *know* those moderators walking around are real trusted people and not just a bunch of software bots controlled by a single bored employee who's not paying any real attention to the screen?

    Unfortunately, it seems the only way to test something that would be to go into the game and say something “inappropriate”–or at least hear stories from people who have. For me, the first option isn’t really an option, since I don’t want to introduce any inappropriate material that wasn’t already there. What we really need are testimonies from regular Club Penguin players…

  9. Michael Guarino Says:

    Sad. This isn’t a joke. You need help. You claim your not a pedophile, OK. But your thinking certainly places you on a slippery slope. Every sex addiction starts small and seemingly harmless. Your inquiry, so avant-garde and matter-of-fact, even condoning, smacks of a warped view, and suggests that you are an addict already. Review how you constructed your question, “if…shouldn’t there be?”. Your almost making a declaration, almost inviting it. I’m not trying to take you out of context, just trying to encourage you to hear yourself. After all, you obviously have a pre-occupation with sexual behavior (your website, articles), and your not denouncing the negative effects of such a mind-set. You have no moral compass. Your making light of a serious issue. Remember, you made the suggestion, whether there is evidence of “perversion” on the site or not. I know, I know, you may want to put a feather in your hat, by claiming to have had the “courage” to say what “everybody else” is “thinking”. Perhaps one day you will have the courage to face your condition. I hope that day comes soon for you. Your obviously “educated”, so I’m expecting some cool, dia-tribe of reason to emerge in your response. You can write me off, but I know I’m right, because I was an addict myself. Takes one to know one.

  10. Bonnie Says:

    Wow, ok, let’s do this once again. I write about sex in games. Every online, virtual world I have come across has had sex in it. Recently, at a games conference, a developer mentioned a virtual world I wasn’t familiar with. So I thought, it must have sex, right? Then it turns out it’s a world for children. So I wonder, given the work I do every day, would there also be sex in a kid’s world? Now, I go in, I sit there and I play Connect Four for a while. The most I saw to anyone around me is “Hi.” I’m not trying to get into cybersex, I’m trying to see if anyone else around me is. It’s observation. I don’t see anything. I go home.

    How again is that pedophilia? I’m sorry if you’ve had a problem, but the fact of the matter is that childhood sexuality (having absolutely nothing to do with my sexuality) doesn’t go away just because we don’t like to think about it. Someone should be talking about these things, especially so that concerned parties like parents can know exactly what’s going on. The end.

  11. Leigh Says:

    Er, yeah… looks like a lot of people got lathered. Bonnie– I understand what you were trying to do, but it looks like all that happened is people misconstrued your tone. People get very heated on the concept of child sexuality– which, I think, is something that most reasonable people understand exists. Maybe it’s not the same as an adult’s, but. Even still, those who logically understand that children are not asexual– and that they’re in the process of growing into adults– become very emotional, especially when they’re parents. It seems people fear that nobody can identify or discuss even loosely “sexual” issues surrounding children without exploiting it somehow.

    Which is unfortunate, because understanding a child’s world– and understanding the kind of person who’d try to compromise it– is key to actually protecting kids in the easy-access digital age.

  12. Kat Says:

    I am a player of about 2 years, and if any of you parents are concerned about safety, I’ll let you in on something – the moderators (who are real) are completely paranoid. I have been temporarily suspended for saying ‘nuts’ when I was hit by a snowball. Most penguins do not chat, and if they do it is not cybering. A few months ago there was a fiasco about ‘making eggs,’ which, as you can tell, is a penguin-ized version of cyber. Well, now the word ‘egg’ and any pluralization or version of it (-ing, -ed) is completely blocked. This means, you can enter it into the speech box and press enter, but the only person who sees it is you.

    Many phrases are like this. You can type something, and although you will see it on the screen, no one else will.

    Also, if you have your child use ‘ultimate safe chat,’ they cannot see any phrases that are not available in ‘ultimate safe chat.’ I have tried this personally with a friend on another computer. She did not have ‘ultimate safe chat’ enabled, and I did. She typed ‘yo yos are very fun toys’ and I could not see it. We were on the phone when we did this, so we are 100% sure of our conclusion.

    As of the two years I have been playing I have not once been harassed for cyber any way, and, as I mentioned earlier, the monitors are very, very real. I have been temporairily suspended twice, the first reason listed above and the second was for saying ‘noob,’ which can imply stupidity or incompetence in a game, and is considered an insult. It is slang from ‘newbie’ for any parents who did not know. This is how strict they are.

    One thing that you can do to ensure your child’s safety is to sit and talk with them. Do not be defensive or aggressive, be neutral. Say that they may run into offensive material while online (on Club Penguin or not) and tell them to ignore it. If you instill this in them when they are younger, they will not go astray. I have been online since I was about 7, on various children’s sites and other places. I am now 14, so that’s half of my life, and I can say that I know a bit about it. I have found that finding a good place for your children to encounter the internet for the first time is a very good way to teach them the do’s and dont’s of the net. Club Penguin is a wonderful example of this, my little cousin was introduced to it by me when he was 6, and now he is 8, and he can type 30 WPM (another side effect of the internet – I can type 120 WPM with 95% accuracy.) and he can navigate skillfully. This is a very useful skill for his, and any child’s future (typing class is a pain if you don’t know much.)

  13. Aperson Says:

    um this is to mthdDirector theres nothing wrong with anything what so secrety about sex shes bound to find out yea she wont do nothing but learning at a young age is better so when they grow up they wont turn out all perverted because they will know this at a good age

  14. mariah Says:

    i want sex on clubpenguin once and for all!!

  15. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Could you explain?

  16. pophead Says:

    i think my daughter should learn about sex on clubpenguin not from me!

  17. Jade Reporting » April 12 Says:

    […] “Searching for Sex in Club Penquin” […]

  18. kianna c Says:

    ya all of you are kind of rightwe should have sex with other sexy penguins right

  19. kianna c Says:

    i think i am sooo right dudes

  20. hannah Says:

    my daughter has a club penguin and they do try or pretend to have sex they ask whos good? and moan its gross

  21. Jewel Says:

    My daughter plays club penguin and she is very safe on the internet. In fact, one time she was on club penguin and she showed me two penguins, sitting in the middle of her igloo having sex. One of them said climbs on top of and kisses. This, she said, was very disturbing. So

  22. someone you dont know... Says:

    maybe insted of spending all your time poking in kids busniess you should stick to playing on line polka and watching porn like you old folks love to do.

    seriously though only about 3 ppl have ever tried this with me and it doesnt even really matter its a FRIGGIN WEBSITE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! half the things you say dont even show up so get a LI-FE!

    i am younger so i have a reason to be on this!

  23. someone you dont know... Says:

    oh and bi the way ur all stupid the moderators are both adults watching on screens somewhere BUT ALSO ANY PENGUIN CAN REPORT IF THE CLICK THE FRIGGIN BUTTON!

    jesus CHRIST a bunch of dim bulbs is what you are

  24. someone you dont know... Says:

    bonnie u suck u didnt even read my fuckin comments.

  25. gwendolen Says:

    congratulations Bonnie and all you other idiot parents, because there IS sex on club penguin. a few years ago the room all the way at the bottom of the lists of servers was not a “dont say anything” room. it was a room that was for sex. you notice numbers arn’t allowed anymore? its because penguins were saying ” press 123 to get on me” “press 69 to feel so fine” and then penguins would go dance in front of eachother while saying “go go go” and “oh yes oh yes” and other things. i investigated and even found whole room orgies, I AM NOT LYING. they site has cleaned up alot, but bonnie is not crazy, i am afraid all of you are. it was bound to happen.

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