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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks Virtual World Review

This product was a first for the TOS Crew- a review of a virtual gaming site. If you are at all familiar with similar sites like Club Penguin or Toon Town or some of the more adult gaming sites like World of Warcraft, you probably have a good idea of what Wiglington and Wenks is all about, but on the off chance that you are every bit as ignorant as I was, I'll share a little basic information below as well as the specifics that make Winglington and Wenks unique.

I quote below is direct from the Wiglington and Wenks site because I think they probably can explain their site WAY better than I can.

The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks Virtual World is an exciting new massive online virtual world for kids where players can travel to places around the world, through time and space, meet famous historical people, play fun enriching games, make new friends, own exotic islands, build culture-inspired houses, wear all kinds of cool clothing and costumes, explore secret locations, solve ancient mysteries and become a legendary traveler!

Probably the most massive virtual world for kids to date, The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks features more than 100 fun-filled educational real world and imaginary locations from the past, present and future.

Parents can look forward to a safe site for their children where they will be learning about history, geography, landmarks, famous people, inventions, the environment, animals and more.

And for the children, they can expect hours of fun-filled exploration.

The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks was originally a children story book series by John Bittleston, later adapted into a virtual world for kids by creative entrepreneur Aldric Chang and Ngo Chee Yong

Here is the basic way Wiglington and Wenks works: First you set up an account. Because Wiglington and Wenks is meant to be played by children ages 7-14, the parent (whose e-mail is required when the account is requested) has to approve the account. Once the parent gives permission, the child can go on an create their avatar (online player)-do this carefully, I breezed through it and since your avatar is permanent once you are done, I am forever a male on WW. After you create your avatar, you go to Wiglington Town and need to make your way to the Learning Hall where you can explore around. You have to take a quiz before you can begin your real travels, and the clues to this quiz are meant to be found in the Learning Hall...although more than a few people have problems figuring out the answers, as evidenced by the fact that you can find the answers on various "cheat sites". Once you pass the quiz, the basic gist of the game is that you can travel to different places via an "airbus". Once at your chosen location, you will find some "famous" person who seems to have lost their memory. To help them recover their memory, you have to find certain articles for them that are hidden throughout all of this virtual world. Once you find all their articles, they miraculously recover their memory and reward you with a gift. Along the way, you can collect "wikis"-I have NO idea what the purpose of collecting them is, but it's something to do. You can also play games that reward you with virtual currency to spend on virtual things for your virtual world. Oh, and you can BUY a different kind of virtual currency to spend on virtual things for your virtual world. Playing in this virtual world is free, but you can upgrade to an Elite Traveler membership which has a monthly fee and have access to a few places and figures that are not available to the basic players. You also can buy some items that the basic Free membership does not give you access to.
The Pros: Wiglington and Wenks is fun. My kids have enjoyed playing it, and would play it for hours is they were allowed. And as technological entertainment goes, it has some educational value. You do meet "famous" figures from history or mythology or literature. And once you restore the memory of the famous person, they are able to tell you a little about themselves. You do collect wikis and as you collect them, you are given information about the item you collect. You do travel to places around the world, and if you talk to the guy who take you to those places, you can learn a bit about the location. Also, sometimes talking to the people you encounter in each place will give you some information about it.

The cons: Hold on, this may be a long list! The site and the game are NOT intuitively obvious. Sometimes your next step is unclear. Some of the items you are supposed to be looking for are next to impossible to find. That's what lead me to cheat sites to get help in finding items my kids and I just couldn't find. In doing that, I discovered the disturbing fact that there are a great number of adults out there who have an obsession with Wiglington and Wenks. And while they seem mostly harmless, if not a bit out of touch with reality, I think parents should be very clear that this site designed for 7-14 year olds is being played by a lot of people WAY beyond that age bracket. The most disturbing part of the whole experience, in my opinion, is that the chat feature in this game is unlimited. That means you can say ANYTHING. Oh, sure, the rules say no cursing, and of course, they strive to exclude numbers that might be addresses or phone numbers from being exchanged, but based on the experience of several of my fellow crew members, at least in terms of the cursing, your children may be exposed to things you don't want them to be exposed to. Any word can get by with a little st*r in it...and even the full word gets by until a player is reported to a moderator (which I NEVER encountered the whole time I played, and I have solved all but one of the quests). I forbade my children from chatting to anyone, and since there are several servers to chose from to play on, I always made them choose the least full server to minimize the chance of that happening to us. And WW is responding to some of the parents who have expressed concern by rolling out a new limited chat feature for children under 13 where they are limited to a predetermined script of things they can say to each other. Finally, as a Christian, I take issue with some of the historical figures on the quest and some of the information given about different places. Evolution is mentioned as fact in the Grand Canyon of the USA. Darwin is one of the historical figures. Other than Saint Patrick, who was added for Saint Patrick's day, there is no Christian presence among the historic figures the game creators have chosen. And while there are all sorts of cool places you can see on the WW site, many of them are not available yet, so some of the claims the site is making about "more than 100 locations" are not currently true.

The bottom line: I'm not a virtual gamer, so I am probably biased, but I found WW to be intermittently fun and exceedingly boring. I enjoyed the quest when the items were hidden well but in plain sight, but the ones where only a small sliver of the item was visible were not fun to try to find. WW is visually cluttered with stuff EVERYWHERE (see the picture above), so finding an item that is almost entirely hidden is like finding a needle in a haystack. I don't see the point in the Elite Membership-there just isn't enough extra bang for the buck. It runs $5.99 a month, $16.99 for 3 months, $29.99 for 6 months, or $59.99 for a year. If you are into this sort of thing, I would allow you children to play the free site in a main room of your house where you can keep an eye on their activities and I would be strict about banning chatting, but that's just me. My kids will probably continue to play under those very conditions. But it should be noted too that you should not be deceived about the educational value. If your child just wants to play the quest, they might, as mine tried to do, just ignore the informational blurbs and come away without learning much at all. I ended up requiring mine to mark on a map the locations they visited and to fill out short informational pages about each historical figure.
To check out Wiglington and Wenks, go HERE. To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I was given a one month Elite membership fo rthe purpose of writing this review. That was the only compensation I received.

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1 comment:

Aldric Chang said...

Hello One Blessed Mama,

Many thanks for taking the time to do this review. My name is Aldric - the Deputy CEO and Chief Executive Producer of the Travels of Wiglington and Wenks Virtual World.

I appreciate your feedback very much and we are making effort to improve on the areas you pointed out.

You would be pleased to hear that we will soon release 3 levels of chat that can be selected during registration -

No Chat - The No Chat option is for parents who want their children to focus solely on the virtual world quests and not interact with other players. Using this option, your child will not be allowed to engage in any form of chat, nor see any chat. You can toggle this feature off later in the Parents Control Panel and switch this to Safe Chat mode.

Safe Chat - The Safe Chat mode is for parents who want to limit their children's interaction on the virtual world. Using this option, players will only be able to chat and view chat using chatlines from a safe pre-constructed list.

Moderated Free Chat -
The Moderated Free Chat mode is for parents who want their children to learn about different cultures and gain social skills through interacting with children from other countries and through engaging in team activities. Using this option, players are able to chat freely using a chat system which is moderated for abusive language. However, no chat moderation system is 100% foolproof and occasionally abusive language presented in different forms may still surface. It is up to parents to guide and educate their children on reacting appropriately to such unwanted chat.

In fact, we have already developed the safe chat system and it is currently in Beta testing phase -

You have our assurance that child safety is of utmost importance to us and we will keep working hard to make it as close to perfection as possible.

Once again, thank you for your valuable time taken to write this review.

Kind regards,