Lego Universe for a 10 year old?
November 22, 2010 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Is Lego Universe, Lego's MMO game, kid safe? More specifically, will it be a safe environment for our kid?

Our oldest son, who's almost 10, is a huge Lego and Lego Star Wars fan. He's told us he's interested in playing Lego Universe, and would like a membership in that game as a gift for the holidays. His mother and I are a bit unsure, and I would love to hear from some parents who have experience with this game and its attendant culture.

Background: We're not a gaming household. We don't own any dedicated gaming consoles and we have never participated in any MMO games (caveat: I have played a ton of online poker, but I'm assuming that experience is not entirely relevant). We don't prevent our kids from playing Wii or similar games when they are at their friends' houses, but apart from their desktop computers we don't have any gaming systems in the house. And while they have a few games on their desktop computers, they primarily use their computers for school and video. We keep a tight grip on TV access, but we've put a lot of kid-oriented video content on their computers and we're trying to teach them how enjoy this sort of entertainment without letting it consume them.

To date, we keep a pretty firm grip on our son's exposure to the greater internet, too -- we give him access to a few web sites for school, and we occasionally let him play single-player Flash-based games on and the Cartoon Network/Star Wars: The Clone Wars site when his school work is done, but for the most part we keep him and his younger sister sheltered from The Great Distraction that is the internet.

Which brings me back to Lego Universe. I know nothing about MMOs or Lego Universe. Is this gaming environment safe for a somewhat sheltered 10 year old? Is the game moderated in any way? Would you let your 10 year old play this (with some time limits in place, obviously)? I'm not worried about him being "preyed" upon in the classic scare sense of that phrase, but I do worry about him being insulted or bullied, and, sensitive kid that he is, giving those sorts of comments more weight then they deserve. I also worry about him getting deeply distracted by this, because he's 10 and, well, I assume the game is entertaining and distracting. At the same time, it's not like he's going to be able to avoid these sort of distractions as he gets older, and I'd like to see him learn to handle this sort of thing now rather than see him get overwhelmed when he's older and the stakes are higher.
posted by mosk to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Given the home life you have described here, it sounds risky. I gamed alot and still almost got eaten alive by the first MMO I played, and I was not that young.

The gaming you have been allowing as a reward is different than a MMO that run in realtime... I'm not sure how satisfying the experience will be for him to be limits to brief periods after homework is done.
posted by ServSci at 11:40 AM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: Rock Paper Shotgun's (gaming blog) review of the game said:

But it is tremendously cute, and a huge amount of effort has gone in to making sure kids are protected. It restricts the words you can use, both in describing your constructions and during chat, to those that appear in its allowed dictionary. Names you give your pets are checked before they’re public, and your creations you make public are vetted by humans before they’re open to other players. Sorry – no willy towers.

There’s no doubt this is a safe MMO world to let kids into. And fears of over-playing will be quickly quelled when they rapidly run out of content.

They were pretty uncomplimentary about the rest of the game (in terms of how good the actual game is) but this may not be an issue depending on how sophisticated a gamer your son is. They also mention how empty the game is of other players - so bad behaviour may be even more unlikely to be encountered.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:54 AM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Did you read their Safety FAQ? I found it pretty comprehensive, and it sounds like they use a combination of filtering and moderation to try to keep the site safe, appropriate, and bully-free.

There's also some feedback at the Parents Message Board (both good and bad).

As a family you're obviously used to monitoring and helping your children navigate different forms of media, which means you're probably better equipped than many families to dive into something like this. You'll set limits, play alongside your child, etc. In that situation, I would consider trying it -- you're right, it can be good to start exposing kids to things like this in a controlled manner while they're still young enough to want your opinion and help.

On the other hand, as a family you consistently prioritize other activities over gaming/TV, and if you're uncomfortable with your son gaming on-line, now's the time to say no and talk about why.
posted by hms71 at 12:24 PM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: I was a part of the closed beta of Lego Universe, for the last few months though I didn't play as much as I would have liked. User names are moderated, and chats as censored for adult language. From my experience with it, it felt like they've worked very hard to keep it children-friendly.
posted by thebestsophist at 1:17 PM on November 22, 2010

This will seem somewhat ridiculous coming from someone who recently got her son the Lego Death Star as a birthday present (and then spent the next 2 months helping to build all 3,802 pieces of it), but my biggest issue with Lego Universe was the cost -- $50 for the game itself and then $10 a month to play it? That seemed a bit much, even understanding that part of what I'd be paying for is the safety of a Lego-approved online gated community. In the end, I got both my kids Minecraft accounts and set up a server for the family to play on instead. That has been really, really fun -- for them and for me!
posted by mothershock at 1:54 PM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: My nine year old son plays the game and thoroughly enjoys it. It is very safe for children and is very heavily moderated. I would be happy to talk to you about it in greater detail if you like. Feel free to drop me a line In MeMail.
posted by DWRoelands at 2:41 PM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: I'm not a parent, but I was also in the closed beta. It is indeed heavily moderated and safe. I found the game quite fun, full of activities that encouraged some creative thought as well as a dose of typical Lego game humor. I'd feel comfortable letting a child play it.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:31 PM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: My daughter is 11 and plays it and I find it perfectly safe (I play it too). As a bonus, games like this where your chat words have to match the dictionary force the children to learn good spelling if they want to communicate. I get regular cries from my daughter asking how to spell something, and I think it's good practice for her.

If only they had a filter that would handle there/they're/their and your/you're, that would be even better.

If you want an idea of some of the actual content that's in the game, the forums at are the ones I and my daughter use for things like where to find bonus flags and pets and so forth.
posted by marble at 5:18 PM on November 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone, for your excellent feedback so far! My wife and I need to look over the links you provided, but so far the game and its culture are sounding much better than I anticipated. It's expensive, but I like the idea of thinking of this as an online gated community -- it strikes me as an apt analogy, and that level of moderation doesn't come for free.

I don't want to flag anything as "best" yet in the hopes that we may get a few more responses, but really, all of your answers have been excellent and well informed. Thank you.
posted by mosk at 5:59 PM on November 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks again, all. After reviewing the material you suggested we've decided to give it a try.
posted by mosk at 8:08 PM on November 29, 2010

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