MMORPGs: What parents need to know…

  • Awareness
  • 18/01/2017
  • German Safer Internet Centre

Children and adolescents love to spend their free time with games on their PCs, smartphones or consoles. The strong-selling strategy-gaming apps Clash Royale and Clash of Clans are particularly popular among children (mainly boys) in Germany. What fascinates them about these games and what should parents be aware of?

Real-time multiplayer strategy games (sometimes referred to as MMORPGs or massively multiplayer online role-playing games) are enjoying great popularity. The annual app store charts show that these free gaming apps are again high ranking: both games by the Finnish game developer Supercell rank among the top three iPhone apps in 2016. Furthermore, Clash of Clans was the strongest selling iPad app of 2016 and was one of the most popular games among German youth according to a survey among adolescents in the same year (JIM 2016).

What makes it exciting?

Clash of Clans and Clash Royale are real-time multiplayer strategy games with a comic look. The players work together in clans by donating troops to each other or by working out tactics and strategies with other clan members via the chat. Players can either join an existing clan or establish one on their own. They can earn different resources or trophies. A certain amount of trophies enables the clan to climb the ranking of their league. The resulting competition seems to be appealing, especially for boys. Through their joint accomplishments and the sense of belonging to a certain clan the players are likely to build positive relationships.

Is there a minimum age for players?

The developer Supercell set the minimum age limit for all their games to 13 years. It is important to keep in mind though, that the age limit does not necessarily mean that all 13-year-old children are able to process the content of the games in a healthy way. More information for parents concerning age limits, security and in-app-purchases can be found on a special parents' section on their website.

What are the risks?

As there is a chat function involved, cyberbullying and cyber grooming could occur.

One of the most important tasks is the acquisition of resources. Valuable assets can be bought with real money and upgrades can be accelerated by in-app-purchases. This game principle gives a clear advantage to players that carry out in-app-purchases and therefore tempts the users to spend more money.

Online strategy games run in real time, which means that the players can't stop and continue at the exact same point later on as the game continues. Also, resources can be raided while players are offline. It's possible to set push notifications to keep up to date, but players are certainly more successful the more time they spend online. Also, most clans set certain rules for their members, e.g. how many troops have to be donated to other players. Social pressure builds up and members feel highly obliged to meet these criteria through spending more time online or through more in-app-purchases for quicker upgrades. Very ambitious children, especially, run the risk to succumb to the pressure to play constantly. The high game frequency and commitment are likely to cause problems within the family context. It's important to support and accompany young gamers in their everyday lives to be able to identify first signs of a possible excessive gaming behaviour.

What should parents take into account?

  • A restriction of the gaming time – especially for younger children – is appropriate. Parents should keep in mind the special dynamic of these kind of games and work out common rules together with their children. A useful tool for setting an agreement with specific timeframes is the Media Usage Treaty/Mediennutzungsvertrag (German only).
  • Clear rules are also important concerning communications via chat and in-app-purchases.
  • If necessary, parents can also disable in-app-purchases on their children's devices.
  • But, most importantly, parents should keep in mind that their children can also benefit from their game experiences and therefore keep an open mind while supporting and accompanying their children.

Find out more about the work of the German Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.

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