“As learning fluidly moves across multimodal spaces, as represented in the playground of the 21stcentury, the experiences of young children extend across both virtual play worlds and school-yard playgrounds” (Burke, A 2013).
As technology has rapidly evolved within the 21stcentury and our networked homes become more advanced, the emergence of online worlds has been prominent throughout children’s interaction with each other. Over time there has been a range of different online spaces that have emerged. As technology has evolved we have seen these virtual communities be replaced and re-emerged in new and innovative spaces.
These virtual worlds allowed users to escape from their everyday lives, and live and interact with each other within the game. Before games such as Fortnite emerged, I grew up with the wildly popular virtual world, Club Penguin. “It was set up in 2005 by developers keen to create a virtual world which was ad-free but also safe for children to use” (Cresci, A 2017).
After school I would come home and login to Club Penguin, talking to my friends as we tried to get into the same server. We would chat online and explore the virtual world together, allowing us to connect in a safe and moderated environment. As in primary school, I didn’t have access to social media servers such as Facebook and Snapchat where I now connect with my friends, Club Penguin was used as a way to catch up and chat with each other whilst playing the game.
The game also contained a membership feature where you were able to have access to several other items that normal users weren’t able to use. Having this membership was much sought after by kids and was seen as setting you apart from the rest. I remember being allowed to have a one month membership on the game where I was able to have access to a whole new level of gameplay. But it wasn’t just these extra features that drew me to the game. It was the interaction that I was able to have, not only just with my friends but with other people around the world.
An article by Anne Burke explores the effect that these virtual worlds have on constructing our identity and the relationships that we can form by interacting with them. Burke states that “the virtual social events involved in the Club Penguin game-play are significant because the rich social interactions found through play create opportunities for children to experiment with early rehearsals and re-enactments of roles and experiences” (Burke, A 2013).
The social network that the game created meant that children were able to continue forming relationships with each other beyond the classroom and through gameplay and opportunities to engage in “early rehearsals and re-enactments of role and experiences” were able to form stronger social skills.
Unfortunately, this past time has come to an end, with the once popular virtual world shifting to mobile-only use rather than the original computer centered gameplay. But as history has shown time again, this style of gameplay has been readapted and reimagined in the popular Fortnite, a virtual that “in less than a year (Fortnite), has grown to 125 million players”(Jones, Ali 2018). Although different, Fortnite shares the integral part of Club Penguin and that is the ability to connect and socialise with others whilst engaging with networked devices.