The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Friday, June 05, 2009


Disney Dollars and It's Not Even Disneyland

My niece, Lily, introduced my son, George, to Disney’s Club Penguin.

It’s an online video game filled with virtual penguins colored pink, red, purple, green or blue. Colors cost twenty game coins each. The penguins wear baseball caps or long brown wigs and waddle through town, a sandy beach or snow.

Who can resist the penquins’ pets, the puffles: small limbless balls of fur with eyes and wide-gapping mouths that smile, frown or yawn? Adopting a puffles cost 800 coins and colors denote their special abilities, tricks, and personalities. The gray one can be grumpy. Puffles must be fed, allowed to play, put to sleep and can attend parties and play dates. When my son’s penguin isn’t home his puffles live a secret life in their igloo. Once we caught them dancing...  

... Ahhh, Mom Look!

Then there’s the social value of the kids interacting with each other’s avatars. Of course in this game everyone’s avatar is a penguin. Penguins, sit, dance, waddle and wave on command. They also emote and send postcard messages: ‘Bring your puffle out to play.’ ‘Igloo party.’ ‘Be my buddy?’ ‘Cool outfit!’ So far no one’s raised money for charity, held a political rally or cleaned up the beach.

The penguins are distinguishable one from the other by user name, clothing and accessories. Children must purchase these from the various on-line catalogues: one for puffles, one for igloo upgrades and another for penguin attire. Club membership, $29.99 real world dollars, gives children access to more extravagant accessories.

And that’s my problems with the whole thing.

Who wants to be friends with the poor kid—I mean a common penguin wearing an old-school black and white tux?

My son and niece earn game coins for their penguins by playing in various games environments. These include surfing waves, cart surfing through a mine, fishing (catching the giant red mullet earns 100 coins), and something my niece just taught me, making pizzas. Once coins are earned, the kid goes shopping. If you’re not a member, product selection is extremely limited, which is why my son begged me to let him be a member.

Cute and social verses exploitive and commercial. Hmmm?

The other morning my son held an igloo party. My niece sat beside him commenting on the event as it unfolded.

“George, you need to buy some more stuff for the igloo or your quests won’t stay,” Lily directed as penguins popped in and out of George’s igloo.

“Why won’t they stay?” I asked. After all my son’s split level igloo has a dance floor, a DJ turn table, an electric guitar, eight puffles, two couches, a bean bag chair, and two magical coffee tables that provide bowls of snacks.

What’s not to love?

“Unless you have enough stuff they get bored and leave,” Lily warns.

Bored in less than two minutes?

Today, my son says he needs more buying power. He asks me to join him as his penguin rides through the mine cart surfing. If he works the directional part of the keyboard that makes his penguin perform tricks and I keep the penguin jumping up and down by pressing the space bar, George earns more coins than playing by himself. As we sit side by side, George makes his penguin perform hand stands, back flips and cart wheelies. It’s so ridiculous that we start laughing.

Two hundred and fifteen coins! High five!

By Patricia Ljutic

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