I posted a warning about Roblox earlier last week. I’ve received a lot of feedback about that warning. As always, some of that feedback was positive and some of it was negative. There was one core commonality between the different pieces of feedback that I received: a lot of people don’t really understand what Roblox is.
A lot of people refer to Roblox like it is a singular game. This is where comparisons to things like Minecraft are made. The truth is, however, that Roblox is a bit more complicated than that. It is a web based service that allows people to create games using a standard set of Roblox assets and resources. Subscribers can then publish the games that they create and then earn real world money based on their game’s performance. This makes the service less of a game and more of a platform like YouTube.
The potential for this to be a fun and enriching experience is there. There are a lot of kids who are interested in learning how to design games and the Roblox tools are a great way to get started. They are straight forward (relatively) and easy to use. I also don’t know a kid who wouldn’t be interested in the chance to earn some cash for their playtime.
These creative tools have resulted in a lot of very cool games. There are games published on the service that are about post-apocalyptic survival, Pokemon, Role-Playing being part of a high school, and all sorts of other interesting things. Unfortunately, these tools can also be abused and result in things like Shower Simulator.
What does all of this mean though? Well, at its most basic level, this means that when your kids are “playing Roblox” they aren’t just playing Roblox. They are using Roblox to play any number of the hundreds of different games that have been created on the service. They may all look similar thanks to the fact that they share a common toolset. But, they may be completely different games with different target audiences and different pools of players in them.
My warning was criticized for being alarmist, and that might be fair criticism. But, I disagree that it was not warranted. I spent an hour playing some fairly innocent games before I saw things that I simply cannot unsee. With that said, I am not demanding that all parents immediately delete the game and ban their children from playing it forever. What I am advocating is that parents should be aware of the kinds of games their children play on the service and teach them how to be safe digital citizens.
It really is as simple as that. Roblox has a huge amount of potential, but it is hard to take advantage of when there is so much risk of exposure to undesirable content and behavior.