Parent’s Guide to Massively Multiplayer Online Games for Family Fun

by Screen Time Team on 01/04/2021

Overview: Massively multiplayer online games, also called MMOs or MMOGs, have hundreds or even thousands of players interacting, making them ideal for families to play together. However, parents will need to monitor games with in-app purchases, keep a sharp eye out for cyberbullying, and research each game closely before giving it to kids.

Are There Risks To MMOGs?

All games are built on “reward loops.” You complete a series of actions in the game, get a reward, and the loop repeats. People enjoy these patterns and want to repeat them, and as any parent knows, kids can quickly lose their sense of proportion when it comes to things they enjoy. Setting strict time limits with parental control software will keep them from getting too wrapped up in the game.

Parents should also check to see if the MMOG in question has in-app purchases or microtransactions. While games have substantially improved their designs on these issues, there’s still a risk of kids racking up huge bills without realizing it. Luckily, you can block in-app purchases on the operating system level, in the game’s settings, and with your parental control software.

Finally, these games may have better policing of misbehavior than in the past, but rude, cruel, and abusive behavior is still a problem. Families should discuss how to handle bullies, know how to report and block them, and how to report criminal behavior.

Two people playing video games.

The Best MMOGs For Kids and Families

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons: Only available on the Nintendo Switch, this game is all about exploring the world around you to find unique natural items to sell and trade. With the in-game currency, you build a house for friends to visit. Nintendo’s strict oversight makes this probably the best game to play for all ages. 
  • Minecraft: The construction/survival sim has been popular ever since it was introduced more than a decade ago, and is currently run by Microsoft. It’s ideal for creative kids and it will grow with families. Incredibly complex projects, like building a computer that works inside the game, are possible as you learn how it works, and families can play together to construct them.
  • Roblox: Sort of a “meta-game,” Roblox is designed to teach kids coding by having them build their own games in addition to playing the ones built by other kids. It’s a good way to learn about computers while having some fun.
  • Wizard 101: This turn-based MMOG is designed for kids from the ground up, limiting conversation options to prevent abuse and automatically splitting up rewards so there are no disputes. It does require either a subscription or in-app purchases, however.
  • MapleStory and MapleStory 2: This role-playing game (RPG) is less educational and more just fun to play, with cartoony visuals. That said, it does heavily lean on in-app purchases, so you may want to play the game before introducing it to kids.

Gaming can be a great activity for families and for kids to spend a little of their screen time budget on. Parental control software like Screen Time can help keep that gaming time safe and constructive. To learn more about Screen Time, try it for free!

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