Growing up, my step-father was a computer engineer. He taught me how to put together a computer and program my own games by the time I was 8 years old. When I was 14, I was the only person I knew with a computer in their home, and we had 3. I took to the games immediately, of course, as well as being drawn to the art programs. It doesn’t sound odd now, but when I got in trouble in my pre-teens I was grounded from the computer and ‘going online’ (which at the time was local BBS -bulletin board systems that had Multi User Dugeons -MUDS and chat areas that had from 2 to 15 or more lines that people dialed into), while my friends were grounded from hanging out or being on the phone. My first marriage was to another gamer who I met on those BBS’s who eventually became a software engineer. Of course, our first child was introduced to the world of computers WAY before other children of his age. This has been a blessing and a curse. He has always been ahead of the game in fine and gross motor skills as well as all other developmental steps, and I really do think it is because of his learning things on the computer, but that always leads to the video games eventually. Most of them are great, and we play them together and against each other. It is a great source of family fun and entertainment. However, with that comes the ‘Can I play games?’ every day, 10 times a day. His entire life. Seriously. His younger brother has followed in his footsteps, and now his younger sister and other brother. It’s Minor really. They have allotted time to play on weekends and summers (never on weekdays. I learned that early on, they end up rushing through homework or fib about it just to get to game time…)

He has recently been asking to play WOW. Okey, not really recently, for the past 5 years actually. I told him that he was not allowed to play MMO’s till he was 14 (thinking that 14 was so long away and it would never get here and…. sigh). It’s hereto, but I am still uncomfortable with the idea of him online with people that I don’t know and can’t filter out. They never use a computer out of my sight (it’s been one of my strict rules to myself… knowing full well what online is like, growing up with it) therefor I can see what is said and done and there are many filters and keystroke recorders and a lot of stuff is completely locked down on their computer (causing much grief to him), but with all of that, I am still just not ready to let him go into that world. Besides the addiction of it all, I would never see him again! I played WOW about 6 years ago for 2 months. I loved it and it reminded me of the MUDs I used to play, and how time consuming they were. But when playing MUDs  you can write a script to play for you to gain experience and walk away to the real world for a bit. I just did not have time for it, and again, in the MUDs I played, there was a max of about 14 people playing at one time, and I knew most of them because the BBS was local and I had met most of the people. I can’t believe I am saying this but, times, they change.

About a year ago, A and I saw a commercial for Wizard 101. C and he jumped up and down begging me to check it out so they could play it. I scanned it over and checked out the parental information and made sure the interaction was limited and let them play. Near Christmas they started playing it a lot, so I purchased pre-paid cards for the game as Christmas presents. This was the best thing ever apparently. They then showed the game to their cousins while visiting over the holiday vacation, which got their two cousins signed up in the game (ages 7 and 5) with their dad.

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We were just there visiting at the beginning of the summer and everybody jumped into the game together and I was talking to Peter’s brother, Jack, about the accounts. He told me that you can have a parent account to play and link your children’s current accounts under yours and you get savings after you pay for the monthly of 2 accounts. (It’s a free game, the monthly is an add on feature) After watching how they can all ‘meet up’ online and Jack walking me through some difficult areas, I thought I would give it a try myself.

I set up my account as a parent and went ahead and bought A, C and myself a monthly account since at the time they were 50% off for the first month. It is a reoccurring charge, but all you have to do is log on to cancel if you don’t want to continue. You can still play for free afterwards.  With the older ones off at their dad’s sometimes, I thought it would be neat to play with them when away, or when near, and their cousins can also join in. We also have some friends that may be joining as well, so we can be one large party to play together. It’s like our D & D games without the planning 🙂 But mostly, this game is exactly like WOW for kids!

I wasn’t aware that some of the areas are paid only areas, since I started playing paid. My husband joined the game a few days after I did without the monthly and couldn’t finish some quests. It wasn’t a big deal because there are so many areas and quests that you do not need to go into the paid areas, but of course, you always want to 🙂 He ended up spending $10 on 50000 crowns and every time he came to a paid area they let him buy into it individually for 750 crowns. The monthly plans also start at $10/mth, but he hasn’t run out of crowns and he is almost caught up to me.

The details:

From their site:

Wizard101 is a multi-player adventure game designed to be easy-to-learn and fun for kids and adults of all ages. And because the game is designed to encourage social activity and interaction among the players, it’s a great form of entertainment for families. If you have always wondered what types of video games your kids like to play, here’s your chance to find out…and enjoy it!

The cost starts at $9.95/month but if you get a family plan then it is $6.95 per player/month, which is reoccurring until you cancel, which you can do at anytime.

Safety – From their site:

Wizard101 features a safe Menu Chat system that offers a wide range of pre-selected phrases, greetings and emotions that give players flexibility with in-game communication while keeping exchanges safe and family-friendly.

All player names are selected from pre-configured lists that allow a player to choose a name from thousands of potential combinations. A player can choose a name that reflects his/her individuality but not one that is inappropriate or reveals too much personal information.

In the “My Accounts” account management settings we have included Parental Controls which allow the parent to set a password that only you know, which restricts access to your credit card information. These Parental Controls also allow you to manage your child’s account settings such as the ability to chat with other players.

The graphics are really nice and each spell has its own animation, which is great for the kids…and the adults. (The Snowman and Troll spell still cracks me up every time.) Game play is really simple as well. My 5 year old nephew has no problem playing the game on his own and I believe is even up to level 15 right now. My 4 year old wants to play badly, and I am going to set up a character under my account for me to play and for her to learn how to play. You do need to be able to read to play, and she is about 6 months into reading, so she is ready. She already tells me what spells to use when.

The very best thing about this game is it is FUN to play as an adult, as well as a child and it brings me and my children together doing something we all like to do. All the way down to my 3 year old who loves watching and telling me what to do. Every time we play, we are surrounded by family and it’s loads of fun, strategy and laughs. The ability to play with friends online that you know is an added bonus so we can include family that is across the state.