Good Morning Folks, So I am happily sorting the Scholastic Catalog Order forms for December... Holiday Books and the latest "Lucky" catalog, which offers books targeted at grades 2-3. I love to browse through the catalogs as much as my students do as I am always on the look out for new read-alouds and holiday presents for my class. Something, however, caught my eye this time around that made me a bit discouraged. I have always loved and respected the Scholastic team -- their charities and fundraisers can't be beat! And it's awesome how they offer good literature at discounted prices. And if you've ever had to call their customer service for a mix-up they're prompt, professional, and extremely helpful. That being said... In one of the latest month's issues of "Lucky," they offer a how-to strategy guide for the "childrens" online role playing game called "Free Realms." The order form coins the game a "3-D Virtual World." I did some research on the game and it boasts a browser based game (so no long/complicated downloads for kids). While the game is free to play, there is a "cash system" where you can use real life money to buy in-game cash. It's legal and it's a common system in many free-to-play online video games out there. This irks me for several reasons... One: I have known (and been) very heavily immersed with online role playing games (usually called mmorpgs) for years. Games like EverQuest, World of Warcraft, etc... This Free Realms game honestly seems like a WoW-lite. In games like these (and Free Realms is one of them) there is no ending. There is no "game over." There is always something to do. I worry that my 2nd and 3rd graders could become very immersed in this virtual world. Parents could easily say "Well, my daughter is on the PC, how bad could it be..? I know where she is, she's safe... maybe she's learning something?" Not all parents are educated about the dangers of too much video game time, especially when playing a game that has no ending. I am not worried as much about predators as the game's chat system is heavily monitored and censored. What worries me are children spending hours upon hours in a fantasy world, building houses, and playing characters who are not real. Certainly not all children who play this game will become immersed in the online world, but it's a risk. While we hope that parents will approve their children's choices and purchases for a Scholastic catalog, this is not always the case. Anyway... So sorry to sound "soapboxy." I have seen many adults, old enough to make their own sound choices, almost waste away infront of a PC screen playing online video games like this. Please, please do not take this as a personal attack if your idea of relaxing after work is firing up your PC or console and playing a few hours of Call of Duty or whatever. That's fantastic for you if it does not interfer with your real life. When I was playing too much WoW, I was unable to limit my gametime... My issue, not the games. For kids unable to limit their game time...? I don't know where the responsibility falls... games? parents? I spent the better part of my early and late teens connecting to local BBS and playing video games and my educated parents (Mom was a teacher) thought I was "learning something." This was in the mid-90s, however, and hopefully we know a LOT more about PC, Net and gaming than we did then. There are people who can moderate their game play and people who simply cannot. When I see a reputable and well-respected company like Scholastic offer strategy guides to what seem to me like a "stepping stone" to games like World of Warcraft, Warhammer, etc... it worries me greatly. PS. Incidentally, Free Realms is made my Sony, who also put out online role playing games like Everquest, Vanguard, Star Wars Galexies and of course the Playstation console. PPS. Free Realms is rated 10+... Disappointed that the strategy guide was listed as a choice is a catalog for kids in grades 2 & 3.