Sara Grimes, Torill Mortenson, kids, and money.
Sara Grimes wrote in The Escapist ( "Mining the game: when marketing and gaming meet, they do a lot more than advertise" ):
Kids' online games present a particularly rich case study for understanding the mechanisms of advergaming because - for the most part - they have been allowed to flourish there unchallenged. Even though children's personally identifiable information, like their names and addresses, is protected in many regions under national privacy legislation, there is currently no legal framework in place that regulates the online collection of other types of data - even though consumer trends and opinions are often what interest marketers the most.
Torill Mortenson on this point forwards the wise note:
I am not saying it is wrong, but it... needs to be questioned, discussed and explored methodologically and ethically.
Some of the details of the essay seem glib - the "spyware" claims are more complex and ambiguous than presented. However, the total depiction resonates. The issue with subtle change is that noone notices as it happens and thus the questions get pushed to the end of the process. With what concerns our children, however, seems like a good hat-rack upon which to hang our questions now.
My sense is that this is a facet of a larger structural transformation of the online virtual world marketplace. Perhaps very soon we're all going to wake up and think that dad's subscription-based virtual world wasn't so bad. Of course if the trend-line is as Julian suggests and we increasingly look to Asia for how things work in these spaces, fat chance.
IMO, the problem with highly monetized virtual world experiences is as that old saw goes: money ruins everything.