By accident, my son has been interested in online games, MMOs and the like. Unsuprisingly, the market for the under-12 MMOs seems to have boomed. These are just a few of the ones aimed at pre-teen and younger kids. [I'm ignoring the toy-based sites like webkinz and neopets and some of the Asian MMOs, like Maplestory.]
Mini-match–This is the first one he got into, by virtue of creating his own platform games on the Ben 10 Alien Force site. It’s not really an MMO, but there are avatars. You can chat and emote, but the core of the experience lies in challenging other players and winning games for credits, which you can use to purchase stuff for your character, including emotes and clothes. It’s a browser-based game that is run by cartoon networks. It’s still in beta, and it shows at times with the lagging performance at times. As a parent, you can also also link your child’s account to yours and monitor their activities.
wizard101–This is still in beta, but it’s actually a neat little MMO that has quests but is focused on just mages. It’s like playing a card battle, so it’s familiar to kids. We just started this one, but it runs well, and it’s an installed game.
toontown–This Disney browser-based game is probably one of the best known virtual worlds for kids. It has a free version, but the membership version is $10 a month and gives you access to all of the games as well as other things. We’ve tried it before, and my kids were bored with it. [In general, they have found Disney's sites frustrating and slow.]
Powerup–This seems for a little older kids, but it’s an online game that involves saving a world from environmental disasters. It’s an installed game and seems to fall into the category of edutainment. It looks interesting, but my son has no interest in it.
Club Penguin–Another Disney browser-based game, this is another that is really a place for kids to play games with each other. You can emote, chat and interact with other gamers. Like toontown, it has a free version and a membership, but the free version seems to be pretty good.
Hello Kitty–This game requires a game client, and it might oddly enough be the most interesting of these games. It’s still in beta, but from the descriptions, it is more of virtual world than just a departure for playing minigames. It is a persistant world with quests, housings, crafting, farming. Yes, it has combat, but there is more to the game.
Kiwi Heroes–This is another installed virtual world that is in beta. We’ve not been accepted so it’s hard to tell much about it.