Sex, lies, and Wizard 101
So The Boy got me into playing Wizard 101 — a massive online game that’s ostensibly for kids, but is cool enough to appeal to a lot of adults. In fact, there’s a whole message thread in the game’s forum for grown-ups. It’s funny, because we usually recognize one another by our use of actual sentences.
The game allows inter-player chat, but to protect the kids it has three levels of filtering: open chat (say anything except obvious curse and R-rated words), filtered chat (whitelisted words only, of which there are a TON, so normal conversation is possible), and menu chat (choose from a long list of phrases).
If you don’t have open chat, blocked words appear as “…” such as “You are full of …”.
There’s a sizable population of pre-teens and teens, and they spend a lot of time trying to pick one another up; you’ll regularly see people in the common areas saying things like “I need a boy!” or “Are you seeing anyone?” I wonder how they have time to actually play the game.
You can customize your character to a great extent, but really, everyone kinda looks alike. And you choose a name from three lists: First name, first part of last name, second part of last name. I chose Andrew Thunderwalker.
If you saw me in game, you would know nothing about me other than my name and my level. And yet, I learned that simply — and literally — saying “Excuse me” to someone can start them on a quest of Fatal Attraction proportions.
Talking to another adult male, I learned that I was far from alone in being invited to girls’ dorm rooms (everyone has one where you can store your stuff). And, like him, I was clueless the first time — at least until she typed “x gets onto bed x”.”
The x’s are used to denote actions, like “x smacks John in face x” or whatever. It’s part of the lingo that developed, most of which is designed to deal with the chat filters. You can’t “kiss” (it’s not on the white list), so you “k is”; if you want to curse you say things like “Sheet!”
What do you do when you hook up with someone? Based on the makeout session I witnessed, it goes like this:
“x makes out with John x”
“x makes out with Mary x”
(In this case, I yelled at the both to show a little creativity. I believe my exact words were “For gods sake, nibble her ear!!!” Unfortunately, he would have seen it as For … sake, … her … !!!)
Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s a screenshot of an actual conversation from the other night. I entered an area. “Abigail” said “Hi” as I entered. I don’t know her, never met her, and was just passing through. Still, foolishly, I replied with a friendly “Hey!”
The punchline to the whole thing is that “snakes” means sex.
And she didn’t have open chat, which means A) it would have been all but impossible anyway, and B) she’s under 18 and her parents set her up.
Now, you can argue that by being so over the top (“Pure evil”) I was flirting, but you should realize that this conversation took place as I was zooming away from her on my own business.
There’s a part of me that really wants to shock the heck out of people like her — I’m a decent writer and could certainly come up with some detailed things that would make Harlequin romance proud, as opposed to “x has snakes with Andrew x,” but prison time really doesn’t appeal to me.
So, parents, Wizard 101 really is a terrific game. But your kids (and you) might be getting a little more than they bargained for.