Massively popular with kids but weak in terms of gaming, Roblox presents a dilemma for modern parents. Although arguably educational in nature - and on several fronts - the online user-generated world structure gives way to genuine safety concerns and a whole new way for kids to spend your money.
A popular game that parents love to hate
Massively popular with kids - and massively overrated as a game
Unless you live under a rock (or perhaps far from kids), you’ll probably have heard of Roblox, a user-generated gaming platform open to all but aimed at kids aged 8 - 15. For the uninitiated, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a game; it’s a platform that lets you create games or join games that others have created.
Roblox allows you to create games that are limited really only by your imagination. You could make - or join - battles, obstacle courses, racing games, treasure hunts, and more. As games are built by anyone, really, and quite probably children, they’re full of knock-offs of famous games, brands that have nothing to do with the originals, and weird and inane storylines. Admittedly, some fairly decent games also occasionally slip in.
To play, you’ll have to jump through some registration and downloading hoops, but the basic game is free. There is a premium tier, called Builders Club, which gives access to premium features, allows you to trade, and removes ads, among other things. There is also an in-game currency, Robux, which allows you to purchase premium items in exchange for real-world money.
In terms of the regular ways we judge the quality of a game, Roblux doesn’t score highly. The graphics are terrible, the controls are clunky, and the gameplay is erratic. That said, the kids who are playing it don’t care. The Roblox developers maintain that despite the shortcomings, it’s very educational. There is a lot of creativity involved in building games and figuring out structural or other challenges and there are certainly lessons to be learned from buying, trading, and selling within the game.
Even so, there are people who argue that the game is unsuitable for children. This is true to a certain extent. Firstly, the game is entirely based on user-generated content - some users are nice people, and some are not. There is also no way of ensuring that users are indeed kids - like anywhere else on the internet, they could well be adults and have dubious motives.
Secondly, the game is often hacked (most often for fun by other kids) but sometimes these hacks end up in games and changes that are patently unsuitable (of a violent or sexual nature). There are also theoretically several ways unsuitable content could make it to a child’s screen - games can be unsuitable, received messages can be unsuitable, friend requests...you get the idea.
Both Roblox and parents have and can take steps to minimize this threat and the platform is monitored. Roblox also has created a vast amount of content especially for parents, offering a lot of advice about how to set the platform up as safely as possible, how to report problems, and how to help your child be safer online.
Even so, the nature of the platform - and the nature of the internet - means that it cannot be absolutely safe, all the time. If you have a kid who wants to play, that’s something you should always bear in mind.
Where can you run this program?
This version is for Windows. You can also access it on many other platforms, including Mac, iOS, Android, Amazon Devices, Xbox One, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive.
Is there a better alternative?
From an adult point of view, most certainly. There are literally thousands of games that are better than Roblox. For a child who wants to play Roblox, nope: it’s probably Roblox or bust.
Roblox is an awful game in many aspects. Taking solely the merits of the game platform in terms of potential for entertainment, it is horrible and not something most adults would choose to play. Secondly, the safety worries are legitimate and something that should definitely concern you if you’re responsible for a child. Thirdly, although there are probably some genuine educational benefits you can get from Roblox, they’re outweighed by the cons and the money-centered focus of the game. If you can possibly convince your kid to skip Roblox, you should.
Should you download it?
A kid may insist, but no adult in their right mind would download Roblox voluntarily.