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Talk about gaming in the family

How Roblox works

Roblox is a free gaming platform from the Roblox Corporation, in which users largely create their own games or play games created by other users. Roblox is divided into two parts for this purpose: one creator app and one gaming app.

POPULAR GAMES: Roblox’s gaming app provides access to millions of user-created games and experiences, covering everything from pet-keeping and construction games to car games, shooter games and family-friendly “Grand Theft Auto” clones.  

The creator app (Roblox Studio) provides users with a tool to design their own games without needing any programming skills. The results can be shared with everyone who uses the gaming app and game creators can also earn money from what they have created.  

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The variation in the types of games and platforms supported by Roblox is virtually endless - here is a screenshot from one variant that mimics the popular Grand Theft Auto universe. Photo Roblox Corporation

What accounts and equipment do you need to play Roblox? 

The game is free and available on PC, Mac, mobile phones, tablets, Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X, with support for gaming across these platforms. You can only create games using a Mac or PC, whilst you can only play games using the other platforms. You will need an e-mail address, username and password to create an account. 

Who is Roblox suitable for? 

PEGI has assigned an age rating of 7 years and up for Roblox due to mild violence and scenes that might be frightening to younger children. There is no upper age limit. Even though the user base largely consists of children and adolescents, there are still many adult players and game creators.  

In Norway, the platform is extremely popular among children aged between 9 and 14 and half of all Norwegian children between nine and ten years of age play Roblox. (Source: Children and the media 2020)  

The games function as entertainment, but also as social platforms and playgrounds for players. This means they can also be used as social meeting venues for friends after school.  

Creating Roblox games can be both fun and educational and provides a great outlet for creativity. Even though game creation requires no coding knowledge, it is still possible to use the simple programming language Lua.  

The fact that the platform is relatively open and free does, however, present some challenges that you should be aware of as a parent. 

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Roblox can be used as a social meeting place, for independent gaming and as a creative outlet, as it makes it both easy and accessible for anyone to create games. Photo Roblox Corporation

Violence and adult content 

Because Roblox is not by definition considered a game but rather a collection of user-created experiences, attempting to provide a general assessment of the content is a bit like trying to assess all videos hosted on YouTube: an impossible task. The content is broken down by different age limits, which makes it possible to control which games children can try using parental controls (these can also be locked using a PIN code).  

The content of the games is limited only by the users’ imagination and the moderation rules for the Roblox platform. This can lead to some highly creative and fun experiences, but there can also be a dark side. 

Banned game content in Roblox includes political speech and romantic relationships, as well as anything of a sexual nature, extreme violence, self-harming, drugs, hate speech, animal abuse and torture.   

Nevertheless, such content might sometimes be published in secret via the platform, for example sex clubs or massacre simulators concealed as other types of experiences. Note that the simple graphics limit how disturbing this can be from a purely visual perspective, as it is far removed from photorealism.  

The Roblox moderators crack down on any such content they come across and are generally considered to be relatively effective.  

Communication 

Because Roblox is played online, it also allows for communication with strangers of all ages in the form of both text and audio. A lot of what takes place is legitimate communication based on the games, but just as elsewhere on the internet, children can be vulnerable to online abuse.  

Roblox has its own currency: Robux. Robux can be used for in-game purchases and this means that there are some scams where scammers might ask children to find their parents’ credit card details or similar in exchange for free Robux.  

The platform’s own channels also include a number of settings that parents can use to adjust who is able to contact their child.  

The platform includes a Safe Chat feature that enables various filters and moderation of in-game communication. This makes it difficult for players to share personal information such as names or addresses, which provides an increased degree of censorship.  

This feature is enabled for everyone under the age of 13, but can also be enabled for older users. It is effective but, like most other filters, it is not foolproof. Unwanted messages can be reported from the chat menu, but attempts at contact may also take place outside of the gaming platform, such as on social media. Ultimately, the most important thing is to train the critical abilities of your child.  

It is also possible to completely disable chat, which can be an advantage if you want to limit your child’s communication with strangers. If your child will be playing the game with friends, you can create a group chat by phone instead.  

One complicating factor, particularly in relation to the game creator element of Roblox, is that users can create their own development teams with users they have met via the platform. In these cases, communication will often take place outside of the channels in the game and will therefore be unfiltered.  

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Roblox allows players to chat with other players. You can use the Safe Chat feature or disable chat completely. Photo Roblox Corporation

Time 

Since there are so many different games and experiences available via the platform, playing time can vary from a few minutes to as long as the player wants. While some games will be split into rounds and teams, others allow for players to drop in and out.  

If there are any games your child enjoys playing a lot, it may be a good idea to sit down and learn about the game so that you gain an understanding of how much time it takes.  

In-game purchases 

Roblox operates with its own in-game currency, Robux.  Robux can be purchased using real money from the game’s website or within the app. Roblox also offers premium subscriptions ranging from USD 5 to 20 per month, which give users a monthly amount of Robux, as well as various items and benefits.  

The currency can also be used to buy cosmetic items for your avatar or to make purchases inside each game. Game creators can enable in-game purchases for their own games, of which Roblox takes a share.  

Most of the games are free, but some charge for the experience. Others ask for a small amount to buy in-game items or perks.  

There is a lot of marketing aimed at children and adolescents in the game and this can be difficult for the child to spot. For example, a number of big companies have created Roblox experiences that encourage players to buy virtual items or develop a relationship with the brand. 

Robux is the in-game currency in the Roblox game universe. Robux can be purchased using real money. Naturally, this can be tempting for children as it allows them to buy things in the games using Robux. Photo Roblox Corporation

Making money from creating games in Roblox 

Anyone can create games in Roblox and some games become popular enough to pull in a good amount of Robux. When earnings reach a certain level, determined by the Roblox Corporation, Robux can be exchanged for real money.  

There have been success stories both in the media and in game marketing about game creators who are able to make a living from their games, including in Norway. However, this is not easy to achieve and Roblox has received criticism for creating unrealistic expectations among children and adolescents.  

Make sure to manage expectations if your child enters the experience with dreams of fame and money. Remind them that the main purpose is to have fun and allow the riches to come if they come.  

This can also provide a good opportunity to talk about working life, as the Roblox Corporation generates its revenue on the basis of unpaid work performed by (largely) young users. You can find further information about this in two very detailed reports (here and here) by the journalists from People Make Games.  

All images: ROBLOX Corporation