Planet Cazmo is a virtual world for kids that was launched in November, 2007. The site began as a beta test site for a year until the official public launch in December 2008. The site is aimed at children from age 8 to 14. This virtual world exists on an alien planet where players socialize with each other, play games and generally exist with much more freedom than they do in their normal lives.
The vast appeal of Planet Cazmo is the social interaction between the members. Memberships begin at $5.95 for one month; $29.95 for six months; and $54.95 for 12 months. There is a free membership for children; however; their movement within the virtual world is limited. Members gain access to exclusive portions of Planet Cazmo and are able to acquire goods and services by obtaining the virtual world’s currency. Players earn this money by successfully winning generic games, completing tasks and taking surveys.
Members create an avatar to use as their virtual personality. This avatar can be customized to look any way the member wants – glasses, hair, eyes, skin, clothing and accessories can all be personalized. In order to properly survive in this virtual world, players must earn money (known as Cazmo Coins) to pay for their life. Although all players automatically earn a monthly allowance, they can also get extra money by playing space-related games and successfully completing quests. Once players become members, they can get their own house and also become pet owners. Members simply purchase an egg and wait for it to hatch. Players can also earn the right to buy a spaceship for space travel or buy a car. Car owners automatically receive a driver’s license. Players can also obtain a cell phone and text other members.
There is a hierarchy among players based on how long the player has been a member on Planet Cazmo. Each avatar wears a badge that identifies them as being new or experienced. Members who have been with Planet Cazmo for a long time have the opportunity to become Ambassadors (people who act as big brothers or sisters and help moderators in the chat rooms). Like many other MMORPG websites, Planet Cazmo allows chatting and interacting with other players. Making friends, sending messages and chatting in social chat rooms are the strength of this virtual world. A unique aspect of Planet Cazmo is Cazmo Concerts. These concerts feature the real recording artist’s music and their corresponding avatar. Members go to the concerts as a group, listen to the music and watch the musician’s avatar perform on stage.
Planet Cazmo is a social website that will appeal mainly to tween boys and girls who are interested in making friends online. Players learn to socialize and talk to each other with the proper etiquette, respecting each other in the process. There are no adult themes in the games or on the website. There is no violence, drinking, smoking, drug use, sex or offensive language.
Planet Cazmo is a social chat room – period. Younger children out and just inside of the range of the demographic will find the chat rooms overly populated with tweens and will feel out of place. The graphics and games may appeal to them, but the website’s primary function (chatting) will be out of their league. Younger members may not understand the concept of ignoring others, blocking, taunting and other hurtful actions.
Although the design and the graphics are well done, some older teens may find them a bit juvenile. The online games, quests and surveys seem like they have been tacked on just to entice more children to the website. There is no educational value to this website. The games are not stimulating, nor are they beneficial to the child’s growth.
Planet Cazmo’s chat feature needs to be held accountable for the inappropriate language and content that makes its way into open chat areas. The website does offer a safe chat mode where children can only use predetermined phrases, images and emoticons. Open chat poses a bit more of a challenge; however, more moderators dealing with troublemakers would help. It would also help if Ambassadors could have more power to deal with problems. Parents need to be vigilant about their child’s online activity and report any inappropriate messages and situations to the moderators.