SuperSecret New Game Lets Tweens Grow up

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SuperSecret.Com is a new PC on-line game targeted to tweens. It’s designed not only to entertain but also help foster social interaction with their peers.In the game, players can age from eleven to eighteen, earning more privileges and responsibilities while playing games, going on quests, buying their online selves new clothes, furnishing apartments and adopting pets.

When the company approached Geek Dad about an article, I passed it along to the experts in the house, my ten-year-old twins, to see how they liked it.

They immediately started playing. In one week, I clocked them spending over nine hours on the game with the free trial that was supplied by the company.
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A screen cap of the SuperSecret game

Tony Espinoza, the co-founder of SuperSecret, said that his research with kids found that they craved social interaction with their peers but sometimes found it difficult to keep conversations going. “What SuperSecret does is provide context for their interaction,” he said. “They have something to talk about.”

Espinoza said before he started getting into the specifics of developing the site, he spent a month doing nothing but playing World of Warcraft.

“The insight that I got from that month, what I realized, was that I’d made friends playing that game that I’d never really had anything else in common with. They were really interesting people and what WOW gave me was a lot of context, something to say to them. That’s why building a secret world seemed to be what was missing between communication with this particular age group. It’s a big part of why SuperSecret has chat tools, it’s about building the relationships between the players in the same way.”

Espinoza has worked for Apple, EA Games, built When.com and also has a career as a recording engineer. He and Ted Barnett, SuperSecret’s other co-founder, met when they worked together at Apple. They and their team took over two years to get the game ready.

“We decided that we would commit to this age group, 7-13. This is going to be their on-ramp to doing real stuff online, rather than trying to get on Facebook or getting lost in the vast interest out there, as many large sites don’t take responsibility for moderating.

So we said, let’s combine what they love to do already and put that together with a social system that teaches them how to be part of an on-line community.”

Over 500 kids were involved in the development of SuperSecret, having input every step of the way, according to Espinoza.

“What they were interested in kinda shocked me. They wanted responsibility. They did want their own stuff and money but they wanted to earn it. There’s nothing more fascinating to them than what it’s going to be like when they’re teenagers and have this responsibility.”

He said SuperSecret has recently added parties to the site as part of this process of working with kids.

“Kids came up with their own stuff for parties and we built a whole system that now allows them to throw their own parties at a certain time. Get a code from a friend, and have a party.”

As a parent who keeps an eye on what my kids do on-line and who they do it with, I asked about the security measures not only to safeguard kids from predators but what is done to foster positive conversation and avoid insults.

“We have a couple of strategies to keep the system safe. One, we have moderators. Then we have an automated system to track interaction. Not only can you report a problem right away but the system doesn’t allow them to say certain things and doesn’t let them reveal certain personal information.”

“When someone comes in and makes this not fun for for people, the kids have the ability to not only report them but block them right away and get rid of them altogether.”

Espinoza said the site is growing rapidly, with new registration each minute, and already has millions of users.

The game has a free trial until a player reaches age twelve, after that it’s $4.95 per month or $19.95 for six months.

While my twins found it fun, I ran my own test as well. Often, on-line games only work on my computer, which is the newest in the house. But many of these sites either freeze up or crash my internet browsers. SuperSecret, however, passed the crash test, despite the hours of use on a Vista computer.

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