26 Feb 2011
Fun. Jungle. Fun in the Jungle. Monkeying around.
The Fungle is all this and a little more. It is a complete story telling environment designed for 5 – 10 year old children. Our family has been having fun with the demo version of The Fungle for the past two weeks and we have found a groove that interests us all. Chula – strictly the stories, Mieja – the changing room and popping bubbles, moi(even though I do not fall in the 5-10 years category) – the concept, how the whole environment is presented and how the different components are weaved together.
I could go on and on and tell you how each story is tied together with activities and hence the child gets to re-experience the story in another form……but that will take the fun of exploration away from you and your children right?
When I heard about The Fungle, as a parent I had a few questions. Narayanan Vaidyanathan, the CEO of Gamaya Inc, was nice to answer these questions for me.
How did The Fungle come about?
We created The Fungle to be a safe, fun & interactive world where kids can learn about the various cultures in the World.
My grandmother is a great storyteller – an endless stream of stories and an amazing amount of patience! Now, as a parent, I appreciate that more than ever! We are too busy & far away from extended family and our kids are stuck to the couch with their game consoles and TV but I wanted my kid to hear all those stories. So we needed a tireless storyteller who can keep todays kids engaged! That’s how The Fungle came about.
Explain more about online safety in The Fungle.
The safety of kids in The Fungle has been very important to us from the start. We ensure the following -
1. We strictly adhere to the COPPA guidelines. (http://www.coppa.org/)
2. We do not ask for any personally identifiable information about the kids.
3. There is no way for kids to share personal information or pictures with others in The Fungle.
4. Our chat system will be based on pre-made phrases and sentences, so kids (or adults) in the site cannot say anything inappropriate to other users.
5. We understand kids will want to communicate freely with their friends within The Fungle through our internal mailing system (BeeMail) – for this we plan to make parents responsible for picking and approving friends they know in real life, to also be friends in The Fungle. This way, the child has no way to befriend someone their parents don’t know or approve.
6. We don’t have any external links to pages outside The Fungle or advertisements that can lead a child out of our website.
The Fungle does not support advertisements. How does it work?
We felt having advertisements (banners with links to the advertisers website), while a decent source of revenue, is not safe for the age group we are targeting – a kid could click on an ad, be taken out of our site and then they are out in the open web. As a parent, that is a very scary thought! The world you can see and play in now will be our free trial area. Anyone can register for free and play in it with no time restrictions. We will offer expansion packs for parents to buy for their kids. Each expansion pack will contain 5 or so storybooks and access to a new location in the world & some games. We will also offer seasonal expansion packs with stories relevant to the season like Diwali or Christmas or Chinese New Year that parents can buy. Once a parent buys an expansion pack, the child will be able to access it the next time they log in. Pricing of these expansion packs is still being worked out and will vary based on content, but it is likely to be around $7 each. Kids like getting surprise gifts! So we will offer parents special virtual items to purchase and send to their kids in The Fungle. These gifts will be costumes and items for their avatar and will be priced at $1 or less. We believe most parents will prefer to pay something reasonable for safe high quality content and cultural enrichment, rather than a free portal with ads.
There is a fine line between being very interested in something and being obsessed. Does The Fungle have any check points to make sure that the child does not spend too much time playing?
Yes, we have plans to allow a parent to limit the time they can spend in The Fungle. We also have a way for parents to know when their child played last and how much time they spent in The Fungle. We will also remind kids after an hour or so of continuous play to stop playing and take a break.
How much parental support is required to play the game?
A child who can read & comprehend simple english, likely 5 or 6 years and older, will not require any parental support. We have designed the product to be intuitive to young children and have been doing periodic focus tests with kids to ensure new features stay intuitive. Kids younger than 5 will have more fun playing with their parent. We have got feedback from some of our parents that they enjoyed our stories too and reading along with their kids was a nice way to spend some time together!
Please feel free to email/contact me for further clarifications. (firstname.lastname@example.org)