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Live Webchat with Club Penguin founder, Lane Merrifield on Monday 5th July between 1.30 and 2.30

(61 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 30-Jun-10 14:36:55

Club Penguin is one of the fastest growing virtual worlds for children aged 6 - 14 and many parents will be familiar with the sight of their children's Penguins waddling through the virtual world, throwing parties in their igloos or chatting with other penguins.

Lane Merrifield, alongside colleagues Dave Krysko and Lance Priebe, co-founded Club Penguin in 2005. The site development was self-funded and designed as a safe, ad free, online playground for the children in their lives to explore (the site was later bought by Disney in 2007).

Lane as a father of two, co-founder of Disney Club Penguin and executive Vice President of Disney Online Studios is joining us and able to answer any questions parents might have about Club Penguin. Whether it's starting a business, setting online boundaries and making sure your child is safe online to what Club Penguin membership means or why your kid's Puffle ran away, Lane can take your questions and provide answers to those that might not have been fulfilled through Mumsnet Talk. Join Lane here next Monday at 1.30 and if you're unable to join us but have a question you'd like to ask him, post to this thread.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 12:50:38

Test

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 05-Jul-10 13:29:29

Thanks to all those who have sent in advance questions to Lane. He's about to join us and aims to get through as many of your questions as possible over the next hour. A big welcome to mumsnet, Lane Merrifield...

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:32:11

Hello everyone, thanks for having me on today. I am very encouraged to see so many "penguin parents" on today.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:33:42

I'll start by answering one of the more popular questions about Puffles that was asked by a few of you.
Puffles are the "pets" of Penguins in Club Penguin. They can be adopted from the Pet Shop and will "run-away" if they're not cared for (feeding, exercise, sleep). This is important because we wanted to teach the children the responsibility of caring for a pet. One element to note is that the "timers" we use for determining the health of the Puffle are only activated when the child is logged into Club Penguin. Therefore, if a child goes on vacation for two weeks, their Puffles status is not depreciating at all. Their Puffle will also send them a reminder post card that they're not being cared for before running away. Unfortunately sometimes some Puffles will still return to the wild, in which case, the child can adopt them again at the Pet Shop.

OneMoreMum Mon 05-Jul-10 13:35:45

Hi Lane

My son is off school sick today and is playing club penguin as we speak!

I've asked him if he has any questions, he want to know if he'll ever be able to design the actual igloo as well as decorate it.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:38:44

Hi OneMoreMum, I hope your son feels better soon.

For now, the only way to design your own igloo is to send in a drawing to us, which we do use as often as we can. We hope to add more features like this in the future, but technologically it is a challenge. It also poses a bit of a safety challenge as well because the designs would of course have to be moderated.
That said, we always want to encourage more creativity so we are constantly adding new designs and features.

Lane

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:41:41

Another question some of you asked was about Rockhopper and making him easier to find.

I'm happy to say that when Rockhopper visits the island he does spend time on all of the servers. We make a very special effort to ensure he spends an equal amount of time on them. Unfortunately he does bounce around so he can be difficult to find. As Rockhopper is operated by actual trained staff-members in every time zone around the world, he can not be at all places at all times. We do train more and more of our team for every visit so we can make him easier to find, but unfortunately it can still be difficult.

OneMoreMum Mon 05-Jul-10 13:42:55

Thanks Lane

He's finishing a game and then he's going to draw an igloo to send in to you (headache mysteriously disappeared!)

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:44:30

Lol, yes, funny how that happens. My mom used to call those "mental-health days" rather than sick days.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:53:54

Lottiejenkins mentioned that your son, Wilf, has aspergers syndrome and you have no idea how happy I am to hear that he enjoys Club Penguin. We recieve letters from numerous parents every week who have children with similar difficulties who all say that Club Penguin has provided them a new opportunity to socialize. To be honest, it is one of the realities I am most encouraged by.

You also asked about a Wii game and we just recently announced that we'll be releasing it in September. It's called Club Penguin: Game Day and has a whole new collection of minigames that are designed for kids and parents to play together. I've tested them with my own kids and we really have a lot of fun together.

Thankyou for answering my question Lane. Wilf has his birthday on Saturday and has asked everyone for money so he can by Herberts revenge!!!

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:58:32

Thats very exciting, tell him "Billybob" says hi!

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:01:16

Some of you have asked about the membership items not being available after the membership expires.

We made the decision a long time ago to have a very liberal refund policy on our membership in an effort to build as much trust with parents as possible. Unfortunately this meant that some people would take advantage of it by purchasing a membership, aquiring all the member-items and then canceling and refunding their membership.
In order to dissuade this behavior, when a member cancels, we simply put their member items into storage and all will be activated again once the membership is renewed. No items are ever "lost" or removed, they just can not be used until the membership is reactivated. It is no different than your cable subscription or magazine subscription. Hopefully that makes sense.

PlumBumMum Mon 05-Jul-10 14:06:04

Ok understand, but dd1 got 6 month membership for christmas, if I had bought her another 6 month card for her birthday would it add on to the end or does she need to wait until nearer expiry date, if so would the card still be valid, iyswim?

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:08:55

MathsMadMummy asked about the importance of social skills and weather or not virtual worlds were impacting that.

First off, it wasn't a rude question at all, I get it all the time.

As I parent myself, I know how important it is to regulate "screen-time" of any sort. My son has an allotment per day that he can choose to use watching TV or playing games like Club Penguin. Personally, I prefer him playing games (even if its not CP ) because at least then I know his brain is engaged in reading, problem solving, communicating, etc. The truth is that most of our audience spend less than 10-20 minutes per session so that means the vast majority of their day is focused on schoolwork, socializing, playing outside etc.

That balance was so important to us, that we were one of the first childrens games to install a parent timer on our site. Which gives parents the tools to determine exactly how much time they want their child to spend on Club Penguin. This can be found in the parent log-in on the site.

I've seen some research by Jackie Marsh who has some articles that would be worth looking at if your interested in more detail on the subject.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:11:18

Thanks PlumBumMum, I'm glad you asked. All of our memberships are additive meaning you can enter the card anytime you want and the time just gets added on. You do not have to wait for it to expire.

PlumBumMum Mon 05-Jul-10 14:12:53

Sorry I know we are only allowed 1 question but ds is soo excited that I can ask you a question, he wants to know when/where/how to find Gary the Gadget guy?

Many Thanks Lane for a safe fun place for our children to play and practise their computer skills.

pugsandseals Mon 05-Jul-10 14:13:21

Question from DD (age 7):-

Why does Herbert P. Bear always get upto mischief?

(Have no understanding of this question myself but I trust you'll know what she means wink )

deepdarkwood Mon 05-Jul-10 14:15:25

Wow, I'm amazed your figures suggest kids are usually on for less than 10-20 mins at a time ... how is that average calculated - does it ring true for you?

I guess ds is still at the stage of using it to play games> as a social tool ... and they (esp the wonderful spy games) take him forever!

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:19:21

Hi SparkleRainbow, thanks for the message. I'm so sorry to hear that your ds has been in and out of the hospital this year. I'm glad to know that Club Penguin is helpful even in a small way.

Regarding your question about the trading cards, they are still availible, although the store you were looking for them in may not carry them anymore. I believe they have them at ASDA or WH Smith here in the UK. You can find more info at our website under "Toys" section.

Regarding membership, we do always try to have free elements for everyone and actually launch several free items every month. They are not always launched at the same time as the catalogs, but usually at parties and events so that everyone can feel included. Do you mind providing your sons "penguin name" (no password please). I'd like to give him something for being such a trooper.

Lane

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:22:39

Sorry PlumBumMum, I don't know when Gary will show up next, but I am sure we'll announce it in the blog before it happens next.

For Pugsandseals, Herbet is the only antagonist on the island. He is a vegetarian polar bear who hates the cold and is angry that he is stuck on Club Penguin island. He's a bit like our "Grinch" who doesn't hurt anyone (being a vegetarian and all) but he is grumpy so the secret agents do need to help keep him in line.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:25:18

Yes, deepdarkwood, obviously that is an average across all of our players who span a fairly wide age range (6-14) so the time online does vary.

My DS-8 will usually spend about 30 min at a time, but he's also been playing it for a few years, so he just logs in to see what is new.

Rafi Mon 05-Jul-10 14:27:27

Hi Lane

Herbert is my 9-year-old DD's favourite villain - she loves the spy missions but hides behind her fingers when he appears!

Thanks for giving her a lot of fun.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:30:02

You're very welcome, I'm so glad to hear she enjoys it!

Tell her not to worry though, he's more afraid of her than she is of him.

Rafi Mon 05-Jul-10 14:33:25

Thanks, I'll let her know grin

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