There is an ongoing debate in our house as to which of these free online "worlds" is better - if you can call a discussion between a six year old and a 40 something a debate!
It seems that Sophie's answer depends on what external influences happen to have come along in the previous week/day - such as a visit to the Build-a-Bear shop or a Moshi Monster purchase of some sort - collectable Moshlings, cards or stickers (sadly we have been sucked into the collectables whirlpool of which there seems to be very little escape!).
So a brief summary of both:
Moshi Monsters (MM) is an online game for children, where you can adopt a monster and look after it. You care for your monster by solving puzzle games, which earn your monster virtual rewards called Rox.
You can spend Rox on virtual items like food, furniture and other treats and toys for your monster. Over time your monster increases in level, can visit new locations in Monstro City, and earns in-game rewards for playing. Monster owners are also be able to make friends with other owners and leave messages on their pages.
You can adopt and play the basic version of MM for free, but there is also a membership option where Moshi Club Members receive exclusive access to extras.
As mentioned already, you can buy real-life MM merchandise, and most of these come with special codes that you enter into your account and which give you virtual gifts such as items for your Moshi house or Rox currency which can be used to buy things within the game.
A huge part of MM are the very cute Moshlings - little pets for your Moshi Monster. There have been a number of series of Moshlings produced and they are very cute. It is surprising how easy it is to remember the names of all these little guys, even as an adult!
Build-A-Bearville (BAB) is a virtual town where you can create your own avatar, explore the town and its surroundings, take part in challenges and play games. If you have a real Build-a-Bear teddy you can enter a special code from its birth certificate to create a virtual replica of your teddy. This then unlocks other things within BAB, such as your Cub Condo (house).
You can purchase virtual items within the game, either with Bearbills which you get from playing games and challenges or with virtual credits which you get when you purchase real-world items from the Build-a-Bear shop. Some virtual things can only be "bought" with virtual credits, rather than Bearbills.
You can play in BAB for free, but there is also a membership option where VIBs can access extra areas.
So, the pros and cons
As a parent I personally feel that BAB offers much more (for free) for my preschool and infant school children. Below are some of the pros and cons for both MM and BAB and my reasons why I prefer BAB overall.
They both have free membership and paid-for membership, but you seem to get much more in BAB without being a paid up member. We don't want to get into the paying £x amount on a monthly basis to join an online world just yet - our children are both too young!
As a non-paying member, you can do much more with your house in BAB, such as adding lots more levels (Sophie has several floors, a back yard, roof terrace, attic, basement - all of which she has saved up and bought with her easily collected bear bills). You can only add more to your MM house if you are a paid-up member.
Without being a paid member of BAB, you still get lots of freebies. You can earn these in games or quests or just for playing the game when an activity is happening (we just got free swimming goggles for playing the game when BAB had an "under the sea" them in June). They also have other regular special events, such as Summer Camp or Halloween where you can collect/get given free gifts. No pressure to play but a nice bonus. MM does give you trophies when you achieve certain levels but not much else for free.
There appear to be more games in BAB where you don't need to be able to read - so more "playable" games, which is great for preschoolers and new readers. MM has quite a few puzzles where you need to be able to read - many of them educational which is great but frustrating when Mum is trying to cook dinner and keeps being asked to come and read what has just come up!
A minor pro for BAB v MM is that when you do get special codes it is easier to enter them into your account. You can just go to the Build-a-Bear workshop on the map and enter
MM sends a regular e-mail telling you that your Monster is missing you and reminding you to play. Clever marketing ploy but personally I find this annoying as I don't like the emotional blackmail! Sophie is at school during the day and has two days of after-school activities. I don't want her to use the free time she does have at home feeling she has to play MM on the computer to keep her Monster happy. She can play on the computer occasionally when she thinks of it and has free choice of a number of child friendly games. This offers a variety of learning skills and fun, rather than getting so involved in one game that it becomes a slight obsession. I'm sure there will be plenty of that later but for the moment she is only 6 years old!
As mentioned previously, a huge part of MM is the very cute Moshlings, which you can get online by either getting a special code from a real-world purchase or by planting seeds which attract the Moshlings. Growing the seeds is great for problem solving (although there are now many books/ apps that tell you which seeds attract which Moshlings) but as a free member you only get to keep two of these moshlings! Very frustrating when you have three or four favourites!
And the conclusion?The aim/philosophy of both online worlds seems very different. Overall, I get the impression that Moshi Monsters is more about the money/ merchandising than Build-a-Bearville. Does it make a difference that Moshi Monsters is a UK created company and Bearville is a US company or that BAB has been going much longer? I really don't know.
So for now, I am happy for Sophie to play both but I do encourage her to play BAB more as I feel that she gets more from it and comes away less frustrated by not being a paid-up member.
What do you think?
© 2012 Nicola Noble: The views expressed here are my own personal views. I apologise if I have got any details wrong and would be happy to correct them if you let me know.Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.