During a recent tech lesson, a first-grade student exclaimed, “I play Roblox, and they can scam you!”. And as I listened, she and many of her six-year-old classmates shared their experiences in the game, describing pop-ups and chat boxes, currency and avatars. It was passionate, energetic, and enlightening. As class ended, I began to wonder more about Roblox’s creation and how it could integrate into a teaching and programming moment.
According to The Guardian, Roblox is among the most valuable video game companies in the world alongside stalwarts like Nintendo and Electronic Arts (EA). But don’t be fooled: according to its founder David Baszucki, “Roblox is less a game than a 3-D social platform” as it combines gaming with social media and social commerce. Roblox is a metaverse with millions of different games, or experiences, available to users. Account features like friends, followers, and chat are standard, with child accounts having extra safety and security features embedded. New experiences are constantly being added, though my students find Adopt Me!, Pet Simulator X, and Brookhaven to be among their favorite Roblox games.
Roblox: millions of users
It’s kids like my students that drive Roblox’s popularity and ultimate value: there are nearly 200 million monthly active users and, in 2021, the company reported just over 50% of its users as under the age of 13. Designed for ultimate creativity, users design an avatar with unique clothing, hair, and accessories. These designs can be free; however, major companies including Nike, Disney, and Gucci have capitalized and created custom collaborations for users to purchase. Not to be left out, music artists including Lizzo and Elton John have had Roblox concerts complete with virtual merchandise, and this December Mariah Carey’s Winter Wonderland experience – created in collaboration with her 11-year-old twins – launches on the platform and will include 3-D performances and exclusive item drops.
Scams in Roblox
All those exclusive designs cost money. In Roblox users spend Robux, which are either purchased using standard currency or earned by designing games or items sold within the platform. One Robux is worth about $0.80, and scams are proliferate. In my own elementary tech & library classes, stories of pop-ups advertising free Robux are countlessly repeated with mounting frustration. Students are also vocal about trading scams, when one user sends a chat to another and offers a trade that sounds too good to be true. You already know what happens; it’s the children who learn the hard way.
Roblox for librarians & educators
So how can Roblox connect to libraries and educators? Firstly, as professionals, we must be aware that there is far more to the game than first meets the eye. Roblox is an evolving social platform with a metaverse component. Second, when designing lessons or programs, Roblox can be used to teach kids how to spot scams or become more aware of advertising influence. These media literacy skills are valuable and have lasting impact while drawing patron interest. Thirdly, consider developing a Roblox club where users can come together to discuss their specific game and share tips. I know a group of young Adopt Me! players who would love that! Finally, imagine integrating Roblox into existing programming. What if ‘live’ Roblox performances could be streamed into a library? What a cool way to provide access to more users! Have other ideas on how your community uses Roblox or ideas on integrating it into your library? Please share below!
- Adams, Susan. “Why the Creator of Roblox Thinks His Gaming Platform Will Top Minecraft.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, June 13, 2016. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestreptalks/2016/06/10/why-the-creator-of-roblox-thinks-his-gaming-platform-will-top-minecraft/?sh=6280e0613f01.
- Cross, Tristan. “Roblox Wants to Build the Metaverse. Can It?” WIRED UK, July 4, 2021. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/roblox-metaverse.
- Dean, Brian. “Roblox User and Growth Stats 2022.” Backlinko, October 10, 2022. https://backlinko.com/roblox-users.
- Haskins, Heath. “Roblox 101: How to Avoid Free Robux Scams.” PCMag UK, October 19, 2021. https://uk.pcmag.com/games/136374/roblox-101-how-to-avoid-free-robux-scams.
- Liao, Shannon. “Roblox Wants to Advertise to Gamers Ages 13 and up in the Metaverse.” The Washington Post. WP Company, September 9, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2022/09/09/roblox-ads-metaverse/.
- “Mariah Carey Comes to Roblox with ‘Mariah Carey’s Winter Wonderland’ in Livetopia, Bringing the Queen of Christmas to the Virtual Stage.” Business Wire, December 2, 2022. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20221201006038/en/Mariah-Carey-Comes-To-Roblox-With-%E2%80%9CMariah-Carey%E2%80%99s-Winter-Wonderland%E2%80%9D-in-Livetopia-Bringing-the-Queen-of-Christmas-To-The-Virtual-Stage.
- McDowell, Maghan. “Inside Roblox’s Metaverse Opportunity.” Vogue Business, September 14, 2021. https://www.voguebusiness.com/technology/inside-robloxs-metaverse-opportunity.
- Parkin, Simon. “The Trouble with Roblox, the Video Game Empire Built on Child Labour.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, January 9, 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/games/2022/jan/09/the-trouble-with-roblox-the-video-game-empire-built-on-child-labour.
- “Roblox: How to Spot and Avoid Scammers in Adopt Me! – CBBC Newsround.” BBC News. BBC, July 3, 2020. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/52907809. Sherr, Ian. “How the Game Industry Is Charging into the Metaverse.” CNET, March 22, 2022. https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/how-the-game-industry-is-charging-into-the-metaverse/.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, II. Reference and User Services, III. Programming Skills, VII. Professionalism and Professional Development
Arika Dickens is a longtime librarian and educator with over 20 years experience in schools and libraries across the US and UK as an educator, librarian, and instructional technology co-teacher. She currently lives and works in London, where she is on an expat adventure with her family. Find her online at @arikadickens on various social platforms or at www.librarianarika.wordpress.com.