Roblox is a $45bn platform built largely by children working for scrip

Originally published at: Roblox is a $45bn platform built largely by children working for scrip | Boing Boing

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My son, now in college, started with Roblox ten or so years ago. He makes a little extra in his free time making apps (games) for it. And now he’s majoring as a programmer in a game design program, which I’m thrilled about. But I absolutely have to agree, the user terms are very unfavorable compared to other platforms. Given that its mostly kids, parents need to be aware that their children are being taken advantage of.

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In the hinter years, we came up with this thing for the future generation called open source, …

edit - if you’re interested, maybe try to start with an editorial and work your way up to the real idea.

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Get them while they are young…

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That’s an excellent video. There’s a lede buried in there when he said (paraphrasing) “if a young developer does somehow manage to get a great idea with some traction, there’s nothing stopping the top three developers from simply taking their idea and publishing it themselves for big profits”. This is of course because there is no copyright, patents, trademark, or IP law within Roblox.

This really hits home what these these companies are really doing. They’ve constructed a parallel universe of capitalism where all the worst practices from days gone by are now legal again. Child labor, company scrip, IP theft, union busting, on and on. It’s disgusting.

We’ve spent a hundred years clawing some semblance of humanity back into capitalism with labour laws and civil rights through decades of strikes, legal fights, protests, etc. These platform developers have erased that in a stroke.

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I’m hoping my daughter (at the time age 9) got an economics lesson when she wanted to earn some robux by creating a “t-shirt” with a cat on it that she could then sell.

She wanted to earn 600 robux to play a game or get some items. So she decided to sell her shirt for 600 robux. I tried to convince her that it might be easier to sell a 6 robux tshirt to 100 users than one tshirt for 600 robux, but she remained steadfast.

This video makes me think that even that even at 6 robux, it’s not going to sell. Which I guess is another economics lesson altogether.

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So… has anyone done a chimney sweeping simulator?

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Also the games are crap. Parents need to put Roblox out of business, one good parenting decision at a time.

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Is this before or after they are indoctrinated into fascist ideologies by right wing hate groups?

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Games based on making your own games can be good clean fun, as Mario Maker, PICO-8, Minecraft and many other titles demonstrate.

Some of the criticism in this video could be defended by comparing Roblox to those examples, or to any game, really. After all, when someone spends a hundred hours playing Breath of the Wild we don’t say the government of Hyrule is exploiting their labor.*

* or that’s a separate conversation anyway

The specifically damning feature of the Roblox economy is where you have to buy the opportunity to get paid. That is the very definition of a conscious scam; no honorable arrangement is ever set up that way. It’s the MO of the company store, the pyramid scheme, the human trafficker and the 419 scammer. It’s spectacularly gross to lure kids into something like that, even if real-life money wasn’t involved.

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What I don’t get about their success is that, on top of every other horror already mentioned, the game is crap.

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I only know about this shit b/c of their obnoxious, difficult to block pop up ads. It was a wonderful day when I figured out how to convince my adblockers to get rid of them.

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You’re missing the key point. In none of your other examples is the company profiting from the games made in those environments. Mojang does not charge you to look at someone else’s Minecraft creation, then take a cut of every transaction related to your creation. Roblox’s entire business model is taking a cut of every Robux transaction and charging people to use other people’s creations. Minecraft doesn’t even have a soft currency (the industry term for things like Robux) to exploit. Gold is closest thing but it’s not really the same concept. Soft currencies are actually banned in the Minecraft EULA. Roblox is built on the freemium business model popular in mobile gaming, completely different than Minecraft. So yes, Roblox’s entire business is built on the backs of these kids’ labour. Your Zelda example is just bizarre. That’s just “time spent in a game” which has nothing to do with what Roblox is doing.

Also the PICO-8 is a hardware spec, not a game that allows you to make games within it.

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how it turns them into virtually unpaid employees buried in constant startup-culture demands for them to work rather than play.

So, good training for work at big tech companies and AAA game dev shops. There are even virtual foosball tables and probably virtual pets to bring to work. The scrip is just setting things up as another step toward the company-town workplace.

If you think that’s bad, think of what American corporate culture has in store (if not already implemented) for employees who aren’t knowledge workers who are in high demand.

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…there was another paragraph?

My point was that neither charging for a creative platform nor monetizing user content are necessarily evidence of exploitation, whereas making creators pay for placement is a smoking gun.

Youtube is built off users’ labor, too (which isn’t great), but at least they only make money when creators make money. What puts Roblox in a different, MLM-like category is that they seek to make money off the majority of creators who don’t succeed.

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Man, it’s like these games were designed by children.

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There are a wide range of (very many) games on Roblox, ranging from crappy non-games and obstacle courses (90%) to relatively polished games by relatively professional teams (1%), and the remaining serious efforts by kids to make games. That last group I find really interesting, you can see what young kids appear to find important and not, which is very different from ‘real’ games or what older players would think. Things like graphical quality or game balance doesn’t seem to be important, but they may focus on very specific themes, characters or game mechanics that they want in their dream game, and some are really popular, so other kids appear to feel the same. From this chaos patterns have emerged, kind of genres or mechanics that are really weird but that the players are used to and that get spread over new games as if it’s a genetic algorithm.

It’s really disappointing that apart from the creativity, games (crappy or not) and social aspects, there’s also the f2p robux crap, which is where the taking-advantage part comes in (from for the creators and the players).

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