YPulse: Why Whyville Ain't Just Fun; It's Useful
Whyville's yet another post-Second Life virtual world, except it's for tweens. Its citizens are mainly female, with girls comprising over 60 percent of the populace.
To explain why Whyville is so cool, we'll use the Scion example. Whyville erected the first virtual dealership for the boxy vehicle, which ended up yielding more test-drives for it than any physical place in the world.
Now, Kids can buy Whyville Scions for 15,000 clams - and if they're a little short, they can hit the Toyota lending agency to finance it.
Each Whyville inhabitant has a credit score. Certain activities can help scores improve: Getting jobs, earning raises, buying a house, all kinds of things. And if they don't meet their monthly payments, that coveted 15,000-clam Scion gets repossessed.
Founder Jim Bower observed that parents often call in to complain when their their kids' virtual plaything gets claimed by the repo man. "Would you rather they be upset over losing a virtual car over virtual money, or would you rather wait until they're 19 with a credit card that you're responsible for?" he asks.
These days on Whyville, kids can engineer their own Toyotas. And it's not a paper-doll kind of thing - they actually learn things about real cars, and use that knowledge in the creative process.
When asked why the site's demo is largely female, Bower called Whyville a place where girls are "expected to be smart."
"Users are encouraged to generate, not consume, in the community," he said.
There's a good way to hit the tween set.