Roblox Corp. RBLX -2.77% decline; The downward-pointing red triangle plans to help bring educational video games into classrooms around the world, as part of its strategy to expand its user base, mostly teens and tweens, and play a role in the next evolution of the Internet. known as the metaverse.
San Mateo, California-based Roblox announced Monday that it has invested $10 million to help develop three games for middle school, high school and college students. The company’s free platform, found on mobile devices, computers and Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox system, had more than 47 million daily users in the third quarter, about half of whom are under the age of 13.
“It’s been a vision since we started the company over 16 years ago to have these kinds of experiences,” Roblox CEO David Baszucki told The Wall Street Journal. “We have always had that academic background in mind.”
One of the games the company is funding will teach robotics, another will focus on space exploration, and a third will help students explore careers and concepts in computer science, engineering, and biomedical sciences. They were developed by nonprofit organizations, including the Boston Museum of Science, and one was made in partnership with a small educational game studio.
The Roblox platform already has millions of games and other activities, all created by its own users, although only a few were designed for classrooms. The three games it is financing, due out next year, will not offer any virtual products for sale.
While $10 million is a small amount for Roblox, the largest purely US video game company by market capitalization, it will be the first time the company has invested money in developing games for its platform. His educational aspirations coincide with his plans to build a stake in the metaverse, a term loosely defined as a sprawling future online world where people interact in shared virtual spaces via digital avatars. The company’s platform is considered an early iteration of that world, as its users already interact as avatars as they teleport from game to game and participate in online events like concerts and TV show screenings.
Other big tech companies are also working on metaverse products and services, including Microsoft, Nvidia Corp., Epic Games Inc., and Unity Software Inc. Facebook Inc. recently changed its name to Meta Platforms Inc. to reflect its increased focus on augmented reality. and virtual reality, technologies that give the metaverse its immersive three-dimensional qualities.
Education will play a big role in the metaverse, tech visionaries say, allowing students, for example, to explore together three-dimensional replicas of historic sites like the Colosseum in Rome as it looked hundreds of years ago.
Video games have been in the classroom for decades. “The Oregon Trail,” a 1971 computer game that challenged players to survive a wagon ride through 1800s America, came bundled with the school’s computers. In 2016, Microsoft introduced an Education Edition for its popular Minecraft franchise, which includes special features for teachers, like the ability to create custom projects and track student progress. Microsoft said that version of the brick-building game is being used by more than 35 million students and teachers around the world.
Even so, video games have long faced scrutiny from lawmakers, parents, and advocacy groups over their impact on children. The World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to an updated version of its International Classification of Diseases in 2018, warning of a condition in which people overindulge in video games despite negative consequences. Earlier this year, China issued strict new measures aimed at curbing what authorities describe as gaming addiction among young people.
“Video games aren’t inherently bad,” as they can help students develop critical thinking, collaboration and other skills, said Jim Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, a group that promotes technology and safe media for kids. kids. The nonprofit organization also rates games for their educational qualities or lack thereof.
The best kind of video games for classrooms, Steyer said, are made by developers looking to encourage and engage students. “They must be committed to rigorous educational content and rigorous privacy and security practices,” he said, adding that he thinks Roblox needs to do a better job of keeping troublemakers off its platform before it can become “an educational tool.” trustworthy”.
A Roblox spokeswoman said the company employs a team of more than 3,000 people to monitor the security of the games, using a combination of artificial intelligence and human moderators. He also said that teachers can create private groups known as servers for their students to play only with each other on Roblox.
To raise awareness of the new games Roblox is funding, the company said the education-focused nonprofits that create them will leverage their networks to help drive adoption in schools.
Mr. Baszucki said he envisions Roblox one day offering a wide range of virtual educational opportunities for students, from dissecting frogs to exploring volcanoes, regardless of their economic status or location.
“Our platform can help society directly in an area where we need help,” he said.