Roblox, for so very long a platform of games (I’m sorry, experiences) aimed at and played by kids, is trying to expand its offerings now that many of those kids are growing up into young adults. In doing so, though, they’re running into some problems.
As Patrick Klepek explains over on his excellent new Crossplay, Roblox—who say that “38% of their daily users are 17 years and over”—have recently announced plans to start introducing
games experiences for that market, which would allow them to include “intense violence, heavy realistic blood, moderate crude humor, romantic themes, unplayable gambling content and/or the presence of alcohol.”
Which is all well and good, but it raises two key concerns. One is how Roblox plans to be able to verify that a user is actually over the age of 17 (currently you’ll have to submit a government ID), but the other is that it now places Roblox in the awkward position of being a fully-fledged content moderator, having to decide which experiences land on which side of their 17+ line, something that even some government classification organisations with decades of experience (like my own here in Australia!) struggle with.
For the funniest possible example of the line Roblox is going to have to toe here, take the new guidelines on poo, and then picture the boardroom discussions and whiteboard illustrations that would have been needed to get these down in stone:
For example, if you depict or reference flatulence, vomiting, and/or unrealistic looking feces, such as poop coils or the poop emoji, your experience meets the mild criteria. If you depict or reference urine, urination, or realistic looking feces, your experience meets the moderate criteria.
If you want to read the full announcement from Roblox, you can check it out here. And please note that for all this talk about new content and rules it does nothing to address one of the biggest moderation problems on the platform, which is the proliferation of gambling mechanics in games aimed squarely at very young children.