What is Roblox and why won't my kids stop talking about it? A gaming expert explains

·Senior Lifestyle Editor
·10 min read
Parents may hear about Roblox constantly in their homes, but what exactly is the gaming platform? YouTube gamer Megan Leeds (AKA MeganPlays) walked Yahoo Life through the 10 most-visited Roblox games. (Photo: Roblox)
Parents may hear about Roblox constantly in their homes, but what exactly is the gaming platform? YouTube gamer Megan Letter (AKA MeganPlays) walked Yahoo Life through the 10 most-visited Roblox games. (Photo: Roblox)

Whether your kid is asking if they can "buy more Robux" or begging you to check out their avatar's latest outfit, there's one thing most parents of kids who play Roblox have in common: We don't know exactly what our kids are doing on the online gaming platform.

But one thing we do know is that Roblox keeps growing in popularity. According to a recently-released 2021 data report, Roblox reports last year its online community grew from over 30 million daily users to 50 million ... across 180 countries. And, slightly over half of the Roblox community is 13 or older, meaning kids and teens make up the bulk of the platform's daily users.

What is Roblox?

Megan Letter, also known as YouTube gaming sensation MeganPlays, describes Roblox as, "a hub of thousands and thousands and thousands of games and experiences which are all created by user-generated content," meaning it's not a single game like Minecraft or Pokémon Go, but more like a virtual version of a gaming system like Xbox or Playstation.

"Basically, Roblox is a website, hub and app that you can use to access millions of experiences," Letter tells Yahoo Life. "There's an endless amount [of games] because anybody can make them and anybody can get involved in them. You can play something new every day and it's free, which is really nice."

But if Roblox is free, why are kids always asking to buy "Robux," the game's currency? Letter says those purchases are optional and only enhance kids' gameplay through things like clothing to dress up their avatar — the character that represents them in the Roblox platform — or in-game perks.

What are my kids doing on Roblox?

According to the 2021 Roblox data report, there are 10 highly-visited games within the platform that, chances are, are where your kid is hanging out online.

Games within Roblox range from role-playing games, where players take on an action or role, to tycoon games, where players complete simulated real-world activities to earn money within the game. There are action games, which focus on fighting and survival, games that simulate obstacle courses (called "obbys") and simulator games, which involve collecting certain items or clicking objects within the game repeatedly.

And, the games are most often played together in virtual groups.

Brookhaven was the number one visited experience in Roblox in 2021, according to a Roblox data report. (Photo: Roblox)
Brookhaven was the number one visited experience in Roblox in 2021, according to a Roblox data report. (Photo: Roblox)

Can my kids talk to other people in Roblox?

Curious if your kid is making online friends in the game? The short answer is yes, they are.

Letter explains that in each game, players can chat with one another, provided a parent has enabled those settings, even connecting with friends and relatives from the real world in-game. She also adds that for the most part, Roblox is about being friendly and coming together as a community to enjoy an experience.

"What I like about Roblox is they have two types of profiles: They have above 13 and under 13," Letter says. "With [under 13 profiles] you can turn on parental controls, turn off entire chats, make it where nobody can talk to your child or whatever you're comfortable with."

Laura Higgins, Roblox's director of community safety and civility, says Roblox works to filter inappropriate chat content like discriminatory speech, bullying, extremism, violence and sexual content, as well as the exchange of personal information or invitations to move communication off of the Roblox platform.

Video: What parents should be aware of on Roblox

"We update our filters continuously, multiple times a day," says Higgins. "For users under 13, our filters are even stricter and include any potentially identifiable personal information, slang and more. In order for us to maintain a safe platform and prevent inappropriate content in violation of our policies, users are also not able to exchange images or videos via chat or one-to-one user interactions on Roblox."

"With our parental controls and features such as 'Account Restrictions,' parents and caregivers have the option to limit chat to a curated list of contacts for their kids' accounts, or turn it off altogether," she adds.

When it comes to chatting, "people are really nice and helpful in these games," Letter says of the Roblox community.

And she's not wrong. On an hour-long tour through Roblox with Letter, I only saw positive interactions: Other avatars inviting her to play with them or offering to teach her how to do things in games where she was a novice.

What are the most popular games in Roblox?

On our Roblox tour, Letter showed me the 10 most-visited experiences in Roblox, according to its 2021 data report. Because, like all parents, I hear about these games but have no idea what's actually happening in them, I asked her for a breakdown.

1. Brookhaven

In Brookhaven, players hang out in a virtual world where they can chat, build houses and role-play. (Photo: MeganPlays)
In Brookhaven, players hang out in a virtual world where they can chat, build houses and role-play. (Photo: MeganPlays)

"Brookhaven definitely falls into role-play which definitely has a different meaning for children than it does adults," Letter jokes. "I've talked to a lot of adults who are kind of weirded out by that for obvious reasons, but it's just as it sounds: It's like playing house as a kid. Kids are using their imaginations, they're putting themselves in scenarios where they're a mom or they're going to high school."

"You have this map and it's literally just a virtual world," Letter continues. "It's the most simple game. I think that's what kids really like is that they can come on here and do anything they want: There's a lot of really great themes and scenarios to play out with their friends."

2. Tower of Hell

Tower of Hell is a virtual obstacle course that's always changing. (Photo: MeganPlays)
Tower of Hell is a virtual obstacle course that's always changing. (Photo: MeganPlays)

Despite its ominous name, Tower of Hell is an "obby," a game that has an obstacle course style and requires a lot of skill to play, says Letter.

"Basically you have to climb this tower and it changes every few minutes," she explains. "The name of the game is to get to the top of a tower with an obstacle course. It has a lot of replay-ability that people love."

3. Adopt Me

In Adopt Me, players care for babies and animals in exchange for in-game currency to buy ... more babies and animals. (Photo: MeganPlays)
In Adopt Me, players care for babies and animals in exchange for in-game currency to buy ... more babies and animals. (Photo: MeganPlays)

"The premise of Adopt Me is very simple: Adopt me," says Letter. "They originally started where you could play as a baby and you would get adopted by parents, but in 2018 they introduced pets and that's really where their game took off."

To succeed in Adopt Me, Letter says players care for animals and babies and are rewarded with in-game currency to buy ... more animals and babies.

"As a baby, you have needs: You're hungry, you're thirsty, you want to go play outside," she says, "but with pets, basically you buy yourself some eggs and hatch them by feeding and watering them and taking them to play."

4. MeepCity

MeepCity, another role-playing experience, is among the 10 most-visited locations in Roblox. (Photo: Megan Plays)
MeepCity, another role-playing experience, is among the 10 most-visited locations in Roblox. (Photo: Megan Plays)

"MeepCity has been around for a really long time," says Letter, adding that it's another fairly straightforward role-playing experience within the game. "It's another one of those games where you kind of run around and gather with friends and role-play."

5. Royale High

In Royale High, players dress up in fairytale attire and attend classes on things like potion-making and art. (Photo: MeganPlays)
In Royale High, players dress up in fairytale attire and attend classes on things like potion-making and art. (Photo: MeganPlays)

"This one is just so underrated in my opinion," Letter says of Royale High. "It's a very vast princess world. If you are into mermaids, fairies, princesses — this is definitely the game for you."

Letter, who uses Royale High to film storytelling videos for her YouTube channel, says one of this game's big draws is the extensive in-game fairytale wardrobe.

"It's basically a game where you go to princess school," says Letter. "It is a roleplaying game but it also has gameplay mechanics in it with the school."

The classes are fairly simple: The chemistry game, for example, is like 'red and blue make purple' and you mix potions," she explains. "On the art one, you just kind of copy a painting they show and you get points for that. There's a level system in it and you level up by going to class."

6. BedWars

Bedwars is a game that requires a bit of strategy, according to Leeds. (Photo: MeganPlays)
BedWars is a game that requires a bit of strategy, according to Letter. (Photo: MeganPlays)

"Some games are more 'hang out and dress up' games, but ones like BedWars are more into strategy and gameplay," says Letter, adding that it can take up to 40 minutes to play a full game. "It's like a base-capture game. You have a base with some teammates and then there's three other bases and they have their own teams. The goal is to collect resources and go over to another team's base and destroy their bed. I don't know why it's a bed, but that's what it is."

7. Blox Fruits

Leeds says Blox Fruits is a quest-style game. (Photo: MeganPlays)
Letter says Blox Fruits is a quest-style game. (Photo: MeganPlays)

"This is more of a fighting game where you get quests," says Letter of Blox Fruits. "You build money and you buy different weapons and basically you're questing — killing bad guys and moving up through the ranks."

8. Piggy

In Piggy, a pig chases players through a scary house while they try to escape. (Photo: MeganPlays)
In Piggy, a creepy pig chases players through a scary house while they try to escape. (Photo: MeganPlays)

While not all games in Roblox are scary, Letter says some do exist.

"Piggy is a survival horror game," she says. "I was scared of this one at first but it's good. The goal of this game is to escape while you have a pig following you around. It's a little spooky but honestly, kids love it."

The goal of Piggy: Don't get caught by the pig.

"He'll hit you if he catches you and you lose and have to start over," says Letter.

9. Murder Mystery 2

In Murder Mystery 2, players have to figure out who the killer among them is. If they're the killer, they must work to hide their secret from other players. (Photo: MeganPlays)
In Murder Mystery 2, players have to figure out who the killer among them is. If they're the killer, they must work to hide their secret from other players. (Photo: MeganPlays)

"The premise of Murder Mystery 2 is super simple: You have a bunch of users on a map and one or two of them, depending on how many players there are, are a murder," Letter explains. "You have to try to figure out who it is and the detective has to kill the murderer or murderers before they kill everyone else."

10. All Star Tower Defense

All Star Tower Defense is a strategy game where players defend their own turf. (Photo: MeganPlays)
All Star Tower Defense is a strategy game where players defend their own turf. (Photo: MeganPlays)

"In All Star Tower Defense, you're putting down weapons to defeat bad guys [and keep them] from getting to a goal," Letter says of the last game on the report. "It's so colorful and so fun."

So what advice does Letter have for parents who are wondering whether or not to let their kids play Roblox?

The 26-year-old, who also creates her own games with her husband, Zach, on the platform, says to go for it.

"I was born in 1995 and I grew up when the internet was new and it was a big 'don't talk to strangers on the internet' time," she says. "I don't feel that way anymore about being online, but there are really extensive chat filters on Roblox, too."

"If you try to say 'boyfriend,' for example, it gets blocked out," Letter adds. "You can't say, 'Do you want to go on a date?' — it blocks it out. You can't even say 'honey,' and even if you try to type in your age or any numbers, it won't let you. There's a lot that you can do to protect yourself."

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Video courtesy of NBCUniversal/Today.