Virtual worlds for kids are expanding. Hasbro retrofitted their Littlest Pet Shop line of toys, which has been around since 1995, with a virtual world. Each VIP—Virtual Interactive Pet—has a code in its collar that lets you enter the Littlest Pets site, where you can earn the virtual currency of Kibbles to buy wallpaper or plants for your pet.
Disney has the slightly less derivative Pixie Hollow, a line of “eJewelry” branded with Tinkerbell and the fairies of Neverland. The centerpiece is the Pixie Dust eJewelry Box, which has a USB cord that plugs into your computer. When girls buy a Pixie Friendship eBracelet or Pixie eCharms and wave them in front of the box, and it will unlock items in the Flash-based online world of Pixie Hollow. The charms can also interact with each other: girls can click their fairy bracelets together to trade avatar data. The bracelets will glow to confirm that “fairy friendship” has been made. When girls go home and log on, they’ll find that they also transferred codes granting each of them access to new items.
David Kushner is the author of many books, including Masters of Doom, Jonny Magic & the Card Shark Kids, Levittown, The Bones of Marianna, and Alligator Candy. A contributing editor of Rolling Stone, he has written for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine.