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Date Published: 7th May, 2021
What is KoGaMa?
KoGaMa is an online gaming platform that allows users to play, create, and share games with other users. It is one of the largest sources of user–created online games. These includeshooting, role play, racing, adventure games, and many more. Gamers of all skill levels can find brand new games every day on KoGaMa. It is available on Microsoft Windows, Android, and any desktop browsers. The app is not available for download on iOS, but can be played through Safari browser (though our testers have found this to be glitchy). Our research has found that many users are exposed to KoGaMa through YouTube, as popular streamers are referencing it in videos.
How does it work?
KoGaMa operates in an open world concept with “Lego” style graphics, similar to Roblox.Users create and publish their games in any theme or style they choose. All games created are multiplayer. Any user can join any game, and anyone without an account is able to join as a “tourist.” They can then leave a “like” for the game or leave a message on the game’s comment section. This appears underneath each game.
KoGaMa rewards users in a points-based level system, encouraging users to create, play, and build as much as they can to garner interaction with other users. Once players ‘level up’ (reach a new gaming level), they receive further rewards in “gold” which they can use to purchase anything within the game.
This is a free–to–play platform, but does have an Elite version where users can upgrade through monthly payments. The Elite version allows users to play without adverts, puts their games into the “Elite Game” category on the front page, and allows them to level up faster. Users can alsobuygold and otheritems via a credit or debit card.
What are the main risks?
Our game testers signed up as a 10-year-old and a 9-year-old. They were not asked for age verification at any point. Whilst it was difficult to find a PEGI rating, Google Play Store has it listed as PEGI 3 for Android. This rating suggests that it is considered suitable for all age groups.
We wouldn’t necessarily agree with this safety rating. In a mixed economy environment where children and adults can play together, there is always a potential risk. Given that there is no age verification, it is not possible to establish a gamer’s real age. The Terms and Conditions state any user under 18 years of age must get permission from parents or a cardholder – before making an in-game purchase. There is no reliable mechanism to ensure a young gamer has sought and received such permission.
Due to the open player concept of the platform, any user with an account is able to “friend” another user. They are then able to connect with them using a private chat function.
There is no option to make an account private. Gamers can also leave comments on any profile. This means there is a risk of communication from strangers. This is extremely worrying. Our testers witnessed many examples of this, including users encouraging others to add them on external sites (see example below):
Games created within this platform may contain inappropriate content or themes that could be harmful to children or young people. KoGaMa has stated its moderation team evaluates user created to ensure all inappropriate content is removed. Any notably offensive words are starred out in the comments (i.e. **** off!), but we are unable to verify if this extends to any in-game content. Users are able to report games and other users directly to KoGaMa. However, testers have been unable to establish the effectiveness of the reporting tool.
The platform heavily focused on in-game purchases, with special attention and features given to users who pay. Children and young people may be keen to have “the best” for their games and profile, or might feel pressured to keep up with Elite players. This could lead to encouraging spending habits they may not be old enough to understand.
While playing the game, adverts for 18+ games were present such as Call of Duty: Warzone. This might encourage underage players to seek out other gaming platforms that are age-inappropriate.
Top Tips for Protecting the Children and Young People in Your Care
Engage young people in a conversation about keeping safe online and who they would talk to if someone made them feel uncomfortable
Check that they understand what they should do if they see something online that upsets or worries them
Talk with them about safe online gaming practices. Explain why age ratings are important and discuss the dangers of interacting with strangers online
Make sure a child in your care knows not to share personal information such as their date of birth or location
Set boundaries when it comes to online purchases
Make sure that they understand every time they make an online purchase they are using real money (You could reinforce this by suggesting this may come from their pocket money)
Encourage screen time limits to ensure they are not spending too much time online. Remember, on this platform children may find it challenging to stop playing mid game as in-game penalties or loss of points can be applied
Utilise a family sharing feature to restrict access to platforms and apps you do not want them visiting. This will also allow you to check browsing history
Make sure the children and young people in your care know how important it is to report inappropriate content or users, and walk them through the process – you can useOur Safety Centre to help you do this
If you have concerns about online abuse and exploitation,you can submit an online report to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP) byvisiting here
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