Web Game Lets Players Give Out Virtual Condoms

My Minx gives virtual characters contraception and lets them adopt children.

Jan. 28, 2010 — -- A new online game that allows users to give virtual characters contraceptives and adopt children is raising eyebrows in the U.K., but the game's creator tells ABCNews.com the critics either haven't played the game or are misinformed.

"There's a lot of misinformation out there about who our target audience is," said Christopher Brown, head of London-based Blighty Arts, the creator of the game. "This isn't a game for children and there's nothing to indicate that kids are playing this game."

Brown said the average age of players who register to play the online game is 19 years old, and that most of the players on the site are older than 30.

My Minx has rattled British media and at least one parents group by allowing players to clothe their virtual women in lingerie and other revealing outfits and to purchase "trophy orphans" that are named after children already adopted by celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

The adoption clinic in a virtual "Style City" features girls called Pax and Maddox, and a boy named Zahara after Angelina Jolie's children. The adoption agency on the site also has a David Banda, four, and Mercy, five, of Malawi, apparently modeled after Madonna's adopted children.

There is also a Mongolian girl called Jamiyan, which appears to be based on actor Ewan McGregor's Mongolian 4-year-old daughter.

Players also can adopt children from earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Once adoption fees have been paid, players can outfit their new children in stylish designer wear and then try to sell image rights for them to celebrity magazines.

The game also allows players take their women binge drinking and clubbing as they try to attract men. For the women that succeed in one night stands, there are virtual condoms and morning after pills.

"We created this as a Web experience for fashion-savvy teens and adults," said Brown, adding that the site has attracted 30,000 members since being launched last September.

But one British tabloid, the Daily Mail, quoted Andy Hibberd, a spokesman for a U.K. parents' rights group, Parentkind, as saying: "There are more than enough pressures on children to grow up already. We don't need any more. ... Their parents will not have any idea that they are playing this game and the children will fail to appreciate its irony."

Safeguarding Children

The game's creator called the so-called controversy "manufactured" and said the criticisms are baseless.

"The average age of players is 19.1 years old," Christopher Brown told ABCNews.com.

"Most of the people who claim to be upset about it haven't seen it or know very little about it. ... Some of our players are into their 40's and even into their 50's," said Brown. "To say that this game targets children is absolutely false."

Parents groups in the U.S. contacted by ABC News weren't aware of the game and would not comment on its content. However, some children's rights advocates warned that even sites targeting teens and adults easily could lure children who may mistakenly come across their flashy and often appealing content online.

"Any Web site that looks appealing to children has at least the potential to draw youngster who may not be of age for that kind of content," said Melinda Beck of the Berkeley Parents Network, a Bay Area support group for mothers. "It's important for parents to be keenly aware of what their kids or browsing online."

Like other parents groups, Beck said there are simple ways to combat the potential of having your child stumble on the wrong Internet site, such as installing parental-control software that includes category-based Web site blocking, and checking the per-user configuration options on a computer that your child might use.

"Anything that safeguards children on the Internet is worth the time and effort," Beck said.