Supersecret is a new virtual world for tweens in which you play games for points and bling - blah blah - but you also "age up": from 10 to 16 virtual years old. That's pretty unusual and probably very appealing to tweens desperate to get on with being teens. I'm wandering around, and it's initially fairly normal otherwise: 2.5d flash-based fantasy world, with the standard "beach" and "dorm" type zones to hang out in.
The age restriction stuff is curious: on signup, you're asked for your real age (I lied) and a parent's email (I put mine in). Even though I signed up as a 12 year old, I'm playing as a 10 year old - the starting age - and I can't free chat until I'm "12". Eminently crackable, this, so I suppose it's a cultural rule - and a carrot to get kids to play to virtual age 12 quickly - rather than any kind of actual safety mechanism.
The starter games themselves are pretty simple - and classically "addictive". I popped ballons for a bit, Peggle-style. Quite mindlessly fun, in that passing-time kind of way. It earned me some "Spenders" and some "Age Points".
My newest mission - no offense to SuperSecret - is to seek out virtual worlds for kids and teens that have a deeper and more intellectual raison d'etre than Play Games To Buy Hair With. Maybe Supersecret has more depth than I'm giving it credit for after such a cursory glance - they reference World of Warcraft as a competitor in the Virtual Worlds News piece, so they're aware of the alternatives 12 year olds have, after all - but I couldn't see it immediately. And who says WoW is more than A Game To Buy Hair with, anyway?
It's that middle-ground sweet spot between levelling-for-the-hell-of-it (or mindless fun), and something-genuinely-useful (or purely educational), that's probably a winner in my book. I wonder where it exists already.