‘Roblox’, a game targeted towards children with its simple graphics, blocky characters, and an E for Everyone rating, has been found to contain sexually explicit spaces called ‘condos’, which feature players discussing adult topics and engaging in virtual sex acts.
A recent report from the BBC exposed the adult side of the ‘Roblox’ community, describing these condos as featuring a man wearing a Nazi uniform, a couple openly having sex in front of a group of spectators, and people engaging in BDSM play – all on a platform that is among the most popular children’s games in the world.
The issue stems from the fact that ‘Roblox’ is not actually a game in the traditional sense; it is a platform where users can create custom games using its assets, as well as importing their own. Players can then share their creations with others and even earn money by having their game succeed.
While the platform’s Terms of Service explicitly prohibit any adult content, moderators are having a hard time keeping the creators of adult-themed games at bay. Most of the condos are taken down quickly, sometimes in less than an hour, but the company still accepts that it has a problem: “We know there is an extremely small subset of users who deliberately try to break the rules,” developers Roblox told the BBC in a statement. “We have zero tolerance for sexual content or behavior of any kind, and we take swift action against anyone found to be acting in breach of our Community Standards.”
The process for taking down these condo games is usually a mixture of both manual review and automated filters that scan every image, video, and audio file that gets uploaded to the platform. But some content still manages to slip through in what Roblox describes as a “cat and mouse” issue.
While it’s unknown how many children have been exposed to these sex games, as the condos are not something players can accidentally stumble upon without explicitly searching for them, the prospect that kids under the age of 13 could potentially be socialising with adults in these spaces and the in-game messenger has been of particular concern to worried parents.
Roblox has announced that it will develop ‘Parental Control’ tools that could be used to restrict who children can interact with on the platform and what experiences they can access.
This isn't the first time the company has been under fire for malicious practices on its platform. Earlier reports suggested that there was also rampant child abuse and exploitation, with kids being tricked into developing games for third-party companies, often without pay and under stressful conditions.
Roblox has also been accused of making false promises and exploiting its audience by making money off of its users’ creations while severely undercutting the developers. In a recent blog post, the company seemingly addressed the issue, promising to reduce its minimum Robux (in-game currency) payout amount to make its real-world economy fairer to creators. They also announced actions against third-party sites to prevent scams, but no further details or specifics were provided.