• Sony Online Entertainment

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Like the headline says, Sony Online Entertainment's family-friendly massively multiplayer online world Free Realms is now available for the Mac!

Big deal, right?

Free Realms is aimed at kids! Why is this even on Blogtown, amidst outraged screeds against civil rights abuses, dick jokes and pictures of kittens?

Simple: There is no better game designed specifically for kids, and based on how much sexin' our readership gets up to, it's likely that one or two of you has a mini one or two of you running around the house, getting into hijinks. Am I wrong?

Parents: Think of this post as an excuse to highlight a game most of you would never hear about otherwise. Everyone else: Think of this post as an excuse to go outside and have a cigarette. You seem tense.

Now that they're gone, parents, hit the jump for details on your spawn's next addiction.

The best kid's entertainment is also quality entertainment for adults.

I'm sure you parents have been forced to sit through hours of idiotic crap simply because your kid enjoyed it. That's part of being a parent, right? Luckily there are companies like Pixar that make movies that, while they totally capture the hearts and minds of children, also contain enough genuine quality that the legal guardians who paid for the movie tickets and accompanied the youngins to the theater actively enjoy their hour and a half.

Think of Free Realms the same way.

Most games aimed specifically at kids — not games aimed at all audiences, mind you — are simply terrible. They talk down to the youth, claim to be "educational" by virtue of merely being inoffensive and have lower production values than the worst Flash game dumped on the Newgrounds servers.

Free Realms, on the other hand, is a genuine effort from SOE to capture a new, untapped audience, by creating a vast game world tailored specifically toward them. Free Realms lets kids do whatever they'd like, from World of Warcraft-style adventures to playing soccer with friends, the depth and scope of the activities on offer rivals anything but Blizzard's aforementioned MMO juggernaut.

Even better news for the loving parents, desperately groping around in the dark for kid-centric entertainment options? Free Realms is free.

Well, that is, Free Realms is somewhat free. SOE funds the game via advertisements and microtransactions. The former should be self-explanatory, but the latter essentially boils down to "while you can play the game for free, it also offers you hundreds of tiny extras, like new clothes, with a small price attached to each." None of these extras are necessary for playing the game, but don't be surprised if your child suddenly pops up next to you, like some kind of hyperactive Batman, carrying a wishlist of virtual items that'll set you back $20.

Still, it's cheaper than whatever plastic toy is the latest fad, and good luck to even the most sociopathic tot in trying to destroy presents made of binary code.

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The best bit about that initial free investment though, is that you can sit your kid down in front of Free Realms to see if he or she digs it without risking a wad of dough on a youngster's finicky tastes.

Given how I normally loathe children, my endorsement of this thing should be enough of a reason to give SOE at least a few minutes of play time, no? It's not like it's going to cost you anything.

Sign up for, log into and play Free Realms here.

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