Dubai: An online gaming platform Roblox has been trending on search in the UAE and here’s why: people want to know if the ban on playing the game in the UAE has been lifted.
Gulf News reached out to UAE’s Telecom and Regulatory Authority (TRA), and a spokesperson for the authority confirmed that the platform is not banned in the UAE as of now. Based on our check, Roblox is available to download through iOS App Store and Android Play Store on UAE devices.
In 2018, Dr. Hamad Saif Al Shamsi, UAE’s Attorney General, had issued an order blocking the websites and online platforms of certain electronic games, including My Friend Cayla, Blue Whale, Cloud Pets, Roblox and Mariam.
What is Roblox?
Roblox is a free-to-use online gaming platform that allows users (usually children) to create games that can be played by others on the platform. The platform is not a single game but a collection of user-created games. The games on the platform range across categories and allows users to build and share ‘fully immersive’ and interactive games and virtual worlds.
The platform also includes chat functionalities and allows users to buy and sell items using a currency called ‘Robux’ that is exclusive to the platform. Users can buy special abilities or upgrades for avatars using Robux. $10 can get you 800 Robux while $100 can get you 10,000 Robux, and in some countries you can get gift cards for the platform from major retailers.
The platform is targeted at children across age groups, and allows users younger than 13 to play as well but they have additional restrictions on settings such as chat systems and vocabulary. Online forums show that users on the platform are as young as 8.
Several players have made fortunes from creating games and virtual services or upgrades, and selling them. In 2015 Business Insider reported that top developers on Roblox were making more than $20,000 (Dh73,464) per month. Identical 20-year-old twins Ben and Matt Horton in UK each make £100,000 (around Dh511,000) per year from the platform, BBC reported in March, and they started developing games at 13. They have dropped out of sixth form, the report said, to concentrate full-time on game development.
Premium members who are 13 years or older and have ‘earned’ at least 100,000 Robux through sales on the platform can convert the currency to real-world money through Roblox’s Developer Exchange Program or DevEx.
Even though Roblox has parental controls in place, parents across the world have had issues with how children use the platform. In a BBC report in 2019, parents in the UK said children were exposed to disturbing pornographic imagery through some of the games. The report also quoted parents who said that even after setting up restrictions, children were found to be communicating with other users through third-party apps.
In an infamous incident in 2018, a mother posted on Facebook (since deleted) that she found a scenario on the platform where her daughter’s avatar was being attacked by two male avatars. Her daughter was 7 at the time according to reports. Roblox responded to the incident and said, “The incident involved one bad actor that was able to subvert our protective systems and exploit one instance of a game running on a single server.” The offender was banned, Roblox said in a statement, which was published later in TechRadar.
Roblox has a section on their official website called ‘For Parents’ which details parental controls in place for children. The platform also allows user to report abuse. The company claims other controls include algorithms blocking swearwords and names and addresses in text chats, and a reporting system for inappropriate chats or content. There are also controls in place to restrict ‘inappropriate’ clothes of user avatars
Building ‘immersive 3D worlds’
Roblox has over 2 million ‘creators’ of games. The company was founded in 2004 and the platform was launched in 2006. It has grown exponentially over the last decade, and the pandemic spurred this even further. By late 2020, the company said more than 31 million users daily were diving into Roblox on mobile, desktop, or console devices and cumulatively spending billions of hours there.
The company, Roblox Corp founded by David Baszucki and Erik Cassel, was valued at over US$29.5 billion in January. However, Roblox's valuation skyrocketed by 52 per cent within minutes of its long-awaited public-market debut on March 10, reaching a valuation of $42 billion.