Anyone who has been playing WoW for a bit knows that this game is unique in that both adults and children can enjoy it at the same time. Indeed this duality can be considered one of the best features of the game. How often can you sit down with your son or daughter and truly enjoy the same video game? Besides the amazing adventures of Dora The Explorer, other kid friendly games like Disney Online's Toon Town and Club Penguin just don't provide the same level of enjoyment for adults and their children. (What's the game in Dora, you ask? Assisting her in finding the red berries or yelling at Swiper. See this not-safe-for-work Kevin Smith YouTube excerpt for an explanation.)
However with that in mind, there are some compelling arguments that its due time for World of Warcraft to get a few age restricted servers.
For starters, take a look at what Second Life has done. They're a pretty successful venture, and have a lot of parallels to MMORPGS like WoW. They've created a server called Teen Second Life in which they do their best to only allow teenagers between the ages of 13 – 17 access. When you turn 18 you're moved up to the adult server along with all your gear and property. Of course this has the same pitfalls as any other internet site where you can fake your identity, but it is a start; and a good one since Linden Labs actively polices age restrictions.
For environments like Second Life and World of Warcraft, think for a minute about the benefits of an age restricted server. On the adult side of things there would be less interference from age related and maturity issues*. Things like talking in l33t s93ak, the social issues of growing children and teens, and not having to worry about age appropriate content/conversations would be a very good thing for many of the adult players out there.
And as Helen Lovejoy reminds us, "Won't somebody think of the children?" Of course! Age restricted servers in a game where people have to register their names and use secure identities such as valid credit cards will be a significant factor in securing the game for kids. While nothing but strong parenting can completely protect against people like those seen on To Catch a Predator, giving parents a secure server to let their kids explore the game would be a major step in the right direction.
So what do you think about a server with an age restriction? If you're a parent of a teenager, would you exercise your parental muscle and insist they use it?
*I'm sure we all realize that adults can be just as bad, if not worse, than any child. However, that's another blog post for another time. ;-)