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Roblox Boss: We Aren't Exploiting Child Labor, We're Giving Kids In ‘The Slum’ A Job

Screenshot: <a class="link " href="https://www.roblox.com/games/7988120716/Money-Printing-Tycoon" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Capital Bread / Roblox / Kotaku;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas">Capital Bread / Roblox / Kotaku</a>

Roblox is one of the biggest games in the world, letting people (who are mostly under 16 years old) create and play their own custom creations and share them with others. Roblox has also been at the center of controversy, as some believe the game exploits child labor and doesn’t do enough to protect them. When recently asked about this, Roblox Studio head Stefano Corazza suggested that, actually, the game is a “gift” for “15 year olds, in Indonesia, living in a slum.”

Released in 2006, Roblox is a multi-platform online video game where players use official tools to create, play, and share their own games and experiences with Roblox’s massive audience. Some of these games can become extremely popular, racking up millions of players and potentially earning its creators some money. But as previously reported by People Make Games, Roblox is a very shady enterprise and kids have reported crunching to get games done, being sexually harassed by other creators, and blowing their money on virtual items as the game makes it tricky to “cash out” and take your profits with you. Corazza’s recent comments about this whole situation at GDC 2024 haven’t helped much.

Eurogamer spoke to Corazza last month during GDC and asked about Roblox’s reputation for exploiting younger devs and players.

“I don’t know, you can say this for a lot of things, right?” said Corazza, “Like, you can say, ‘Okay, we are exploiting, you know, child labor,’ right? Or, you can say: we are offering people anywhere in the world the capability to get a job, and even like an income.”

Corazza offered up an example: “So, I can be like 15 years old, in Indonesia, living in a slum, and then now, with just a laptop, I can create something, make money, and then sustain my life.”

Seemingly realizing that what he just said didn’t sound great and sounded a lot like he was excusing child labor by suggesting it had some benefits, Corazza then pivoted and explained that this is just a result of Roblox going “broad” and having a “younger audience” before pivoting again mid-comment to point out that the average game dev on Roblox is in their 20s.

“But of course, there’s people that are teenagers - and we have hired some teenagers that had millions of players on the platform,” admitted Corazza.

Corazza then pointed out that, according to what he’s heard, these kids and teens “didn’t feel like they were exploited,” which might be true but ignores that kids and teens are regularly exploited without realizing it because they are, y’know, still developing humans and not adults with years of world experience.

“They felt like, ‘Oh my god, this was the biggest gift, all of a sudden I could create something, I had millions of users, I made so much money I could retire,” claimed Corazza.

While it’s true some developers on Roblox have made millions of dollars, arguably enough to retire on, the vast majority of devs aren’t making anywhere near that much money. Remember, Roblox pays out less than 30% of what a game earns to its creators. And if you want to cash out, you have to wait until your game has earned a minimum of 100,000 Robux. That amount of in-game currency equals $1,000, but when you cash out, after fees and Roblox’s cut, you end up with $350. This leads to some younger devs never cashing out, feeling like they lose too much, and instead spending it on Roblox items. If that reminds you of a company store and scrip system, you wouldn’t be the first to make that connection.

“So I focus more on the amount of money that we distribute every year to creators, which is now getting close to like a billion dollars, which is phenomenal,” said Corazza.

Eurogamer says that a PR rep stepped in during the interview and helpfully pointed out that “the vast majority of people that are earning money on Roblox are over the age of 18.” It’s almost like that person realized that bragging about how much money kids are making on your platform isn’t a great way to argue that you aren’t exploiting child labor.

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