Police’s Mata-verse game on Roblox pulls in over 4 million players in first year of launch

Players role-play as law enforcement officers in the Mata-verse, nabbing robbers and identifying suspicious characters. - SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

SINGAPORE: Described as the “ultimate policing experience”, the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Mata-verse game appears to be a hit, drawing 4.4 million players since it was launched in June 2023.

Hosted on online gaming platform Roblox, the game is a 3D experience of what it is like to be a law enforcement officer and SPF’s first foray into the metaverse.

The game features accurately rendered police uniforms and vehicles, which players can unlock by completing quests and progressing through the ranks from trainee all the way to assistant commissioner of police.

The vehicles include the police fast response car and the Special Operations Command’s iconic red tactical vehicle.

Quests in the form of mini-games require players to complete tasks like nabbing robbers and identifying suspicious characters while on patrol.

At the Police Workplan Seminar 2024 held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design on May 24, it was revealed that a new in-game quest focusing on scam fighting will be released soon.

The name “Mata-verse” is a play on the term “metaverse” and the Malay slang for policemen, mata-mata.

A police spokeswoman said the game is used both to educate the public about crime fighting and as a recruitment tool.

She said: “Mata-verse enables us to educate the public through a virtual gamified experience to spread crime prevention messages, and subtle organisational messages that are aligned with SPF’s vision of being an employer of choice and a smart force that leverages technology for an expansive outreach.”

As one of the most popular online gaming platforms, Roblox sees some 200 million users play, chat and connect every month as avatars in its virtual worlds.

The exact demographics of the players are not known, but almost 60 per cent of Roblox users are believed to be aged 16 and below.

While most of the platform features harmless content, experts have warned that some parts of it can lead to rabbit holes where sex predators and extremists lurk.

In February 2023, it was reported that the Internal Security Department learnt of a radicalised 16-year-old who had joined several Roblox servers with virtual worlds that replicated conflict zones occupied by terror group ISIS.

The teen, who was placed under a restriction order, regarded himself as an ISIS member in these games, and took a bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) to an in-game “ISIS leader”.

The SPF launched Mata-verse several months after news of the case went public, and intends to use Roblox as a tool for good.

Inspector Hasyer Umar from the emergency response team at Ang Mo Kio Division, who had worked on the development of Mata-verse, said the idea for it came as his division was thinking of ways to interact with one another during the Covid-19 pandemic without physical contact.

“At that time, the metaverse was on the rise, and the pandemic accelerated the adoption of virtual environments for work, social interaction and entertainment,” he said.

The division then experimented with developing a virtual festive event for officers in the division during the Hari Raya period.

They simulated a virtual division headquarters on Roblox, and successfully pulled off the event they dubbed Meta Raya, which officers attended virtually.

The event was met with much positive feedback, said Insp Hasyer.

From that event, he said, they realised that Roblox was very popular with those aged seven to 17.

He said: “That was when we decided to adapt our idea for policing, aiming to educate the public on crime prevention through gamification, and to help the younger generation develop a better understanding of policing.”

Insp Hasyer added that he hopes Mata-verse will continue to help create a safer society.

“I envision Mata-verse becoming an integral tool in community policing, continually evolving to incorporate new educational content and interactive experiences,” he said.

“By leveraging advancements in technology, we aim to enhance the platform’s effectiveness in crime prevention education and community engagement, ultimately fostering a safer and more informed society.” - The Straits Times/ANN

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Singapore , police , Mata-verse , game , Roblox


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