Remember Neopets? It was that online virtual pet website that was really popular in the early 2000's, and it allowed you to play games, shop and even battle your 'neopets.' You might say Neopets was a step up from Tamagotchi, but a step down from Pokemon. And even though it's over a decade old, the Neopets site is still running — to my amazement.
For some reason, I decided to hop back onto Neopets last night. I stopped playing the game years ago, when I was in middle school, after becoming bored of having so many 'neopoints' — the in-game currency. Stuff becomes boring when you can have it all.
How I got so many neopoints is a "funny" story. And by funny, what I really mean is awful. Having just learned the wonders of HTML, I made terrible Myspace-like websites that prompted visitors for their Neopets usernames and passwords. Then I'd log into their account and steal their neopoints.
And bless my wretched little heart, I thought I was "hacking" because hacking is cool and I knew how to make websites. I was so damn cool I lost friends to Neopets, only to eventually lose interest in the game altogether. Hah.
I decided to try to log back into that original account, but alas, mentally going through all the embarrassing usernames and emails I've had over the years couldn't help me find my account info. So, I decided to make a new account instead. Which is probably just as good, because my pets would have been starving for years and years and years — as far as I can tell, pets don't die. At least Tamagotchi die!
Username? "thisisforworkiswear," yeah, that sounds about right. Now let's choose a pet woa-
I don't remember anything like this when I was around! The lead image was what pet-choosing looked like, and that felt more personal, you know? As personal as creating a digital pet can be for the early 2000's.
What an awful UI the game has, now — clunky, overpopulated, kind of tacky. But then again, this just seems to be a 'thing' all across Neopets. When I initially visited the website, I couldn't really tell what the logic behind anything on the homepage.
Truthfully, I wasn't sure if it was just that I'm getting old and damn kids with their stupid websites. You judge. But to me most of Neopets looks like the type of website that has ads for games you'd never actually want to play.
Anyway, I went with a Meerca as a pet — see right.
And I named it datassraccoon, because, well. They're making the same face.
I don't remember having to choose stats either, but you can now. A lot has changed in a decade. Did you know there's a paid version of Neopets as well?
Naturally I wasn't about to drop some money for this shit. I was here on a mission: to prove I could make a lot of neopoints the right way. The clean way. I wanted redemption. Neopets redemption.
Easy way to do that? Play games, of course. Playing games on Neopets gives you neopoints if you choose to submit whatever score you got at the end of a game. Each game gives out a different number of neopoints depending on how easy it is to play. I remember the games being much of the draw of Neopets, but memory and nostalgia are awful liars.
Checking out the games list, I was surprised to find that most of the games I played back in the day were still around — and still popular. What?
Meerca Chase II for instance is just a reskinned version of Snake. Snake, naturally, is a classic and a load of fun — but really, in a decade, nobody has come up with a better idea that would best a snake-knockoff in popularity?
The other two top games: a slot-machine game, and a game where you use a baseball bat to hit a creature as far as you could. The baseball game involves hitting spacebar twice.
They're all horrible games, and yet I would have found them riveting as a kid, I'm sure. It makes you wonder how much you can trust about what you liked when you were younger — a few months ago, I retried Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and was saddened by how differently I remembered it. It was an amazing game in my head! Not so much in actuality.
Back to Neopets though. Beyond the Neopets games being bad mechanically — often simplistic reskins of other games — Neopets games also falter technically. It wasn't uncommon for the games to sputter and freeze for a second. And to top this all off, of course, comes the "wonderful" flash game aesthetic.
Why did Neopets explode in popularity when we were younger?
I probably wouldn't have kept playing had I not noticed a leaderboard. Then I was overtaken with a petty desire to overthrow the 10 year olds that now play the game. Mature, I know. After a couple of hours I will never, ever get back, I couldn't even come close to any of the scores. I logged off, humiliated.
Stupid flash games. Stupid 10 year old kids that are probably 22 year old kids like me logging on after years of abandoning their pets and out of a misplaced sense of nostalgia.
I came back a few hours later only to bizarrely be asked to make another pet. What the hell? Where did datassracoon go? I made him again, this time blue. I played some more Meerca Chase II because I'm old and I'm scared of new things so I stuck to what I knew (this also explains why this post is about Neopets and not the new hot thing for kids, Club Penguin.)
Eventually I got tired of that and I decided wanted to explore. I checked the world map. Nothing new. I check out the customisation options. I notice I can't make sense of anything there. Then, suddenly:
Um, what? Wait, wait, wait. Oh my god! datassraccoon was DELETED because of his name! And then I made a new pet and he was deleted too!
A pet will stay alive if you never feed or interact with it. But name it something wrong? Boom. Gone.
I just wanted to redeem myself. I wanted to make an honest living. I wanted to understand kid's fascination with a horrible game. Instead I killed two Neopets. :(
Needless to say, f**k Neopets.