An Ode to Neopets

One afternoon, when I was around eight years old, I ran up to my parents crying. Without knowing the consequences, I had fed my green Lupe a poisoned omelet, and he had gotten very sick. The cure for my Neopet’s illness was much more expensive than I could afford.

This was an earth-shattering, devastating catastrophe.

I spent the greater portion of my childhood playing Neopets. We weren’t much of a Nintendo family, and I didn’t like any of the games my brother had on his PlayStation 2. Computer games and online websites were my preferred forms of gaming. And while I loved Roller Coaster Tycoon and the Sims as much as the next kid, nothing, in my mind, compared to Neopets.

What first drew me in as a young kid were the “animals” that I got to care for. Back then, I fancied myself an aspiring veterinarian (I laugh at this now) and thought that feeding and playing with virtual pets three times a day would be the perfect training for my future career. I, of course, adopted a Lupe, a wolfish creature, because of my love for dogs. I was also partial to the Shoyru, a dragon-like animal with huge, adorable eyes.

I had strayed away from Tamagotchi, a similar virtual pet platform because I knew that they would eventually die and that I wouldn’t be able to handle the grief. But Neopets never died. If you forgot to feed them or if they got sick, their icon would just change to a sad, tearful face. That’s why my Neopet’s sudden illness had rattled me so much. I, the ever-sensitive elementary schooler, didn’t want to stare at his pathetic face.

I became so hooked on the website mostly because of the games. Neopets has over a hundred games, all of which earn the user “Neopoints.” And let me tell you, those games were addicting, especially because the Neopoints can be saved up to buy food and toys for the user’s Neopets. But it didn’t stop there: users could buy houses and furnish them lavishly, open storefronts and sell found items for ridiculously high prices, and purchase coveted paintbrushes that painted their Neopet’s coat a rare color. I’m pretty sure that Neopets taught me a lot more about the financial world than any of my schooling did. I opened up a bank account that earned ample interest, played the stock market, and dabbled in gambling.

Neopets obviously became less “cool” after a while. In elementary school, all of my peers and I played Neopets together. We talked about our virtual pets on the bus rides home and collected all of the trading cards. In middle school, however, I became afraid to admit my still strong obsession for the website.

But it wasn’t just the games and the “animals” that kept me stuck to the website. As I got older, I discovered new layers to the Neopets world that I never appreciated when I was younger. I learned about Neopets lore, like the famous battle between Meridell and the Darigon Citadel, the arrival of the evil Dr. Sloth, or the ruin of Faerieland. I collected hidden treasure map pieces and went on secret quests. I joined guilds and made online friends. Neopets became exciting, much more than a simple website that offered simple games.

I even had stories published in the Neopian Times. I’m especially proud of my nine-part series that told the backstory of the infamously feuding Faeries, Illusen and Jhudora (it was basically a rip-off of Wicked, but we can overlook that). I worked on my stories non-stop, treating them as if I would treat the next Great American Novel. I received fan mail and custom illustrations for my stories. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to famous.

I’m not going to lie, even though it’s been years since I’ve visited the Neopets website, I cannot help but experience that irresistible urge to log in as I am writing this article. The website is still functional, though I can’t even imagine how much it’s changed. I miss that expensive world, one filled with foolish kings and pirates and haunted mazes. I feel an almost physical ache of nostalgia as I write about it.

But I guess nostalgia is a good thing. It means that I dedicated my childhood to something so exciting that even the thought of it still makes my heart race. It may sound silly, but my memories of Neopets are some of the fondest I have ever had. I loved that world, and though I am sad that I have permanently left it, I will never forget how much it affected me.

 

Image Credit: Neopets.com