Neopets, put simply, is a virtual pet website. In practice it is a whole universe. It was launched in 1999 and bought out by Viacom in 2005. Players of all ages registered for accounts, adopted their virtual pets, and entered the world of Neopia. The website allowed for layers of play — not only could you clothe, feed, and care for your pet, but you could travel the world, play flash games, read lore, and so much more. Unsurprisingly, many of the WWAC gamers were, and some still are, Neopets lovers.
What was your favorite part of Neopets?
Alenka Figa: The games! I spent way too long playing games on Neopets. I was particularly fond of this game that involved blowing up blocks (satisfying, consequence-free destruction!) and another where you were some weird little creature navigating an ice cream factory and had to dodge moving ice cream cones. I think? My memories of the games are a little fuzzy, probably because I spent so long playing them, I ruined my eyes.
Melissa Brinks: Definitely the weird site-wide events they did that required you to hunt through lines of code and find clues. I was terrible at them and only had internet access every other weekend so I could never keep up on what was happening, but it was so much fun to feel like you were really unraveling a mystery.
K. Bey: I’m not going to lie, I still go on Neopets. I was just on last week. I love the quests the most, and running my own shop. Having an excuse to play games to make neopoints was an added bonus of course.
Did you actually care for your pets? Feed them, groom them, etc?
Melissa: Rarely, unless another event called for it. When I first started the game at around 11 years old, I didn’t know that ‘dying’ didn’t mean your pet was literally dying. Realizing I didn’t have enough neopoints to keep up with my pet’s needs, I sent him off to the pound with actual tears. Imagine how silly I felt when I found out he couldn’t die. After that blatant guilt-tripping, I let them sit at ‘dying’ until the game required me to feed them to do something.
K. Bey: I did! But I have to say, I did so in the cheapest way possible (using freebies like the omelette of the day) so that I could collect and sell the other food and items I acquired in my shop. Let’s be real: business first. But I did enjoy dressing my pets up and giving them pet pets. I liked decorating their houses too.
What was your favorite game in Neopets?
K.Bey: Meerca Chase! I will still play this. It’s just such a classic snake style game. I also can spend hours playing Destruct-O-Match. I think they may have stemmed my addiction to IOS puzzle/ matching games.
Melissa: Hands down The Castle of Eliv Thade. I love anagrams and spookiness, so this game was a natural choice. It isn’t as high of a neopoint earner as many others, but I played it because I genuinely enjoyed it.
Were you invested in the lore?
Alenka: I’m going to admit here that I remember nothing about the lore, nor do I remember there being a Neopets store. I’m pretty sure I didn’t use the site to its full capabilities because I was addicted to the games. Whoops. I did learn some basic html from making a super pathetic site for my cow-pet-thing! I probably didn’t do much to actually care for my pets, either. Whoooops?
K.Bey: Oh yes, like I said, I loved completing the quests, and knowing all of the holidays with background stories about each part of Neopia. I think the lore is part of what makes Neopets so great- it helps create a more fleshed out environment to explore. I still still go back occasionally and try to complete quests, I think it’s fun and satisfying to unlock “hidden” items and maps and learn more about Neopia.
Melissa: When I first started playing, absolutely. It was a little bit easier back then because I was 11 and had more time to invest on pixel-hunting for secrets. Most of it seemed to be focused in one or two areas–the Lost Desert story-line was a big deal for me because I’ve always loved mythology, and though I wasn’t very good at actually digging for secrets, I could follow along with other people’s discoveries on the NeoBoards. As time went on (I used Neopets for a very long time), the site got more complicated, there were more concurrent events, and it just didn’t grab me the same way the murder mystery event or the Dr. Sloth stuff did.
Did you sell stuff in the Neopets stores? Basically eBay for babies?
Bey: Absolutely! Gotta get my neopoints! Using the shop feature was a great way to learn about personalization of a web page, and it was my first attempt at a mini-”business.” This was my first stab at basic html coding–I remember adding in cool features like music, background images, buttons–I think I cared more about how my shop functioned then what items I actually carried, though. To this day, I still am glad I played Neopets because it was really my first exposure to coding, and it really helped build the foundations.
Melissa: Every now and then. I would sometimes stock my shop up and then forget about it for literal months, then come back to see I’d earned like, 200 neopoints. I know I did the decorating stuff when I was a kid, but I really liked the social features more–guilds, the NeoBoards, and so on. I did all the free stuff to earn money but mostly left the shops alone. If I had something I didn’t want in my inventory, I’d usually drop it off at the giveaway tree rather than go through the trouble of listing it.
Alright, Readers, what about you? Who’s still playing Neopets?
Alenka Figa is a queer librarian obsessed with D&D podcasts that have solid queer rep. She frequently tweets about them @alenkafiga. Catch her reviews of zines and indie comics over at Women Write About Comics.