Thank You, Neopets
Written on March 9th, 2016
Ah, Neopets. So much of my childhood was spent on this site raising my own virtual pets and creating complex, detailed personalities for each one. When I was in early grade school my neighbor introduced me to this community and I fell in love right away; I could spend hours on the message boards and games and petpages of this world, meeting people with similar interests and letting my creative side flourish. My parents used to joke that I was a “computer addict” even before I was out of elementary school, but the truth is I wasn’t really addicted to the computer – I was just addicted to Neopets.
It seems a little embarrassing looking back, to be honest. Sometimes I can’t believe I spent so much time obsessing over pixels when there are countless other things to do while growing up. But despite that little bit of shame, I’m so thankful that Neopets gave me a platform to explore my creativity and allowed me to develop expansive passions and interests that I may never have realized without it. I have no regrets about my time spent as a part of this world.
It was Neopets that inspired my first coding endeavor. Each pet you own gets their own petpage – kind of like its own miniature website that you can use for whatever you want. You were able to go in and edit the HTML and CSS of these pages in order to customize them, and the possibility fascinated me. Before long I was scouring the message boards for coding help, I was discovering Neopets-themed coding websites, and I was trying my hand at designing my own things. It was rough at first, I’ll be honest (and Neopets really limits the kinds of code you can use because of all of their regulations) but eventually I grew and was able to build, from scratch, petpages I felt proud of.
It was a similar story with graphic design. Nepets is the reason I first downloaded a free photoshop editor (paint.NET, one I actually still use at times today). I wanted to customize my pages even further, to create more complex designs, to embellish the lives of my pets with greater beauty. At first I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I was fortunate to be able to look up to a strong community of talented designers that frequented the site. I learned from their expertise and my design abilities slowly but steadily grew. Before long I had launched my own website outside of the Neopets world – it was named after a stuffed dinosaur my fifth grade best friend and I shared, and it mainly supplied Neopets-themed graphics and designs. At this point my coding and design abilities were still extremely rudimentary, but I was proud nonetheless. I felt like I had discovered this special world on the internet, this tightly-knit community of young designers who were eager to learn and share their work, and it was immensely beneficial to my development. I will never forget those first friends I made as we explored the web design world together. They helped make me who I am today.
Moreover, my writing grew because of Neopets. I had always enjoyed journaling and crafting short stories, but my passion for words didn’t really take off until I became invested in the Neopets world. I felt inspired to write stories for my pets, to develop their characters into complex beings, to share about them on the message boards. There was one specific board that really opened my mind; it was dedicated to writing and on it countless individuals talked about their aspirations to become authors and have their work published, and it was the first time I started to think that a future in writing might be possible for me. I regularly submitted work to the weekly Neopets newspaper, I participated in writing contests on the message boards, and I began to find that stringing together pieces of the English language to create something greater than the sum of its parts was something I was really, truly, insanely passionate about. I’m sure that I would have realized I liked writing eventually, but without Neopets speeding up the process I probably wouldn’t have written a complete novel by the end of fourth grade.
More than anything, Neopets gave me a voice. It was a community where I felt like I was heard and appreciated, and I felt that I could be creative in whatever way I wanted. It was liberating as a nerdy little kid to be able to share my thoughts with the world and feel like they mattered. I could invent whatever complex stories and designs my brain could think of. I could reach out to others who shared the same interests. I could discover who I was in a safe, essentially risk-free zone. I could be me, and it was amazing.
Neopets has truly been fundamental to my growth, and even though I’ve outgrown virtual pets I will still always remember Neopia with fondness. I appreciate the amazing insights this game gave me into myself and the world around me, and I encourage every young person to find a place where they feel just as empowered and accepted as I did on Neopets.com.
So thank you, Neopets. I truly wouldn’t be where I am today – majoring in marketing and graphic design, compiling a writing portfolio, reaching out to countless people – if it weren’t for you. You are more than just a game. And in my heart I will always be a Neopian.