Earlier this month, I jokingly said to anyone who would listen that we should all get back on Neopets as a way to kill all this new free time. The thing is, I wasn’t really joking. Neopets, the online virtual pet website popularized by preteens of the early 2000s, is a highlight of my childhood, as I abandoned my Tamagotchi in favor of feeding endless omelettes to virtual bunnies, unicorn-pegasus hybrids, and something called a Chia.
On Neopets, the Flash-based website created in 1999, users can create and name their own pet, selecting from a handful fantasy creatures, and take care of their pets by playing games, purchasing food, and exploring new landscapes in the world of Neopia. We started bank accounts for our Neopoints, where we would collect interest every day and invested that hard-earned currency in a fake stock market. We taught ourselves HTML to make sure we could code the cutest backgrounds for our pages, complete with custom blinking cursors. We even gave our own Neopets their own pet, aptly called Petpets. What an existence.
But with the impending cutoff of Adobe Flash -- the program that runs Neopets’ games -- looming over the website at the year's end, it’s unclear if Neopets will survive the remainder of this year. Neopets’ Twitter account remains active, and allegedly, a mobile game in the works, as well as a TV series, but the site's owners have yet to share a blueprint for how the world of Neopia will exist past 2020, especially in its current web iteration. So this very well might be our last chance to spend time on the Neopets we know and love.
During my obsessive Neopets phase that began in 2002 -- when I was in second grade -- and lasted well into my middle school years, I ran a guild devoted to other horse girls where we role-played owning horses and obsessed over books to collect and read to my pets. The only thing I worried about in Neopia was completing the quests I was tasked with by faeries, the strategically stationed arbiters of the game. So I asked myself: how would the experience of Neopets hold up in 2020 compared to the excitement of being online and caring for a virtual pet back in, say, 2004?
I logged back onto one of my old accounts, shocked to find that I could still get through. Everything was almost as I remembered: Flash games, creative and weird foods, like a black currant omelette or a fish-shaped berry, to feed your pets, and seemingly endless fantasy worlds to explore. If anything, some of the Flash had been updated: Faerieland is dressed in ugly hues of purple and green now, instead of the former pastel pinks and tacky fuchsia. Tyrannia, of the original destinations users could visit, no longer looks like a blank plateau but is instead vaguely jungly. Mystery Island is the same: somewhat problematic in its references to pacific islander culture.