Ranking Childhood Virtual World Games

Ranking Childhood Virtual World Games

Lila Kinnick, Reporter

During my younger childhood years, I did not spend any time on social media apps or a cell phone. Instead, my time was spent on my Mom’s computer, which was the gateway to an obscene amount of internet games, my favorite being the open world and chat room games such as “Club Penguin” or Animal Jam. These games involved creating a customizable character, exploring the many activities these games had to offer, and befriending other players who also had invested way too much time creating a cool-looking virtual avatar. These types of games were incredibly popular, and, at their height, the servers had millions of players. Unfortunately, many of these games had to shut down due to the discontinuation of Adobe flash player, but luckily some are still available to download.

I decided to revisit and rank a few of the most popular childhood games based on a series of categories including their open world, backstory, communication with other players, ability to have fun without paying for a membership, and my overall enjoyment, both as a child and on revisit.

4. Webkinz
I distinctly remember going to Target, picking out a Webkinz stuffed animal toy, and instantly hopping on my mom’s computer to go on Webkinz and plug in the code into the website and witnessing my stuffed animal appear on my screen. I remember spending hours decorating my pet’s house, going to Arte’s curio shop, taking my Webkinz to school, and going to the game section. Webkinz also features a clothing shop, where I would spend hours picking out the coolest outfit for my pet. Compared to the other famous virtual world kids’ games, Webkinz is the one that was primarily targeted toward younger audiences. You could be friends with other players, but the chat was restricted to pre-determined sentences and many of the daily activities such as hunting for gems and going to the wishing well were primarily played individually. Though Webkinz did give the option to explore open-world servers with other players, Webkinz was a much more individual game. It is ranked last due to its more boring gameplay, especially on revisit. Despite Webkinz being the least exciting and the most repetitive compared to the other games, it still elicits an incredible amount of charm and has such fun gameplay regarding the decorating processes, styling your pets, making the food, and hoping your pet has the best life you could offer. It was also quite easy to get coins while playing, and Webkinz was very generous with giving you free stuff you could use to expand your Webkinz world. Like so many other games, Webkinz did have a membership that offered more mini-games and more things to do on the map. Luckily, you could still have a lot of fun at Webkinz without a membership. Overall Webkinz is a much more laid-back and relaxing virtual world game that has very little drama around it due to the inability to talk to other players. Despite its repetitiveness and boring playability, Webkinz is still a super fun and nostalgic game, and I have to commend it for its creativity and the ability to buy a stuffed animal in real life and use it as your virtual pet in-game.

3. Club penguin
Club Penguin is an incredible game. I remember being obsessed and spending hours exploring the map, going to the penguin mall, playing the countless mini-games and trying to tip the iceberg, and making friends (and enemies) at the plaza and pizza parlor. I probably talked to others players the most while on Club Penguin. The overall design of the map and locations were very charming with hand-drawn backgrounds and buildings. When I revisited the game, it seemed relatively the same as I remember, minus a few revisions to the map and location, and minus the number of players that were in one location at once, but it was just as explorable and entertaining as I remember. Club Penguin was chaotic as well and meeting new people and going to other igloos for parties and roleplaying as a robber at the penguin mall was another benefit of the game’s chat box which made it feel exciting and interactive. Despite all of the great things about Club Penguin, it does have one fatal flaw and that is the membership. Without a membership, it was nearly impossible to make any friends because there was an intense hierarchy between non-member newbies and godlike members whose parents paid 15$ a month to get their child to have access to everything Club Penguin had to offer. Without a membership, a majority of the game was off-limits to non-member players, and it was nearly impossible to customize your character beyond just the color so it was very obvious to tell who was a member and who wasn’t. The intense feud between members and nonmembers almost ruined that game for me and without it, Club penguin would be ranked higher.

2. Animal Jam
This game was by far the most chaotic and stressful game on the list, but it was so much fun. I spent the most time on this game and even for a time used some real-life money to be a member to buy the cool arctic fox for my avatar, which was the animal all of the “cool” players had, which was enhanced with wearing a spiked collar and flower crown. Though originally made by National Geographic and marketed as an educational game where players could be an animal, and explore the map which was based on real-life biomes and terrains in the world that gave players the ability to learn about different animal and plant life. Animal Jam quickly became chaotic and no one used it for its educational features. Instead, Animal Jam became a place where you could chat with other players, decorate your house and collect clothing items to make your animals look the absolute coolest, and even go to locations on the map and roleplay anything from warrior cats to school. The chat box was also not monitored as heavily as other games, so many players dated each other, roleplayed, and fought over trade disputes. There was also an unfortunate hierarchy between members and nonmembers players and though you could still collect clothing items and explore the entire map without being a member, there was a fair share of bullying non-members, which is one reason I begged my mom for membership and for a time, was one of the cool kids on AJ. Animal Jam had the most interactive and expansive map with new locations being made constantly and each one being its own unique and interactive setting with different mini-games to play. There was even an overarching story involving evil creatures called phantoms and a group of animal superheroes called alphas. There was so much stuff to do on the map. You could go on an adventure and learn about the overarching lore of the game, go to a party at someone’s den, play a warrior cat roleplay at one of the map locations, and even spend an hour trying to break the ice lake on Mt Shiver. On replay, the game was just as entertaining as ever, and they even added more updates which took me by surprise due to the decline of the URL link computer games. Looking back, I was definitely in my cringiest era while I was obsessed with Animal Jam, but these chaotic memories will forever stick with me. If it wasn’t for the unfortunate membership hierarchy and inability to be a cool animal without paying 15$ a month, this game would be at the top of my list.

From the endless customization, entertaining common rooms, and incredibly different islands, this game is virtually perfect. Poptropica involves your character traveling around in a big yellow blimp and exploring the different islands, all with a different story that you have to play through and solve the mystery of each island. Each island was super unique, entertaining, and had its own vibe. There was an island where you had to stop a Zombie apocalypse, an island where you traveled the world hunting for cryptids, and even one where you were a detective in Paris and had to solve the mystery behind a missing famous painting. Each island was like its own mini world and the mystery was so fun to solve. The stories never dumbed the player down and each one was quite challenging. The stories behind the islands were actually super deep and had plots better than some movies. I remember audible gasping at discovering who the criminal was or finding a secret room on another island. These islands are also connected and have deep lore with each other and an overarching story. When I saw the villain from 24 Carrot Island on Super Villain island, I was flabbergasted. For this process, I even revisited my old account and tried to complete Astro Knights Island, which was even now super hard. I have no idea how my little 10-year-old brain was able to complete it. Poptropica also had a membership system but compared to the other games, you still had many options regarding customization options and island exploration, so even if you didn’t have a membership the game was just as fun. Poptropica was the game for adventurous and curious kids and is the one that I have the fondest memories of. Poptropica was and continues to be the best virtual world for kids.

Though most of these games are targeted at children, I encourage you to revisit at least a few of these games for yourself and bear witness to a wave of nostalgia the second you open the browser tab.