Why I (Thought I) Miss(ed) Club Penguin
You guys remember Club Penguin? No? Maybe it’s because I’m 19 years old and the game came out when I was in fifth grade. Most of you reading this are adults and probably closed the tab once you saw either “Club Penguin” or “19 years old.” That’s fine. You do you; I’ll be all right. The thing is, you didn’t close the tab, you’re still reading this because you know how important it is. So please, don’t let me interrupt you from reading this very important piece that I wrote.
Did you know Club Penguin first launched in October 2005? No clue how it has managed to stick around for so long. Oh wait, yes I do: kids are dumb and loud and parents with money will absolutely dump funds into the computer if it means their little ones are satisfied and quiet, even if that satisfaction and silence is temporary. That’s how a “game” with minimal content has managed to last almost ten years without adding hardly anything to it. I honestly don’t remember enjoying it, but I do remember playing it frequently and for extended periods of time, typically by myself with none of my friends online. So yeah, I guess it is an MMO. (Note: You haven’t “played WoW” until you’ve leveled a character to 90 by yourself while your friends are at work. Now you’re playing Warcraft.) I hadn’t played Club Penguin since fifth grade, and I wanted to figure out why I played so much when I was younger. I felt like maybe I missed playing it. I did miss the blissfully carefree days of grade school, and maybe this could be my way of escaping back in time. So, I created a new account and jumped head first into the frozen, heartless, unforgiving tundra known as Club Penguin.
I first played Club Penguin when I was in fifth grade. I had a friend who was very internet savvy for a fifth grader (he was also into Unforgotten Realms, hats off if you know what that is), who wanted me to join him in being a penguin on the internet. For reasons unbeknownst to my current self, I accepted his invitation. It was my first experience with any type of online interactions, and an MMO at that. Not sure if I like to call it an MMO though. If I had to choose something that qualifies it as an MMO, it would have to be the fact that everyone goes in one spot on the map and creates white noise via text chat. Imagine Stormwind or Orgrimmar, the central hubs of each faction in World of Warcraft, filled with six to fourteen year-olds trying to have relationships with one another… as penguins. Now you don’t even have to play Club Penguin, you know exactly what the “experience” entails. Article over. Shut it down. We’re done here. End of line.
Nothing has changed, I’ll just get that out of the way now. There is still nothing to do. There are no objectives, no quests, no activities that lead the player into interactions with other players. The player doesn’t have to do anything because the game doesn’t make them do anything. You can purchase a plethora of items, ranging from outfit pieces to props, 99 percent of which you need a paid membership to obtain. Even after purchasing a membership, one has to grind money through means of various mini-games that have nothing to do with the MMO overworld, but instead take you out of the world and into some wonky flash game with loose controls and mechanics that would frustrate any kid between the ages of six and fourteen (the supposed target audience). You can make pizzas. You can catch bags of coffee. You can ride a thing down a hill. As far as “being a game” goes, that’s it.
Obviously the draw here is not the actual game part. It can’t be because that’s nonexistent. This is not a game. It’s a giant chat room that you have to put money into to get people to pay attention to the things you are trying to say. Nobody cares what the naked penguin is trying to say. Everyone pays attention to the black Stormtrooper penguin, which might I add is dumb and weird looking.
You have to pay to make friends, basically. That does not sound like something I would want my kids playing, but what do I know? I don’t have kids; I don’t even like kids. Although I do know when something is not particularly “kid friendly,” and this is one of those things. The way that this game is designed has created a caste system of sorts, and that just rubs me the wrong way for something like that to be in an MMO that is aimed towards children.
I’m getting away from myself here. Club Penguin is a giant members only chatroom. After realizing that kids don’t play this for the game part but for the chat part, I decided to try and start some discussions with the locals of whatever server I was playing on. I don’t remember what it was called, there are like 80 servers all named something related to ice or being cold. I think I might have been on Frostbite? May have been Hypothermia. Doesn’t matter. What is important is the super serious, very important, serious conversations I had with other players. Below are a few of the meaningful interactions that I had with some penguins. Never thought I would type that in my entire life. First (and hopefully only) time. I’m the brown penguin with the cool hat and cool cape, just FYI. I also have a blue “Puffle”, which is that little ball of fur that follows me around. They used to serve absolutely no purpose, but now they just give you in-game money for no reason whatsoever. So I guess that’s cool.
As you can see from the examples of my interactions with other users, I was fairly kind to people on the internet, despite them being people on the internet. Most of them were rude to me, which is sad, really, to see penguins disrespecting each other like that. Dude’s just trying to make some friends; lighten up. I got banned after about 20 minutes of playing. No idea how I got banned. It might have had something to do with me standing in a corner in the pizzeria, repeating the phrase, “Guys, this game sucks.” Regardless, the game told me I was banned for the next 24 hours, so I’m never playing Club Penguin ever again for the rest of my entire life. I actually went back a few days after to see if I could sign in, and I couldn’t. So there’s that. Turns out I did not miss Club Penguin. Who would have thought? Maybe it’s for the best. You guys ever played Runescape? Good, I don’t want to talk about it. How about Neopets? Yeah, I think we’re done here.