Neopets Is Coming Back, So These Classic Sites Should Too
Let's bring back dress up games, Club Penguin and Sandwich Stacker too!
Neopets is coming back. The popular millennial Web 2.0 gaming website is getting a reboot. But why stop there?
It’s 2005. You’ve just dropped your schoolbag in your room. The air is a little cooler on the sweat patch left by your bag as you kick off your shoes, head over to the family computer, and open Internet Explorer. The dial-up connection gurgles and sputters in beeps and vibrations until, finally, the homepage loads. You click that big yellow star, open your favourites and scroll down, and then click. Someone calls out that you have homework, or chores, but that’s later-you’s problem because now, it’s time to tend to your virtual, oddly coloured critter. It’s Neopets time.
Neopets was launched in 1999 as a free online virtual pet game where users could experience caring for an array of creatures and earn neo-points and coins for doing so. Users could also message one another and add other users as friends, marking Neopets as one of the earliest sites with social networking functions. The site reached peak usership in the mid-’00s when the brand had expanded into PlayStation games, merchandise, and even meal deals at Maccas.
Usage began to drop off in the early ’10s and by 2017, Neopets was reporting only 100,000 users. The site was never taken down, but many classic elements ceased to function after Adobe discontinued support for Flash.
Like so many elements of childhood, you might think the Neopets of yore is gone forever. Well, last month, Neopets announced that it would be making a $4 million comeback. The classic site’s functionality will be restored, the design updated. The restored homepage and classic games are already live.
“To be honest, nostalgia is definitely one thing,” Dominic Law, CEO of the new World of Neopia, Inc., told The Verge when asked why Neopets was being revived. That’s great news for Neopets, but shouldn’t we also resurrect these other Web 2.0 Flash game gems? (Yes, we should.)
While a fan-made and funded revival of the classic Club Penguin website exists, the original site is long gone. Personally, I never played it, but I knew so many people who did and I’d be remiss not to mention it. The virtual world game in which users explored an open world map as penguin avatars featured multiple multiplayer Flash games for users. Sadly, the site was discontinued in 2017. RIP.
Much like Neopets, Stardoll wasn’t killed so much as it was zombified by the discontinuation of Adobe Flash. The site operated as an online paper-doll dress-up studio, allowing users to build communities around fashion and design. Stardoll built on the concept of the ’00s Barbie.com games (which I am shocked haven’t been restored given the current Barbiemania). I miss the version of the internet where I could fantasise about dressing nice and building a cute house in fun and for-free way.
‘Wonka Sweet Tarts (3D)’
This one might be a deep cut, but a crucial portion of my childhood was spent collecting Sweet Tarts as a bubble on a 3D course. In fact, this game was so addictive at my primary school, people would gather around the bulky off-white library computer monitors to watch others play. Now, it’s completely vanished.
The Classic Disney Channel Online Games
Whether you had Foxtel or not, you were playing Disney Channel online games at school in the ’00s. Anybody else remember the Lilo & Stich: Sandwich Stacker[NB1]? Or the Kim Possible: A Stitch in Time game? I have so many memories of rushing to the library to nab a computer so I could play Zack & Cody’s Tipton Trouble Flash game. While the games have been preserved on emulator archives like this one, I think Disney should spare a few of their billions to revive the innocent fun of stacking virtual sandwiches.
‘Miniclip’ (And Friends)
Miniclip was a one-stop shop for tons of Flash games (Monster Truck Nitro Tour was a particular favourite of mine). The site still exists, but many of its popular Flash games from the ’00s — like Monster Truck Nitro Tour, Bush Royal Rampage, Raft Wars, etc — are only available through archived emulators. Aside from Miniclip, other Flash game sites like Newgrounds, Addicting Games, and Yahoo! Games played a vital role in developing the foundation of online gaming culture. But where are they now?
To quote Bo Burnham in his hit song, ‘Welcome To The Internet’, “It wasn’t always like this.” The internet used to be a place where everyone could have safe gaming fun. But with the takeover of social networking, advertising, and the loss of Adobe Flash, so much of the fun and customisable creativity that users could engage with during the early internet is becoming part of the distant past. Perhaps the revival of Neopets will recapture one small feature from a simpler online time.
Merryana Salem (they/them) is a proud Wonnarua and Lebanese–Australian writer, critic, teacher and podcaster on most social media as @akajustmerry. If you want, check out their podcast, GayV Club where they yarn about LGBTIQ media. Either way, they hope you ate something nice today.