IN THE VIRTUAL PET MATRIX
I have been digging and digging and digging. Some might already be tired of me blabbering about what my pet turned into yesterday and what concept I try to reference by putting some arbitrary pixel mess on this and that creature. I live in a matrix that has led me into the wildest adventures through the internet. On many walks, I stumble over the thought of just writing out my experiences with virtual pet sites. Why that is, I am unsure of, yet there is an urge to talk about what makes this very niche genre of the internet very enjoyable.
A brief introduction to virtual pet sites usually includes the definition of what a pet actually is. It's usually a little critter that users can adopt and call their own. Classic implementations include the possibility to interact with it by feeding and playing with it and with its rise in popularity and a very intricate style of artwork, forums became a cult following. Users got the oportunity to express themselves through their pets by customizing their appearance and styling their own little webpages that could be hosted through very convenient over the pet site domain and a cute little ~tag. One would think about what your pets might like or dislike which gave roleplaying a new face. Virtual pet sites would include fun flash games to earn currencies and focus on the aspect of trading items for profit. Over the years, unfortunately, interest faded, yet a core fan base persists with thriving and diverse communities that could provide a safer space for minorities that could feel validated through the sites' art and representation. Of course, this came with a grain of salt as not every virtual pet site was an inclusive one which led to a multitude of drama which we will not address.
I am fairly new to the world of virtual pet sites. Only one year from now, I clicked my way through some videos and quickly found myself immersed in the most interesting communities. Not like many other kids, I was unaware of the Neopets hype because of the language barrier. My internet life has been very limited to the German interpretations of international media. We were on sites like Spickmich which was a social media platform for students to poke each other, do personality quizzes and play with their pet hamster. When Facebook was a thing, we jumped over to SchuelerVZ and Jappy which had their own stigmata going in our communities. While they definitely followed the idea of MySpace, we rarely talked about anything not German. To no surprise, those places do not exist anymore while Zuck munched up all the internet, which rendered my journey quite uneventful. Finding out about the old English-speaking internet was exciting, and that’s why I would love to share my thoughts about the intriguing communities of virtual pet sites.
I will be blunt, this will be a wild ride for me. Putting my riddled thoughts into blog posts while remaining more-or-less analytical through the process, I try to find a pet site narrative that suits my own beliefs as a computer science person. I love to code cool things, and making art is something that will always be dear to my heart. When these things collide, I have no choice but to indulge. We will take a look at the most prominent sites like Subeta and FlightRising while taking a side road to Strudel Café, Sylestia and Moderneopets. I will not be going over the original Neopets since of all the pet sites out there, it is by far the most dysfunctional. On this journey, I will write up some notes about my conclusions and how they might change throughout my arguments. To prevent my mind from going absolutely nuts, I will limit myself to talking about the sites’ systems closely related to virtual pets.
While I do have a certain order in mind, feel free to shoot me some pet sites that you love! I am always very happy to talk about others' experiences. Maybe the things resonate with you, or maybe they don’t. This topic is such a diverse and intriguing one, and me talking about it non-stop is a desperate call for attention. Just writing up these first sentences made me very happy, and I just can’t help but find myself thinking about the many things I would love to talk about.
So please take the pill. This matrix is a convoluted one.