Virtual lives stir actual interests


POSTED: Friday, April 17, 2009

When I was in elementary school, Neopets were all the rage, and I religiously took care of mine. I bought them virtual medicines, food and toys with the virtual currency I earned by playing games or investing in the virtual stock market.






        2933 Poni Moi Road, Honolulu 96815

Phone number


Head of school
        Mahina Hugo


        Lady Panthers




Faculty adviser
        Marisa Proctor


        Rachel Wagenman




It was a mutual relationship. Neopets gave me a diversion from the real world, and I helped the company behind the Web site earn money by being an audience for its advertising sponsors.

Today the entertainment aspect of such massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) remains unchanged, but the business model that supports them has not.

Unlike Neopets, Club Penguin, a popular site aimed at people ages 6-14 where members adopt penguin avatars, boasts no advertisements, instead relying on paid subscriptions. While about 90 percent of members choose to play for free, paying members get additional perks.

Sixth-grader Sachi Enseki-Tom raved, “;My parents bought me a subscription, so now I can buy hats for my penguin! I go on Club Penguin every day!”;

Club Penguin's competitor, Webkinz, follows a similar business model. But instead of paying for a subscription directly through the Webkinz Web site, kids buy stuffed animals with unique secret codes that allow them to watch their animals come to life online.

Many members end up buying a large collection of plushies, increasing the money, number of items and rooms in their account. While Webkinz do not seem to be as popular as Club Penguin at La Pietra, Cecilia Chung, senior, explains that it is nevertheless an obsession du jour for the younger age groups.

“;My little cousin is so into Webkinz - every day, I hear her talking about a new plushie or whatever, and it's all she does after school, playing those games,”; Chung said.

It is, indeed, a fascinating phenomenon unique to our Internet-saturated generation: paying real money for essentially nonexistent goods.