After class the other day I checked my phone to see this message from my best friend:
"A dude is playing club penguin ahead of me in Spanish class, I think our generation will be 40 and still checking up on their Webkinz."
Her text also included his username which was blackmail worthy, but I decided not to expose him in case somehow his parents found out it was him, he wouldn't have to be the least favorite family member at Thanksgiving.
"$30,000 a year and (whatever his name is) is sitting in class playing F*CKING Club Penguin!?", says his Mom in response to a great aunt inquiring about his major.
I have no intention of ruining peoples' precious holiday memories, so I'll entertain you with the fact that my username was MarioLpez, because the full Lopez was taken and Mario(we are on a first name basis of course) was my celebrity crush circa 2007ish.
I typed back "lol" and was truly laughing out loud. She had a point. Was it possible that these games have followed us into semi-adulthood? Should this kid put his Club Penguin leaderboard status on his resume? And for those of us who have retired our usernames, how quickly would we fall back into the trap of the beautifully crafted virtual world if given the chance?
I decided to call her since her making me laugh made me miss her. In discussing the stupidity of our age group, I hypothesized that if people who grew up in the '80s had laptops and stuff in college that maybe they would've been playing Pac-Man in the middle of their classes too. At first, I thought the kid she told me about didn't set us apart or wasn't truly distinct to our generation, but that thinking led me to my next point: Pac Man and Club Penguin are two different animals. Pac-Man is fun and can be addicting, but there is no real need to check in every day. Growing up with Club Penguin and Webkinz taught our generation responsibility, except it was responsibility regarding a totally fake world.
Take this kid from my friend's class for example: he is more concerned with feeding his penguin, earning coins and adopting puffles than paying attention in a level three COLLEGE level Spanish class. But this is understandable(sort of). We grew up with games that were so realistic (okay maybe not cause this one, in particular, was about colorful penguins who made an income), but it felt really real. If you were a kid growing up in the 2000s, you know exactly what I mean. That adrenaline rush during the Club Penguin ice fishing game was a high like no other.
I think the allure of these games was the simulation of being a grownup, even if you were a penguin or a Webkinz. The objectives were to make money and live the life you've always imagined. It was a continuation of make-believe playing house that stretched into our pre-teen years(and apparently college for some people). You could create your perfect igloo if you worked hard enough at the pizza place game, and one trip to the Wishing Well on Webkinz could solve all your problems.
Maybe you didn't have the nicest clothes in real life, but you did on Webkinz (especially if you just made bank while playing Cash Cow). This was the programming of our childhood so it's no wonder that our colleges are offering seminars in "adulting". We don't want to be adults, we want to be penguins!