From ages 11-12, I came home after school and commandeered the family Dell. I hogged the phone line to play Neopets, an online combination of Pokemon and the Sims. I had four virtual pets that ate, read books and traveled Neopia to gamble and play games. Despite what my parents thought, I was learning valuable life lessons from this pretend world.
1. British English is a different language. British entrepreneurs started the website that they later sold to Viacom for $160 million dollars. My superior sixth grade english knowledge thought that they spelled "colour" wrong until learning that in fact, they just spell things weird. I also learned about "guilds", which an American website would have called "fancy clubs." This comes in handy when reading Shakespeare, watching the Oscars and reading The Guardian.
A Christmas Zafara
2. Basic HTML. I owned one of these guilds/fancy clubs. Using google and fellow members, I learned how to change the font size and color for different information on my homepage. I also learned how to add a separate, linked web page and then change its background using templates from the web and how to manipulate images. This was useful when I created a MySpace years later and working for a news website today.
3. Hard work pays off. The work equivalent in Neopia was playing games. There were over 100 games that required skills like memorization, fast reflexes, and neopets trivia. Instead of money you earned "neopoints" which you then used to buy food (even though your pet never died), paintbrushes (yes you could paint your pet a different colour), petpets (a pet for your pet) and even petpetpets (a pet for your petpet). You could play the games up to three times a day and often the return was barely enough to get by. Paintbrushes and petpetpets were for the rich. When working at minimum wage throughout the years, I remember my many hours playing Meerca Chase and eventually having enough neopoints to paint my Zafara Christmas colour. One day I hope to use my money to buy a car. Or a house. Or another adult purchase.
The stock market representative
4. The stock market is the way to wealth. I remember asking a member of my guild how he got enough neopoints to paint all of his pets special colours. Obviously an adult playing in a child's fantasy, he told me that he gained enough neopoints for a paintbrush every day from the stock market. I tried it out and gained 10 points when the price of Water Faeries increased. But I pulled out my stocks after a short time--the games were much more satisfying. As a college student I still don't entirely understand the stock market, but I do know that it makes you rich.
5. The reality of coup d'etat. My neopets downfall occurred when the Vice Minister of my guild accused me of stealing the contest donations from other members. Despite my protests, he reported me to the Neopets police and my account was shut down. I lost everything, including my beloved pets. I logged on to my little brother's account to see that he-who-must-not-be-named was dubbed Prime Minister, had received all of the donations, and that everyone hated me. This tragic incident taught me that leadership positions are overrated. Unless you are putting them on college applications.
Looking back, I see that Neopets shaped who I am today. It was worth every sibling rivalry, every parental discipline, and even every time I was called a n00b.