|Genre||Massively multiplayer on-line game with massively budget-busting structure.|
|Users||500 million registered users, about 9 of which are old enough to get a work permit, if the game left them any free time.|
Poptropica is an online role-playing game owned by Pearson PLC and aimed at players from ages 6 to 15. It is just one of many ways to get young tykes to steal their parents' credit card and type the number into the Internet.
Poptropica was created in September 2007 by Jeff Kinney. The impetus to create yet another on-line role-playing game is that his rather more famous cousin, J.K. Rowling, had invented the Harry Potter franchise, and Kinney's invitations, even to family reunions, were becoming less and less frequent. Although Kinney sought to avoid stereotype as the basement dweller of the extended family, he in fact cemented the role during the debugging stages of the game.
Three aspects of the game distinguish it from other Internet endeavors:
- Virtually all of its users are below the Age of Majority and a working majority are below the Age of Reason.
- Nearly no accomplishment in the game is particularly important, and most are not even important within the game.
- There are an unprecedented number of decisions, actions, and acquisitions that require a positive cash balance.
Once a character has been outfitted, Poptropica offers the player a chance to win an "island," which the player does by traveling to an "island." English-speaking players enjoy their advantage over foreign kids, who cannot figure out why the game uses a simple word to mean so many things. Except for the Nigerian kid, whose Dad has that famous, huge bank account.
In 2011, Poptropica began letting players return to islands and undergo the same adventure multiple times, as long as their account still has a positive balance.
The first preoccupation of a Poptropica player, after establishing a payment method, is acquiring a character for use in the game. Character names are generated by computer from lists of nouns and adjectives, in the interest of user safety. Nondescript names like Thunder Hippo, Pert Spheres, and Heroic Snatch are guarantees against cyberbullying and other abuse of users. Moreover, players do not use their real names in the game, provided they use real money.
The game also generates an avatar for the players. These can be customized immediately or while playing, by changing attributes such as skin color. Indeed, as corporation psychologists know that most players from the inner-city are mortified to have a white avatar, these players make a quick initial investment to darken their avatar and usually to have it wear its crotch around the knees.
Players can interact with one another in multiplayer rooms. However, even though there is nothing about a player that another player can abuse, the game also provides that there is no way to be abusive, because players cannot actually type to one another but only select pre-written messages to send to other players. None of these messages include abusive language, not even the ones you need when you meet a real jack-ass. Typical pre-written messages include the following:
- Let's go on a challenge together!
- I like your hairdo!
- I'll tell you the punch line to that joke, for only two dollars!
Once a player identifies himself with his avatar, he is hooked and will spend a king's ransom outfitting it. The avatar, for not quite one day's take-home pay, can acquire any of the following:
- The ability to smile so that everyone else doesn't think the player is a total bitch, and
- Clothing to conceal the avatar's initial, profound under-endowments.
The avatar can then be taken to the Poptropica Store for some heftier purchases, such as actual fashion.
Players can endow their character with additional powers for, you guessed it, just a little more hard scratch. These powers include the abilities to:
- Chew bubble gum
- Fit through a keyhole
- Resist repulsor rays and have lazor eyes
When it's all overEdit
The successful Poptropica player receives the following rewards:
- Permanent memories of the people and places experienced on the "island," none of which actually exist.
- A realistic-looking medallion. The fact that it doesn't entitle the player to drive a taxi doesn't matter, as the typical player won't be able to drive until some time next decade.
- A discount for purchases at the Poptropica Store, which is something like the supermarket having a sale on peanut butter and hosing you on the price of the bread.
The common element in all of these achievements is that nobody cares. Nobody except the accountants at Poptropica, and all the other Poptropica players. For both groups, the result is a pwnage more total than anything one can achieve outside the game; and the only cost is all your money and all your time.