Campus Life wenbo’s walks

Skinny Cactus is a puffle-crazy penguin

Prince Charming is a blue puffle, confirmed

9399 whitepuffle
I imagine Snowball is still out there somewhere, playing happily in the puffle afterlife, watched over by a loving snowman god.
Joanna Lin–The Tech

I can’t remember the last time I logged into Poptropica.

Actually, I can. It was about 20 seconds ago. But of course, what I meant was the last time before deciding to write this article. In other words, the last time I actually played it unironically. How many times am I allowed to repeat “the last time,” editor? (Editor’s note: the answer, quoth the raven, is “nevermore.”)

I’m surprised I still remember my username and password. I can’t disclose what either one is, however, for… um… security reasons. It’s totally not because my password is a sequence of all-lowercase no-space words that form an embarrassing sentence or anything.

Honestly, I’m more surprised my login still works. Like, does Poptropica never expect its players to grow up? How much data do inactive accounts take up in storage? 

Well, I know next to nothing about how online storage works, so I won’t embarrass myself out of an “abundance of caution” for my future self. If that quote sounds familiar, I’ll have y’all know that I only borrow quotes affectionately.

Anyways, all this forever-young Peter Panning is somewhat endearing too, depending on how you look at it. I suppose.

Did I just invent “Peter Panning”? I’m like Shakespeare, making up phrases left and right, but I’m just much worse at, you know, the writing, the tragedy, and the being talented stuff.

I’m not sure how familiar my general readership is with Poptropica, so I’ll summarize. It’s a 2D adventure-style game with different mysteries or storylines centered around stages termed “islands.” The player travels in a blimp to visit them.

Shame on the player for not practicing social distancing, though. Literally one of the islands has a zombie outbreak. That entire island is under quarantine. Do you really need to be visiting Reality TV Island right afterwards?

Yikes. I guess becoming rich and famous is more important than the livelihoods of the general population, amirite?? The answer to that question, of course, is like that TWICE song, but instead of “YES or YES” we have a big fat “NO or NO.”

Poptropica always randomizes player names when accounts are made. Mine’s “Skinny Cactus.” I’m obviously not a “Cactus,” but the fact of “Skinny” remains a daily body image battle whenever I look at myself in the mirror. Wow. That got dark. Whoops, can’t let my past pollute the future… as a wise me once said two weeks ago.

The whole game has migrated to a new interface, presumably due to Adobe Flash’s phase-out. Hmmm… it seems I can no longer access the older, and objectively better, islands since they haven’t been remade in this new system. That’s a bit sad.

Skinny Cactus is still dressed in a puppy costume, though, which was the last thing I changed him into. I’m glad that they’ve at least kept a record of some of my childhood.

But am I glad though? Should I even be reminded that I wanted to have bright green hair when I was still Skinny Cactus? Ehhh, probably not, actually. I’m more a reddish-pink hair kind of guy, to be honest.

Well, being the uncertain optimist that I am, at least losing access to Zomberry Island means that its virulence can no longer infect innocent Poptropicans living on other islands, I guess?

I log out. I’m sorry, Jeff Kinney, creator of Poptropica and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I’ve grown up and moved on, something Skinny Cactus and Greg Heffley will never understand. 

By “grown up” I of course mean “gotten taller,” as my parents exclaimed when I got home this time around. My relatives too, somehow, over FaceTime, as if one could tell over video chat.

I haven’t grown. I know because my head still lines up with the previous pencil mark on the dining room wall. I’m surprised I didn’t shrink, to be frank.

Despite my momentary disillusionment with Poptropica, I can’t wait to get back into Club Penguin. Until I realize that it got shut down last year. Or no, was that two years ago? Lemme quickly Wikipedia this…

Twenty-seventeen? But that final goodbye only felt like yesterday! Oh my god. If only quarantine time could pass this quickly…

So, I do the next best thing. I go to the Club Penguin Online reboot and attempt to log in with my old username. Even though I loved Club Penguin a lot more than Poptropica when I was younger, I appear to have forgotten the password.

Moral of that story? None other than I just have a very… erm… selective long-term memory, to put it nicely.

It’s okay though, because my username Funfun746 appears to have been purged from the system once the original Club Penguin was shut down. Great. I make a new account and wander into the pet shop in the Plaza.

To be fair, despite the username, I wasn’t a particularly “fun” penguin. I just also wasn’t particularly creative in fourth grade. Additionally, “loved” might have been an inaccurate portrayal of how I felt about the game. I didn’t just love it. I was infatuated.

But seriously though, I was obsessed. And I can’t walk away from that past. I’m reminded of it every time I see The Ultimate Official Guide to Club Penguin on my bookshelf. Ah, the inexplicable joys of buying overpriced things at elementary school book fairs and regretting it later.

But reentering the pet shop brings back all my glorious memories of the game.

I was literally the coolest kid on the server. I had every puffle I could own without paying for a membership (read: a red one named Cannonball and a blue one named Fluffy). I even completed most of the tasks required for the brown puffle quest before being informed by a rude pop-up that I needed “membership” to adopt one.

Okay capitalism. You win. 

Actually, do you? Club Penguin capitalism is a bit odd, since without paying for membership, you can’t even spend the coins you earn in-game on anything you actually want. Whatever. It’s a police state controlled by the elite (literally called the Elite Penguin Force) disguised as a fun kids’ game. Nothing matters anyways.

One day in middle school, I mowed a lawn and earned a few bucks. Having worked my way up to the top of the economic ladder of 13-year-olds in the neighborhood, I subscribed to a month of membership. It was my moment to shine, because with membership, even when it expires, you still get to keep all your puffles. 

I felt like Cinderella with her time-dependent glory, minus the glass slippers and the handsome but otherwise uninteresting, undercooked, and extremely problematic Prince Charming. Whew. That last bit was a mouthful.

Immediately, with the coins I had stashed up, I went ahead to adopt all the puffles in the pet shop and finished all the quests in the game required for the gold and rainbow puffles. 

They were adorable. I liked Snowball, my white puffle, the best because of its small size. I took it on walks all the time. This week’s column should just be renamed “Snowball’s Walks.” (Editor’s note: no.)

I even downloaded and played the Club Penguin Candy Crush parody for tens of hours to get the deer, racoon, rabbit, and unicorn puffles.

But a problem soon arose. I had too many puffles, and I became emotionally distant to them (except you, Snowball, I miss you). They became things I wanted to have for the sole purpose of collecting them. That reminds me of Pokémon a bit, but that’s another matter.

I didn’t care anymore about their unique personalities, like the orange one’s goofiness, the purple one’s pickiness, or the blue one’s genericness (a bit like Prince Charming, I might interject).

And so, as the puffles drifted further and further from me, I too drifted away from the game. The next and final time I saw them was on doomsday, March 29, 2017. I will never forget when we all tried one last time to tip the iceberg at midnight.

I’m tearing up. Oh no, whatever shall I do to preserve my fragile masculinity?

I know! I’ll repair it with an anvil and experience points in Minecraft! But that’s a whole other story.

Since Minecraft is technically more “walkable” than either Poptropica or Club Penguin, I’ll go ahead and defer that walk to a later time, much like how COVID-19 deferred everyone this semester to Zoom University. 

Regardless, I feel like leaving Minecraft an entire article to shine is best because then I can really get into the nitty-gritty about what it took to get me into the game, and why I never quit it. 

Indeed, whenever I build a house, I feel like George Washington, the first (and final) president of my own Minecraft single-player destiny.

I dedicate this week’s #deep questions to the Club Penguin developers. Is it possible to resurrect a puffle? Will I have to sell my soul to get Snowball back? Most importantly, are you ever going to release a gray puffle?