Disclaimer: I have chosen not to use sources for this blog entry, and refer to all incidents/stories described in the following blog entry as “rumors”, to protect those people involved and their right to their opinions about The Neopets Team, Neopets Virtual Worlds and Viacom.
When I joined the Neopets website, I was 13 years old. Back then, Neopets had a sidebar, no advertisements, the games room was only four categories with a Cybunny holding the “puzzles” sign, Faerieland was still in the sky and Lutari Island didn’t exist. The objective of Neopets was to take care of your Neopets, and you could have up to four of them. You could go with a Cybunny, which is really just a cute looking bunny, or take a more daring approach and create an Aisha, an alien cat with four ears. All you had to do was feed them, and they’d be fine. You could choose to groom them for contests, play with them to improve their happiness, and even paint them with a special paint brush to change their “color”. You literally could turn a an Aisha which was all yellow, into a RAINBOW Aisha. I mean, wouldn’t you just love it if you could do that to your fellow humans? Just adopt some black person and paint them with a “Caucasian” paint brush.
Okay, I don’t think The Neopets Team ever intended a racial undertone with the paint brush system. And every website has its problems. This is why Neopets has rules that if broken, result in a punishment. Back in the old days of Neopets, if you broke the rules they didn’t freeze your account like they do now. Instead, you just lost your neopoints, had your pets’ statistics set to zero and if I remember correctly, lost your trophies too. If you spent hours upon days upon months earning those things, and lost them, like most gamers you’d rage quit. It never happened to me, but at age 13, it was plenty of a deterrent from breaking the rules. Nowadays you just get your account frozen, and you have the option to appeal to get your account back. Some people deserve to have their accounts frozen. Some people however, have had their accounts frozen for unfair reasons. Allow me to share those stories with you.
A young boy, who we’ll call Tom, had a species of Neopet called a Tonu. He had painted his Tonu with a paint brush, and it had taken him a very long time to get that paint brush. So one day, he goes onto the website’s message board and starts talking to a group of boys. One of these boys sent Tom a food item, so Tom fed it to his Tonu. Then his Tonu turned into a standard yellow Tonu, and lost it’s painted color. When he asked this boy why they sent him an item that would do that, they all laughed at him, and reported his account. Tom’s account was frozen simply because it was reported multiple times.
Another story I heard recently is a grandmother who uses the site, had gotten extremely good at a very difficult game called Bouncy Supreme. I promise you, I am horrifyingly bad at this game. The objective is to “bounce” from one platform to the next to get yourself more time to continue bouncing. She was so good at this game that she scored over 100,000 points. The highest score for that game right is 69,000 and change. The Neopets Team investigated her score, and claimed she cheated because her score was just to good not to be a cheat. While playing this game she had accumulated so much time that when someone knocked on her front door, she could get up and answer it, come back to the game and finish playing. It’s possible they thought she was cheating because she had been idle in the game for a little while. Her account was frozen. She appealed to have it given back, and was unsuccessful.
If people are very good at games and earn neopoints quickly, their accounts may be frozen for cheating as well. If someone buys a lot of items with their neopoints in a short time span, they are accused of autobuying (using a computer bot to search for items and buy them for you) and they are frozen. Neopets has a clause in the Terms of Service that says they can freeze your account for any reason, which is why they get away with this. They don’t have to prove you did anything wrong, they just have to THINK you did something wrong. They also don’t put all of the website’s rules on the website, so when people inadvertently break those unlisted rules (which has happened to me twice) they are either sent warnings or frozen. Neopets gets away with this, because a clause in their Terms of Service says they aren’t responsible for how you interpret or understand their rules.
So why does Neopets do things like this? I don’t think it’s to be mean, I think it’s a combination of population control and marketing. Anyone who is extremely good at games, needs to spend less time working for it on the website, thus Neopets can’t make money off of them. And people who are inactive for a long time, or accidentally break an unwritten rule, are frozen to control the population. There are milions of people on Neopets. MILLIONS. Their dirtiest trick is they have a rule that if you post links to other websites, you can be frozen for it. This is not about protecting kids from malware/viruses or pornography. This is about keeping people on the site for as long as possible, so that they never leave. This is why earning neopoints is such a time consuming task.
The worst aspect of Neopets though, is the censors. Neopets is not a kids only site, it is all ages, which The Neopets Team actually has said. The filters disallow words like “basement” and “advertisement” because they happen to contain the word “semen”. The filter is strangely hypocritical, because the word “weeds” is not allowed in private messaging (neomail) but is allowed on a game a called Word Poker. In addition, the word “stupid” is banned but “idiot” is okay.
Certain subjects are also banned from the site. Religion and politics are slightly understandable, though plenty of kids can have healthy opinions of and discussions about those topics. But talking about sexual orientation is also banned. That’s only in recent years, and I’m going to guess it was put in place after the site was bought by Viacom. Here’s the thing, the owner of Viacom is big on Scientology, and any money that is spent on the “Neocash” feature of the site or a premium account, goes to, you guessed it, support Scientology. So if you spend money on the website, you are being forced to support a religious practice that is actually banned from being talked about on the Neopets site. Logic, where did it go? So now Neopets is just a cash cow for idiots who believe dinosaurs evolved and died out in less than 7,000 years.
Here is where Neopets becomes dangerous for kids: Kids are easily manipulated. Plenty of scammers exist all over the site who hack into these kids’ accounts, steal their neopoints and items, then sell those items on other websites. Some people put “cookie trackers” in their user created shops, which are places where people can purchase items for smaller amounts of neopoints. These trackers are used to hack email accounts and then hack into a Neopets account and steal items, neopoints and even pets.
The worst hacking story I’ve read about is a girl who’s email was hacked, followed by her Neopets account. Her account was frozen after being hacked. They say they freeze hacked accounts to protect the owner of that account. That may in fact be true. The thief proceeded to steal all of her neopoints and rare items. Even worse, that same thief tried to transfer her pet Draik, an extremely rare limited edition pet that is very difficult to get, to another account. This girl did get her Draik back. But her items and neopoints were not returned to her. The Neopets Team accused her of giving her password to the thief, and said that’s the only way a person’s account can be hacked. That’s like saying a woman deserved to be raped because she worse sexy clothing. Not that I go around hacking but no website is impenetrable, even the U.S. government computers can be hacked, though it would probably take over a decade to do it. But why would they return her stuff to her? Because then she wouldn’t have to come back and invest hours, days, months, years, in getting her stuff back.
I am debating leaving the website permanently. I don’t want to, but I’m not sure I like being there. It’s a website and it’s not important, but two of my pets are named after real life pets, combined with the time I’ve put into the website over the last 12 or 13 years. So we’ll see what happens.