Neopets as Fiction

Economics Internet Culture News
A couple of years ago, my kids showed me a website called Neopets.com where they create free membernames, adopt weird little animated virtual alien-pets, and communicate with other owners of weird little animated virtual alien-pets.

It seemed like a pretty dicey concept to me, and I didn't really see what was so great about it. That was a couple of years ago -- now, 25 million members later, Neopets is being bought by MTV and MTV's parent company, Viacom. The two young British entrepeneurs who created Neopets.com will share in the price of $160 million.

I've never really caught "Meerca Fever" myself (that is, I've never felt a strong urge to spend any time at all nurturing a "Meerca" or an "Iasha" or any other type of Neopet pet). But, I am intrigued by the idea that all this money is paying for a venture that offers no commodity other than imagination. Neopets is in the business of creating fabricated realities, and MTV thinks this is worth $160 million.

I know I've got a bad habit of going around saying this or that is "metafiction". Well, I'm not going to say Neopets is metafiction. In fact, Neopets is simply fiction. When you sit down at a computer and create a theoretical, computerized life form, you are engaging in a practice diagramatically parallel to that of writing a short story, novel or play. You are encapsulating life. You are stepping into realms unbound from truth. This is what writing is, this is what dreaming is, and this is what virtual reality entertainments are, from SIMS to video games to online community sites.

I'm not sure if I like Neopets or not. As a writer, though, I have to hand it to them. Here in the literary world, we're used to doing a whole lot of imagining, sometimes for little reward. It's nice to see our fictional genes have some kind of market valuation, somewhere.
2 Responses to "Neopets as Fiction"

by Billectric on

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by tkg on

Fiction at neopetsMy daughter is now 11 and found Neo-pets a year or two ago. She and her friends became obsessed with it. She'd sit there hours and still will.I like it. This coincided with her learning to type very fast and well. She learned to write her own book reports for school. She started to spell better because she was writing all the time. She even learned some html. I'd see scraps of paper by the computer with long img src urls on them, scribbled down by her. And she was in third or fourth grade at the time. I thought that was cool. She was the one who'd tell her friends how things on Neopets worked, like how to set up an image etc...She really grew in her skills in using this website. At the same time, yeah it bugged me a bit that she'd waste all her time there and who knows who might be there at ther other end etc...Neopets like so much owes its conceptual debt to Pokemon.As far as Fiction or metafiction -- NeoPets had a thing where the kids wrote their own fiction.The members would take turns doing round-robin story writing -- an action story writing type thing. "Grundy and Grundo was having the most perfect day sof far" -- that's the first line of one started by "Neopets staff" back in December 2000 (and yes the grammatical error is in the original, not my grogginess.)The story was continued by kewlgrli, otaku_gomper, dragongirl73, ruler_of_sweetz and others. I knew Neopets was getting big time when I saw mechandise a year or so ago.