(image, via blog.poptropica.com)
I made 1,000,000 online friends in a year when I was 15, kinda.
I knew some of their real life names, and I only talked in private with a few. So, these weren’t necessarily ‘friends’.
I made a site called: Poptropica Help Blog, which became the number one community for the game Poptropica. I no longer run the site but it’s still dedicated to news, guides, and speculation, surrounding the game. And the community continues to grow.
Poptropica is a multiplayer game where children solve island mysteries in a ‘safe space’. The creators limit the risk of harm by controlling an avatar’s interactions with other avatars. Your child can not choose their avatars name. Character creation generates a name of a random adverb and a noun e.g. Scary Tomato and Spotted Dragon. I later found a loophole in the name generation and changed my avatar name to Codien. It felt awesome.
Conversations between avatars are preprogrammed to ‘quirky’ questions. Like: Am I a duck? You could only respond with Yes, No or Quack. I wanted to respond Fuck you and your duck, kid. I felt like the game’s limitations had removed the possibility for creativity. The game wasn’t created for me, but its design still appealed to me.
The game’s limits prevented children from making meaningful connections and friends. The only way to find a community was outside the game space. That’s probably why the community on Poptropica Help Blog grew to over 10 million in 5 years.
I developed the community in private, on a family computer, with only a few people knowing. I spent most of my time online connected to people around the world, and I never thought it was remarkable. It even had a monthly ad revenue. If I were to have done it now, I would call it my job.
This experience is the foundation of my Communications degree, and part of why I’m in BCM240.