"[Neopets] just literally introduced me to the concept of, 'you can build a thing on the computer and it shows up on the screen.'"
- Game developer Nina Freeman, speaking to Glixel about how playing Neopets influenced her life.
It's been nearly twenty years since the Flash-powered debut of Neopets, and the online virtual pet portal/games hub/blogging community is still going strong -- albeit under new management.
Now, a new feature published by Glixel seeks to shed a bit more light on how Neopets has helped inspire kids (and especially girls) to make their own digital creations -- leading many to pursue careers in game or software development.
"[Neopets] just literally introduced me to the concept of, 'you can build a thing on the computer and it shows up on the screen,'" game developer Nina Freeman (Tacoma, Cibele) told Glixel. "I had to be 12. I was really young."
One of the things that's so impactful about Neopets' design, according to the folks cited in the article, is how sprawling and open it is: at some point during its lifetime the game has hosted a slew of customizable virtual spaces and characters, a games portal, a virtual market where players can earn/lose virtual currency (which can be bought using real money), and lots more.
"I didn't start coding because I thought it'd be a promising career,” software engineer Madison Kanna explained. "I just wanted to create something really cool, and on Neopets, you could do anything you wanted. From there I just started tinkering around and experimenting."
The full article is well worth a read over on Glixel, as it goes beyond games and tech to explore how Neopets and the communities of players it gave rise to may have helped lay the foundation for an expanded "digital girls' culture" today.
For a bit of complementary reading, consider checking out this rumination from Gamasutra contributor Katherine Cross earlier this year about how cultural "junk food" gets less respect when it's girly.