Even though it’s been almost four months since I turned 18, I still don’t feel like an adult — not at all, really. In fact, I haven’t noticed any change in my personal maturity since I was 16 or maybe 14.
Eighteen is just such an arbitrary number to mark the entry point into adulthood. I always think that something’s just wrong when I’m signing a form and don’t need to get parental consent, especially because I’m just as dependent as I’ve always been.
Although I don’t exactly accept myself as an adult, it seems like the world has. It’s moved on and left me behind, telling me, “too bad, you are an adult now, things are changing.” Most recently, the biggest indication that my childhood is over has been the shutdown of Club Penguin.
Club Penguin was one of my favorite online games, besides Neopets and Gaia Online. The latter two are still around, though shadows of their former glorious selves. Their main player base has grown up, and they haven’t been able to attract many newer ones.
Club Penguin had also been going through a slump for the past few years, but I never actually expected the game to close down; I took its stay for granted much like the enduring presence of other online games.
As I think about why, even now as an 18 year old, I have such a love for these games, I realize there is a very similar thread running through all of them. As the player, you lead a virtual life in a world with minimal suffering.
When trouble did eventually come to these worlds, you could take up quests to fix them yourself. They’re a lot like other games that target young audiences. In Pokémon, for instance, a literal 10-year-old can save the entire world from destruction.
But there’s something that separates games like Club Penguin from other childhood classics: It’s the online aspect. You would be playing with other people all the time and building a community together.
Club Penguin was particularly magical in that regard. There were over a dozen servers, many of which would be full or otherwise extremely active, no matter what time I logged onto the site. Within the game’s world, whether I was going to the ski mountain or the secret agent HQ, there were always other penguins at my destination.
It was extremely easy to make friends and get invitations to hang out at other penguins’ igloos.
Even in real life, Club Penguin facilitated friendships. If someone started playing the game in the computer lab, everyone would soon gather around and follow suit.
In fact, Club Penguin was almost cultish in my elementary and middle schools. The game had a large paywall in the form of a paid membership to access most features, including things as simple as dressing your penguin.
This meant we had to make a constant investment of our own allowance in order to play to the fullest extent, and those of us playing were forced to stay glued to the site even when the missions or penguin fashion catalogs had gotten stale.
After all, we’d all sacrificed money we could’ve spent at the ice cream truck after school. The thought process was that we might as well make the most out of it.
So make the most out of it I did. I got extremely good at some of the minigames, like crafting pizzas for penguins in order to earn virtual coins to buy out entire catalogs. Club Penguin helped me feel like a star when I’d go to school the next day and be able to brag about how I’d made my igloo look like a mansion straight out of Beverly Hills.
Now, I wonder what kind of games the new generation of kids is even growing up with, as sites like Club Penguin, which were so complete and well-rounded that they kept me absorbed for years on end, are no longer around. Are they just playing Candy Crush on their phones?
The fact that I’m even wondering what all the kids are doing nowadays must be a testament to my coming-of-age.
I guess I really am an adult now. I definitely don’t belong to this younger generation, since the hallmarks of my childhood, like Club Penguin, have been cut out of it.