MMO Family: A parent's look at Neopets


MMO Family is your resource for leveling a gaming-specced family, from tips on balancing gaming with family life to finding age-appropriate online games for everyone in the family.

Neopets is one of those uber-cute browser-based games that seems to have been around forever but is still going strong. It's a game that's aimed at younger kids, but it somehow manages to attract older kids as well -- and is often a guilty pleasure for their parents too.

My kids are fans of Neopets from way back, and I confess to keeping a few of the adorable little pets for my very own. So what's the attraction here? Let's take a look!

Neopets

Developer: Neopets, Inc.
Publisher: Neopets, Inc.
Launched: November 15th, 1999

What systems does it run on? The system requirements for Neopets couldn't be simpler: You just need a web browser with an Adobe Flash plugin. The game is entirely browser-based, so there's no download or installation time.

How much does it cost? Neopets is free-to-play. That's not to say that there aren't spending opportunities! Players (or their parents) can purchase Neocash with real-world money either online or in the form of Neocash cards from stores. Neocash is spent in the site's item shop (the NC Mall) on customization for the player's pet and housing.

What's the game all about? In short, it's about caring for a virtual pet, but that doesn't really do justice to the scope of available games in Neopets. The game is set on the world of Neopia, and players can explore the world's different lands, play games, create and decorate a home, and even duke it out in a light, turn-based version of PvP. Players are rewarded for participation in various games and events with Neopoints, the other in-game currency.

The available games are wide-ranging in style, offering everything from puzzles to action to multiplayer. There is a section in the games room titled "Luck & Chance" that contains slot machines, dice games, and card games -- you may want to chat with your child about that one or avoid it entirely if the gambling connotations are a problem.

What does the game look and feel like? Neopets has a very young, cartoonish look, but don't let that turn you off. It's had over 10 years to grow and evolve, and the result is one of the most extensive browser-based games out there. The site might be a little bit difficult to navigate for younger players, but with a bit of coaching at the start, they'll be off and running in no time.

The colors are bright and eye-catching, the character designs are fairly simple (but all adorable), and the games and maps are simple to follow and begin.

Who's the target audience? Neopets is aimed at "the whole family" but operates with its youngest fans in mind. The game's safety tips clearly warn against sharing any personal information or photos, promising a warning and possible account ban for players who violate the rule.

Who plays? Unlike the audiences of a lot of games that claim to be for "the whole family," this game's target audience actually takes Neopets up on its offer. Parents and kids alike play, sharing resources and competing for high scores.

What playstyles does the game most suit? Neopets is aimed directly at the casual and/or young gamer. Players who may not be able to commit to an hours-long raid will love the jump-in, jump-out style of Neopets. Registration is fast and easy, the barrier to entry is practically nonexistent, and you can sit down and be involved in the game in less than a minute. As with the game's appearance, don't let the quick and casual style turn you away -- there is a lot to do here.

How does the game address kids' internet safety? As mentioned before, the sharing of real-world identification and photos is a no-no on Neopets. Furthermore, the game does not lend itself to heavy one-on-one communication. There are forums, but the rules are very strict in order to keep them family-friendly. The one exception to this is Neomail, the in-game mail system, so you may want to keep an eye on your child's incoming messages.

Still looking for more details? Read our article on all the different ways you can evaluate kids' games, or visit MMO Family's Parents Guide to Kids & Family Gaming.

When it's time to find just the right game for your family, turn to MMO Family's growing Parents Guide to Kids & Family Gaming. Drop us a line with your thoughts, suggestions, family game experiences, and questions about gaming and parenting at lisa@massively.com and rubi@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.