Neopets

If it weren't for Neopets, this site would not exist. I can't imagine I'm alone in learning HTML from Neopets' 'Pet Pages'. For each of your maximum 4 pets you had a html page that you could freely edit, and Neopets had a small HTML encyclopedia teaching the very basics. Looking at other pet pages for inspiration, I found various sites dedicated to offering background images, 'kaoani' animated emoji characters, midi music, etc, all with a ready to copy-paste box of code to make it as easy as possible to add them to your site. Incidentally it was here that I first learned about Sailor Moon - which had never aired on terrestrial television in the UK. I also learned that "Cardcaptors" was known as "Cardcaptor Sakura" and had different music associated with it, though I still had no idea of it's Japanese origins so I imagined it was a USA vs UK regional difference.

With regards to Neopets itself, it was a fantastic site that offered so many activities for a child learning about the internet. Besides playing with the pet itself through simple images and text descriptions, there was a world to explore via illustrated maps that sent you to different places depending on where you clicked. There were also many Flash games to play, my favourite being Meer[?], a snake clone. I loved playing snake on the old Nokia phones but was too young to own a phone myself, so I appreciated the opportunity to play it. There was also user shops that could be customised, and I loved seeing what people had come up with, and customising my own. There were the stock markets and plushie tycoon 'games' which I never understood until very recently. A game I discovered not long before I moved on from Neopets was 'Cheat'. I loved that game and still invite friends to play it with me when a deck of cards is on hand - though people tend to know it by the less child friendly name 'Bullshit'.

The 'Neopia Times' was also a great edition. I looked forward to reaching each new issue, to read the stories and comics. I dreamed of being in it myself one day, so I wrote stories and made terrible comics in MSPaint, without ever actually submitting them. I realised it would be necessary to create several comics up front, and got bored after only one page - something that would repeat throughout my life as an artist!

I continued playing Neopets until it reached seemingly the height of it's success. Real world toys and games started being released, so I got myself an interactive Shoryu - who had been my first pet (because I loved dragons). A new game was added to Neopets [?] which allowed you to create your own levels using a map editor. This couldn't have been more perfect for me. I loved making levels and playing through others' levels.