My not-so-dirty little secret

How many of you are familiar with Webkinz? You know, the bigger-than-Beanie Babies, smaller-than-Build-a-Bear stuffed animals that come with a password that lets you log on to a companion web site? If you have young-teenage girls in the house, or even just in the family, I’m betting you’ve seen these animals many times over the years. You might not know they’re special at first glance, but you can identify them by the colorful W stitched into the sole of one of their feet. Some of them are very appealing, some less so, but they’re all equal if your goal is access to the Webkinz web site.

When you log onto the site and register your stuffed animal, you unlock a year of access to all their games and activities. Each animal you register has an online avatar, and there is a care-taking aspect built into the experience. It’s not quite as rigorous as the one for Tamagotchis, where if you don’t feed them they die. In Webkinz-land, if you don’t feed your online pet, well, to tell the truth, I don’t know what happens. I’ve never let anyone’s happiness/hunger score fall below 85. I mean my daughter, my daughter never let anyone’s score fall below 85.

Okay, so it’s out, my not-so-dirty little secret. I am a closet Webkinz fan. For me it’s not because of the animals (although I’m a sucker for anything I can name and pretend is real), I’m in it for the games. It’s a site I can go to for mindless entertainment without worrying about whether or not I’m going to inadvertently download something to my machine, or fall in love with a game that you can only play until you’re addicted and then you have to buy it. The games are just like the ones you find at grown-up sites, but they’re in primary colors.

These little stuffed animals were all the rage some years ago when my daughter was exactly the right age for them. They came in droves; birthdays, bribes, rewards, just-because-I-love-you presents. She was on the computer constantly and all the stuffed animals got lots of attention. Then the unthinkable happened, she outgrew them.

One day I logged in using her password and was greeted with a message that said that the last Webkinz we had registered had now reached a year old and it was time to say good-bye. I panicked. Stop using Webkinz cold turkey? Were they out of their minds? I saw no way out. I grabbed my visiting exchange student and dragged her to the mall where I made her pick out a Webkinz animal, and presented it to her as a present, minus the tag with the access code.

I’m hooked up again for one more year. I know I’m going to expire next summer so in the spring I’ll start planning for the end. I might even pick my least favorite of the animal avatars and see what happens if you let it starve. Then I can call this whole thing an elaborate experiment, rather than what it really is, my guilty pleasure.

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7 responses to “My not-so-dirty little secret

  1. You’re too funny! They have all those free games on Facebook, you know.

    My son loved these when he was younger, but he lost interest in caring for them so they died a slow death until the year expired. Now my daughter is into them but can hardly be bothered to go on. We have a rule in our house that we won’t pay when the year is up. Since they hardly play, it would be a waste of $ anyway.

    I learned a long time ago that I have to severely limit my access to video games or I waste away too many hours.

  2. Let’s just hope our intergalactic overlords are not as callous about letting their petlings starve to death as you seem prepared to be.

  3. Wow….sounds just like software to me….planning for “end of life…” haha…we all have our secret little habits. Mine is….wow…you know, I guess I’ve gone public with so much, I really don’t have any more. Even my age is public, as of this morning’s TV broadcast. (I didn’t see it, but heard that my protest and interview was broadcast on Fox25 news…yeah — I know — right wing TV. But they did jump on the story. And I wanted people to make sure they knew I was one of those “on the cusp” of being an old lady…..and life is difficult enough as an old lady….the law doesn’t need to make it any more difficult or expensive to stay alive.

    You enjoy your little Webkinz…anything that is free and gives us joy is OK.

  4. If only I’d known. But now that I do, wait until next year. I’m going to gather up my hairy little Toby (with a year’s supply of kibble, just in case) attach a one year subscription to your favorite game site, wrap her as a gift and run like blazes.

    You can identify her by the mud on the bottom of her paws and stuff her to your heart’s content. Don’t worry about starvation. She’ll let you know when it’s time to eat.

  5. Ha, ha… Very entertaining. I love that you got the stuffed animal for your exchange student but kept the code instead of just buying one for yourself! I have been weaning myself of WOW and Facebook games. I notice I enjoy them a lot for a while, but then…they just annoy me…even though I WANT to keep playing…despite it being painful. That’s becoming my rule of when to quit a game. However… I’d still love to challenge you to a few games of Word Scramble…

  6. You wrote: “I’m a sucker for anything I can name and pretend is real.”

    OK, you can name me and pretend I’m real. I don’t need food, but you can pay my mortgage!

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