It’s been many years since I last got to play Club Penguin, not just because I grew out of it, but because it was shut down to never be seen again. As a kid, I was a massive fan of the game back in the day, and can honestly say I probably wouldn’t be doing the same job now if I hadn’t ever played it. I thought it would be fun to reminisce about the game that shaped my childhood and give it the send off it deserved.
I first played Club Penguin on September 22nd, 2006. You are probably wondering how I know the exact date, but I definitely remember that High School Musical first came out on the same day. That afternoon I was at a friends house after school making the most of his games console as I didn’t have one at home. In between games I caught his sister playing this weird looking game on her computer. She was controlling a penguin wandering around a virtual work playing games and chatting with others all over the world. I was 9 at the time and the game really appealed to me in so many ways. She showed me the ropes and I diligently remembered the name of the game so I could play it at home on our family PC! I’m not sure how much longer I stayed at my mate’s house, but knowing me I was probably champing at the bit for my mum to come and pick me up so I could try this new game all for myself.
When I did get home I jumped onto the computer at the earliest opportunity (maybe after watching HSM first) and created an account. The first hurdle was coming up with a username. I tried all my favourites which were all sadly taken. I got a bit frustrated and knew I had to come up with something random, so for some reason a man who hands out leaflets on the street came to find so I typed “The Flyer Man” in the username section and created the account. It wasn’t until a few minutes after did I realise that the usernames had a character limit so from that day on for about another 5-6 years my penguin was known as The Flyer Ma.
My first few hours on Club Penguin were brilliant. I distinctly remember going into the gift shop and finding another penguin in there to which I asked “Shall we be friends?” to which he responded by running straight out the door. I had a good laugh and from that point on I was hooked on the game. My dad bought his first computer the same week that I was born, so I’ve always had a computer to play on, but my time on the web was limited to playing flash games through a dial up connection. I was never on MSN chat or Bebo or anything like that so Club Penguin was the first time I’d been able to chat and interact with people all over the world. There was just so much to do on Club Penguin. You could play classic games like mancala or connect 4, try your hand at arcade games like their version of Space Inavders, or enjoy their own original games like sledging or mine-cart stunts. All while also chatting with others.
In my many years of playing Club Penguin as a kid, I don’t think I ever had the premium membership for any more than a month. This membership made the game have an interesting hierarchy. You were either a member or non-member. Members had access to all the cool clothes and accessories which were just pipe dreams for us mere mortals. As a child you really look up to the member penguins as they are fully kitted out in all sort of weird and wonderful creations, while you are just wandering around with a hat you got for free for becoming a tour guide. In hindsight all these togged out penguins were just other kids with parents who would buy them the membership and probably not worth admiring as much as I did. Within a year or so of playing I really got my penguin “style” down to a minimalist number of a red bandana and a pair of green sunglasses. Both items were free at events, but I really felt I rocked them better than all the other peasant penguins.
Club Penguin also pushed me towards the career I have now, without me even knowing. As an avid fan of the game, I created a blog to showcase my penguining skills. It would highlight where the latest pins were, event guides, and even the secret items available in the catalogues (even if I couldn’t buy them). I built up quite a following on my blog which was a real badge of honour at school to those who cared. My blog also included funny images I edited on MS Paint. When I first created them I was so pleased and thought of my self at the vanguard of computer graphics, but obviously they don’t really hold up now.
If I told you that my blog had 20,000 views in it’s lifespan you wouldn’t believe it, but it actually had around 150,000 views which even now I still find staggering all these years later! It was the first time I had used WordPress, which I still use now, and the first time I created digital art for any decent purpose. Amazingly you can still see my old blog up today. I hope I have better writing skills than I had back then. One of the highlights of my blog was organising a party to celebrate my website views. Amazingly a few turned up to dress up just like me!
Another comical story that highlights Club Penguin as not just a fun game, but also a way to socialise, came while still at primary school. I was playing CP with a few female school friends and was called to my tea so left my penguin alone while I was eating. I then logged out and thought nothing of it until I came to school the next morning. At first break a group of girls from my class rushed to me to ask me what my answer was. I had no idea what they were talking about. Apparently one of the girls fancied me and had asked me out while I was AFK eating my tea. It appeared to be quite big news among the group, to which I was totally oblivious. Well to cut a long story short, we are now married with 3 happy children. Only joking. Like most things at school, it was all forgotten about by the next day, but I was pleased to know that my penguin’s minimal style was getting the girls.
If you are of a similar age to myself you probably played Club Penguin too. (Unless you were one the weird guys who played RuneScape) It was a fantastic game that was a friendly and safe place for young people to have fun and socialise with their friends. Even though not a strictly British thing, Club Penguin does feel engrained in the memories of those who played it all over the UK. I created a shirt to celebrate the game and all the great things it did for me as a kid. Sadly the game is no more, but it still lives on in the nostalgia of adults all over the world. Forgive my rather self indulgent blog post, but I thought it would be fun reflecting on how Club Penguin was for me as a child and how it helped me in my career today.