The Background Story
The first time I got my neopets account frozen, mradamface, I was furious. After all, this was 6 months of hard work down the drain. 6 million neopoints, a pet with an idb rating of over 600, millions of neopoints in weapons: all gone with nothing to show for it; all because I was working off the same ip address as my scamming brother. When it became clear that I was not getting this account back, I just decided that I might as well start anew. Id heard that life on neopets was better the second time: you didnt have to deal with the initial frustration; you could avoid all the newbie mistakes with this account etc. etc. At first, all these predictions were right. I was having fun, my pet was training hard, I had made over 4 million neopoints in my first month on neo. In short, everything was great. Thats when the other shoe dropped. Apparently neo decided that I was doing too well to be a newbie. I could just imagine scenes in my head of Adam and Donna looking at a computer monitor at my account seeing lots of neopoints and a half-decent pet and cackling maniacally just before hitting a giant red button clearly marked freeze. If you can imagine how mad I was the first time I got my account frozen, I was about 10X as unhappy the second time. It seemed sort of pointless, I couldnt play the game to the best of my ability without being labeled a cheater despite the fact that neopets could clearly see from their records that I had built my fortune through hundreds of small, legitimate transactions in my shop over several weeks. I was mad, I was abused, and I was not going to deal with neopets e-mail support any longer. I decided it was time for a road trip. After conferring with some people here on the PPT boards, I was all set to go down and give TNT a piece of my mind. It was smurf-kicking time.
When I decided I was going to go it was a Thursday and I set my trip for Tuesday. First of all, planning it became something of a logistical nightmare (even when youre 19 and own a car it can be difficult to explain to your parents why youre driving for 12 hours and 800 miles to see about a virtual pet and fake money). I found a friend to go with me (who shall henceforth be known as the Dave) and we had a nice assortment of Dolly Madison snack cakes and carbonated beverages for our trip all planned out.
In the next few days my journey started to take on a life of its own. It spawned one of the fastest growing threads on PPT that Ive ever seen and inspired over 50 people to private message me asking me to do various things for them that ranged from asking about their account to punching Adam in the face. After awhile I began to feel that I wasnt really going on this trip for me anymore, but more for the idea that some person could theoretically go in and talk to TNT like they were real people and get something done. The sort of things people were posting made me feel like this was more than just some stupid kid asking for his account back: it was a crusade for justice. The classic moment in all of this was when Magenta made a picture of some neopets figurines holding Go mradamface flags, which I forever saved on my hard drive. After a few days of not playing neo and eagerly preparing for my journey things were finally starting to come together and on that fateful Tuesday morning Dave and I got up and got ready to go. We felt like the Blues Brothers, we were on a mission from God.
We left Phoenix at 6AM and started cruising down the highway at insane, illegal speeds. After about an hour we started planning all these hilarious things to do and say when we got to neopets HQ. We had everything planned out, from how to distract any lurking security guards with a box of krispy kreme donuts to how Dave was going to flirt shamelessly with the receptionist while I picked the locks on security doors. In the event that we were asked to leave we were going to crawl through the ventilation system inch by inch Mission Impossible style until we were over Adams office. In short, we had all of our bases covered. We had even brought potential bribes of SPAM and asparagus along just in case they would get us through the door. We drew the line at the Dolly Madison snack cakes though, no matter what Adam couldnt have those. Wed rather crawl through the ventilation system than give away our Ho-Hos. A couple hours later, disaster in the form of the California border patrol struck. While crossing over the border form Arizona to California the border patrol stopped us and asked us some routine questions. One of those questions was “Do you have any fruits or vegetables?” Of course, our asparagus was a vegetable. Apparently, California is afraid of the severe economic effect importing 5 stalks of asparagus would have on its economy. The California police officers did their duty and took our asparagus away, leaving us with fewer bribes for the neopets office. Our only consolation was to eat more Ho-Hos.
Less than 20 minutes later though we had a fatal error happen on our drive. While driving behind a large semi-truck (This was Daves turn to drive, I thought he was tailgating the truck but he explained to me he was conserving fuel by drafting) the re-treaded tires of the truck peeled off incredibly quickly and zipped under my car at 70 miles per hours ripping off my oil pan in the process and creating a massive oil leak. Long story short, we were forced to get the car towed to a small town in California and get the leak repaired which ate up the better part of the day and made it impossible to make it to neopets HQ and back at a decent hour.
We were foiled. Not only had we not made it to neo HQ but we had lost our asparagus, paid out lots of money in gas and towing fees and had gained at least 5 pounds each from eating too many Dolly Madison snack cakes. Worst of all we were forced to return home without a thrilling story for the people who wanted justice on the PPT boards and without my neopets account yet again. Dave had to work the next Thursday but I decided I owed it to myself and everyone else to go again just to come back with a great story and maybe even get my account back. In the meantime, I still wasnt playing neopets.
The Second attempt and success….kind of
Come Thursday I was by myself, even without the snack cakes that Dave and I had completely consumed when we got back two days earlier. But I still had a hunger for justice that had not been satisfied. This time things were going pretty smoothly without a hitch; I crossed into California smoothly (this time vowing to buy my asparagus on the western side of the border) and drove smoothly up into the LA metro area by noon.
I was just stopping at a Burger King to get something to eat that I made a discovery. Sitting at one of the tables all by himself was Aswin Saha: a great friend Id had in high school that I hadnt seen in over 2 years. I eagerly ran over and sat across from him and talked to him all about life and what had happened to the both of us since graduation. Hed transferred from Arizona State to UCLA (hence why he was in the LA metro area) about a year ago and was doing debate. It wasnt too long before we were telling stories about all the people we knew in high school and who had failed and who had succeeded and the whole bit. Id been sitting in the burger king just talking to my old friend for about an hour when he invited me back to his summer dorm so we could hang out and play video games just like the old days.
This of course clearly conflicted with my stated goal of seeing neopets headquarters and getting my account back. I was thinking about it when I realized some things. What is neopets really about anyways? If you go to the front page of neopets.com it has statistics about how it has built a community of over 50 million users. People talk all the time about what great friends they have on neo or on PPT or anything like that. In fact, part of the reason I had made this journey in the first place was because I felt like I was doing something that the PPT community was sort of vicariously living themselves, doing something that others couldnt do because they didnt have a car or didnt live close enough or for a million other reasons. In the end though I was faced with a pretty glaring flaw: my allegiances to neopets and the neopian community, of whom I had never actually met anyone who was part of it, had gotten so strong that I had actually begun to neglect people in my life who were actually there. It wasnt until right then that I realized the guy that I had started to make the initial trip with (Dave) hadnt seen me in nearly a month before we started driving on that crazy journey. And this guy was my best friend! Through the course of the week when I had no access to neopets.com for lack of an account I had actually hung out with him and other friendsa lot. Furthermore, Id been far more productive when I wasnt reading the newspaper and restocking at the same time or trying to study for the LSAT while simultaneously scooping out the news page and trying to solve the Lenny conundrum.
Right then I realized that neopets.com, as wonderful of a website as it is and as much fun as I had on it, had not been a positive influence on my life but rather a detriment. Im amazed, to be honest, that I still have a girlfriend with as much time I spent playing neopets during the school year. It was in this sort of moment of epiphany that I realized that I wasnt addicted any more. As fun as it was, after a week of not playing I had re-discovered a better life than what neo could have ever offered me: a life of fun with real people instead of virtual pets.
Immediately I took Aswin up on his offer and went and played video games all-day and goofed off on the streets of LA. That evening, I drove back home having never visited neopets headquarters. In one sense, I failed completely; I drove for hours and never accomplished what I started out to do. But in another, more meaningful, sense I think I re-gained and embodied what neopets was always all about in the first place: I found my community and got in touch with an old friend. Im happy now that I didnt make it, because Im enjoying life without neo. I realize a lot of you will be disappointed that I never went and want to burn all your go mradamface flags and send me hate pm messages. All I have to say is “Can I bribe you with a Little Debbie snack cake?”