Having been a Neopets fan for four years, I decided to check out the Neopets Mall Tour in Santa Rosa, California on Sunday. I brought up the subject up to my father, who agreed to drive me. The car trip was long and tedious, but it gave me enough time to put together a makeshift card deck from my stash of Neopets cards. By the time I arrived at Santa Rosa Plaza I had put together a Neopets deck and knew the basic rules of the game. Like most other Neopians who have the TGC, I had never played the card game before.
I arrived a couple minutes after the mall opened. The parking lot was not too crowded, and for a moment I feared that the Mall Tour only took place on Saturday. Yet the moment I walked through the main entrance, there they were. Needless to say, I was in awe to see a life size mural of Meridell towering over me. Workers from the Wizards company and community volunteers busily maintained the first section of the mall tour: the “King of the Hill” area.
Initially the atmosphere overwhelmed me. Walking down the mall felt like walking down a hectic isle in Walmart. Young children scurried around, their bewildered parents struggling to keep up. Like any sixteen year old closet Neopian I felt embarrassed to be associated with a bunch of kids and tweens, but after I saw others in my predicament I most of my discomfort.
Continuing down the first floor of the mall, I found more sections of the mall tour along with giant Neopian murals. Lost and confused, I had to ask another girl where to begin. In response she directed me to an area marked the “Wheel of Excitement”. This is where people pick up a map marking six Neopets areas in the mall, and a “Passport to Play” which keeps track of each event you’ve been to.
Here are the directions inside the passport:
“The Neopets Mall Tour has a lot to offer and each area you participate in will earn you a stamp. You can collect 7 stamps in all but to spin the wheel of excitement you will need a minimum of 4 stamps from the following areas:
1 Stamp from Live Action
1 Stamp from Training School
1 Stamp from King of the Hill OR League Play OR Challenger
1 Stamp from Artist Signing OR Create-A-Card
Do you have at least 4 stamps? Are you finished for the day? Just bring your completed passport back to the Wheel of Excitement and take your spin for a great prize!
“Thanks for visiting the Mall Tour!”
Two volunteers directed me to the Neopets Training School, where at the time Wizards employees attempted to teach packs of children how to play the Neopets Card Game. I was taken aback with embarrassment again; I did not want to be stuck with a bunch of eight year olds in public learning how to play a Neopets strategy card game. I almost considered leaving the mall at that instant, but I could not say no to the free starter decks employees were handing out. “I could always sell it on eBay, I guess,” I convinced myself. My father had the same idea, so we both stood in line to receive our free starter decks.
The instructions were simple for me, as I had read the rules before I came, but it took a few minutes for my father to learn the game for he had never played a strategy card game before. The volunteers, who were more of a burden, act like you are a child who knows nothing about the game. After 18 grueling minutes of “training”, my father and I completed the Training School. We received our stamps and headed towards the second area.
We decided to go to the Create-A-Card area second because it was not crowded. A volunteer handed my father and me a giant, blank trading card instructing us to draw a Neopet card for a contest. They’ll probably use any creative ideas these kids supply them to boost sales, I thought, so for fun I drew a rock. Of course, after drawing my rock I read the top of the card. The giant card was specifically marked “Neopet Type:” They expected people to only draw a Neopet on the card, not an item. I remedied this by making shadows for eyes, a weird mouth, and named it a “Rock Krawk”. I was too lazy to draw a body to match, so I just wrote a sadistic description, randomly put in statistics for the card, and handed it to the volunteer. My father’s card was just as amusing; he thought that we had to design a new Neopet, so he drew a yellow and green squiggly thing. It looked like a half mutated Slorg drawn by a first grader. I’ll sure be surprised if they do choose my father’s or my abstract art, for we did not want to win the contest anyway.
After showing off our crude artistic abilities my father and I explored the Artist Signing and Challenger area, which shared the same space. Since I still had little card experience, I decided to stand in the artist signing line first. To my surprise the line was shorter than I had anticipated. The line wait took a little over half an hour, but probably because it was Sunday morning. I talked to a Wizards employee who commented that in L.A., the Artist signing line stretched around the mall, making it a two plus hour wait!
Half an hour later, my father and I reached the front of the line where a Neopets volunteer directed us to one of the artists. I asked the artist to draw a Darigan Kourgra, but since she did not have a reference with her, I settled for a black Aisha from my card deck.
Note: If you are going to the mall tour, bring a picture of the Neopet/Petpet/etc. you wish the artist to draw as a reference. This is especially recommended if you want them to draw a Neopet with an unusual paint color, a petpet, faerie, etc.
Overall, the Artist Signing area was the best area of the Mall Tour because this event had nothing to do with the TCG. To my disappointment, she and a second artist were the only actual Neopets staff in this mall tour. The rest of the workers were Wizards employees. The artist who drew our sketches was very nice; we talked a bit about the Neopets Mall Tour and the Neopets website. Neopets had no control over the locations of the mall tour, and even she thought that some of the chosen locations were plain crazy. As for the Neopets website, the artists are primarily working on the Neopets TCG; they are required to complete one series of cards every three months. They are not going to make many more Neopets because there are already a lot of Neopets to choose from. Sadly, she did not tell me about any of the future Neopets, but she did ask me about my thoughts on the recent “cute” Neopets. I told her that it would be great to have some more mature looking Neopets like the Mutant Draik to satisfy other people. When she finished my father and my pictures, a blue Shoyru and a black Aisha, we got an autograph from her, thanked her, and went on to the next area.
Our forth area was “Live Play”. This is the giant Neopets playing area complete with a giant playing mat, cards, dice, and Wizards employees directing the entire game. This area was child advertising at its fullest extent; many children held up giant Neopet cards, rolled giant dice, and were required by the enthusiastic Wizards employees to recite the directions of the game with simple words like:
“Draw! Untap! Neopet! Equipment! Contest!!!”
I, for one, did not chant along with them. I just wanted to get this area over with so I could get my next stamp. Although the game was very colorful and gave people a different perspective of the game, it was much like a giant “Training School” to spark the interests of younger children. To my relief, the game finished approximately 16 minutes later. My father and I rushed into line to receive our stamps and a promotional card on our way out. We each received a holographic “Trading Post” card from the new Mystery Island series.
Since we each needed one more stamp in order to spin the Wheel of Excitement, my father and I strolled over to the “League Play” area. Neopet players could play games against each other, and after each game they would receive either two stamps for a win or one stamp for a loss. There are ten stamp spaces in total, and for every five stamps a person receives a booster pack from any series. Thankfully, my father and I only needed to play one game in order to get a stamp for this area. It was time to put what little knowledge I had about this game to use. I went up against my father, who did not understand the game either, and lost to him. We received our stamps for the area, but I wanted to see if I could earn four more stamps while my father left for lunch.
My next two opponents were both fathers whose children dragged them to the Neopets Mall Tour. They had no idea what was going on either. In fact, I’d say less than 5% of the players had a good idea about the rules of the game, and a third of the players were parents earning booster packs for their children. With my first opponent, we got tired of playing the game; he just wanted one last stamp to earn a booster pack. That earned me two more stamps. I won the third game, earning me five stamps total. The Wizards employee running the area checked my passport. I asked for a Meridell booster pack, received it, and happily went to meet my Dad. Next stop, the Wheel of Excitement!
As stated in the Mall Tour announcement, The Wheel of Excitement is gigantic. Think of a Neopets version of the Wheel of Fortune. Many of the choices were TCG prizes, but one also had an opportunity to win Neopet Plushies (White Aishas or Black Gelerts), Neopet Interactive toys, or a Neopets binder exclusively for the Mall Tour. However, there were also two Pant Devil spaces. Landing on one means a person has to do something “stupid”, but they could spin the Wheel of Excitement again until they get a prize. With my luck, I first landed on the Pant Devil space. I was told to do five jumping jacks (I don’t think consider that embarrassing, but it was fun exercise). On my second spin I won four booster packs of the new Mystery Island Series TCG. My father won four booster packs of the Sloth series. I still wanted to try out the two last areas, so my father and I went on to the “King of the Hill” area.
The rules for the King of the Hill area are insane. One must win four games in a row against three other players to receive a Neopets binder (the same one given out at the Wheel) and a promo card (also given out at Live Play). For pride’s sake I took my place in line with hopes of winning. My first opponent was a young boy, probably around eleven years old. Needless to say, the game did not end very well for me. He was one of few experienced players at the tour, and therefore beat me 21 to 8. I presumed that it was just an unlucky game, so I returned back in line to try again.
My next opponent was another experienced card player, a boy who looked like he was twelve or thirteen years old. He needed only one more win to receive the prize. I smiled when he became quite disgruntled, for I banked many four-point items. Shortly after I won! The boy grumbled as he got up from his seat, and I waited patiently for my second opponent.
The next two opponents were friends of the boy who just lost to me, and they were determined to beat me. One after another I banked twenty-one points, winning both games. Smiling, I enjoyed watching each player walking away with his or her heads dropped in shame. I had won three in a row, and had only one more game to go.
My last opponent was, yes, yet another father. He simply wanted to win one stamp in this area so he could go to the Wheel of Excitement. Having played the game once, he was quite good, and since I had a bad hand he won the game. We were both shocked at the outcome, but he told me that since he just wanted the stamp as proof of participating at King of the Hill I could just claim that I won the game. I agreed, told the white lie to the Wizards employee running the area, and received my binder and a second promo card. I thanked my opponent and left the area before the employee got any ideas.
The last area in the Mall Tour was the Challenger area. The Challenger area is where Neopet Players could challenge an “expert”, a Wizards employee with a powerful Neopets deck. If a player beats him, they win one of each booster pack, plus one booster pack of their choice. By the time I reached the Challenger area it was already 3:15 P.M. The Neopets Mall tour was starting to come to a close. I came just in time, for I was the last person accepted to enter the line.
At the game table, the Neopets player fiercely crusaded against the Wizards employee. Each player had almost 21 points, but the Neopets player won the game. The Wizards employee handed him his prize, and instantly the boy tore through each booster pack like a child tearing through presents on Christmas morning. Now it was my turn to challenge the Wizards employee.
Sadly, I lost. I had a horrible hand throughout the game, with no heroes or experienced Neopets sneaking into my hand. I guess since I was so horrible at the game, the employee had some sympathy for me. I received a Neopets binder just for trying. I thanked him for the game, and met up with my dad who was taking pictures of the event. At last, our day was done. Without trying we had stayed at the mall for the entire duration of the event, a total of four and a half hours.
The Neopets Mall Tour is definitely a trip recommended to anyone who has the transportation to go; some people went to the Santa Rosa Mall Tour from as far as Oregon, and another person arrived by plane. Yes, it was sponsored by Wizards, and yes, there were many stereotypical blonde haired teenage girls giving me “the look” while I played the card game, but seeing some of the Neopets artists and getting many freebies made the trip worthwhile. The best part was as I strolled around the mall, I remembered when Neopets was a small website run by two college students, and at the time nobody ever thought the website would become this widely recognized. Even after all this time, Neopets, as a business, is ever growing, ever changing. And I, a Neopets fanatic, had seen the website from the beginning. By strolling down the mall I appreciated knowing the first years of Neopets and watching the giant leaps this website has made.
Note: For anyone interested, there are opportunities to volunteer at a Neopets Mall Tour near (or not so near) you, although I do not know where to sign up. You get a free Neopets Mall Tour T-shirt given out only to volunteers, and for one weekend you assist at a Neopets station. – imakemoneyforyou