It is hard to believe that Neopets is approaching the 10-year mark isn’t it? It felt like only yesterday when I first signed up my own account and started playing with my Skeith. My how the game has changed! To celebrate this great milestone, I interviewed the biggest Neopets fan I know, Josh, who signed up to Neopets 16 days after it was launched, spent thousands of dollars on Neopets merchandise, and is still playing strong at Neopets to this very day.
With such a rich history at Neopets, who better to take us down memory lane than someone who was there at the beginning?
Hi Josh! For many of us out there Josh is a name that won’t ring too many bells, especially for the newer players at Neopets, but for many of us old school Neopets players, Josh is a name that we heard every now and then through the grapevine. Josh, who are you and what is your history at Neopets in a nutshell?
Wow, where to start. Most Neopians would likely know me as Fuzio, The Grundo King or for the really old Neopians, The King of the Evil Fuzzles. I joined Neopets on December 1, 1999, about 16 days after it was launched. During the early years, I was a volunteer monitor for the site but that unfortunately that didn’t last long due to legal reasons. It certainly was entertaining and informative into how the inside of Neopets works, made a few friends and a few enemies.
I spend a lot, probably too much, of my time in the Help Chat because I’ve always enjoyed helping people and that’s where most of my friends reside. I have a rather unhealthy obsession with Grundos and Evil Fuzzles *cough*worlddomination*cough* and I’m usually one of the more outspoken users on the Help Chat and you either love me or hate me.
I also previously owned, co-owned or worked for, various Neopets fan sites ranging from evilfuzzle.com, neohero.net, neonewsnow, neo-net and a few others that most Neopians probably don’t remember.
My friend, Raven, and I, years ago, popularized the idea of adopting painted / LE pets from the pound, morphing them into Green Unis and placing them back in the pound. Mostly for entertainment purposes because I had nothing better to spend my neopoints on. I was also behind the release of the additional colours of Evil Fuzzles and the Royal Grundo due to my constant and persistent prodding of some staff members. (;
That’s certainly quite a history you have there, and precisely the reason why I asked to have you on board for this interview. In all my years running PPT, I don’t know any else who has been so involved with Neopets as you have and have witnessed all the ages at Neopets. Would you describe yourself as a major Neopets fan or just something you do to pass the time?
Ha, I wish it were just something to pass the time. I’m long past the point of being addicted! I’ve yet to take a single “break” from Neopets since 1999 and I log on at least once a day, sometimes spending over 6 hours a day on the site. To most that may not seem like much, but considering I’ve lost ~15 accounts unjustly (due to the enemies I’ve made on staff) and I keep coming back even after being threatened by their legal team, it’s a lot more than someone who didn’t love Neopets would be willing to put up with.
I’ve also amassed probably around $3,200 in Neopets merchandise. Some of it being things which you can’t actually buy from any store, such as; displays, advertisement banners, posters, buttons and the like. I’ve also framed all of my Rare Item Code cards and placed all of my plushies in acrylic display cases. So, I would say I’m certainly a major Neopets fan.
Your stories about the Neopets staff are certainly interesting. What many Neopians don’t know is that Neopets has undergone not just drastic changes on the site itself, but also in the game culture. Lets call these phases in Neopets “ages”. How many distinct ages in Neopets can you remember?
That’s a good question. Honestly, I sometimes try to forget them because it makes me miss the old Neopets. I remember back when Adam and Donna’s Welsh humour could be seen all across the site, and as things progressed, they began pulling that away from the site, bit-by-bit. Once Doug Dohring took over, you could tell Neopets was slowly transforming into a company and away from a gaming site.
To me, there’s really only a few “ages” of Neopets. There was, what I’ll call, the Stone Age: Staff were very open about the goings-on of the company, they listened to their players and used a lot of user submitted content and ideas in the game which really made users feel like they were apart of the game itself.
Then there was the New Age: Neopets began forming itself as a company. Slowly pulling more advertising into the site, launching merchandise into stores, working on the art around the site and just making, overall, great improvements to the site. It just seemed… professional.
Then, the Borg Age: It seemed like overnight, Neopets turned into this dictatorship and one giant banner ad. They don’t seem to listen to the ideas of users, constantly touting “legal reasons”, their customer service dropped off the face of Neopia, Sponsor Games being released left and right, changing a lot of the art to appear more “cartoonish” to attract the younger audiences, releasing/announcing things or making promises and never delivering on them or being about 3 months late on releasing it. All it all, it just seems like we’re stuck in the Borg Age which to me, equal unprofessionalism. I truly hope Neopets can jump to a new “Age”, I still love the game but I think it could be SO much more and so much better than it is now. It has a lot of potential.
Let’s go to the Stone Age. This would arguably be the age that many old users often wish Neopets reverted back to. There was a lot going on at this time wasn’t there? The site was growing, lots of people were going to the game, and also the Mari_jhane and ad0 saga. If I remember correctly, you were quite involved with these sagas as well, either directly knowing the people involved or having friends that knew them. I like to call these times the Dark Ages.
Haha, Mari_jhane and ad0. Now those are some stories. Most fan sites don’t really have a lot of information on either of those two and if they do, it’s just bits and pieces. Both of them were, and still are, friends of mine but the jist of what people have heard about them are true. MJ was a known scammer and close friends with quite a few staff members who overlooked her deeds until she decided to post all of the Neopets Staff AIM screen names on a website called puppetz.net. Why she did it, I honestly can’t remember it was so long ago. And as a side note, all staff were required to have a separate AIM screen name for work but I’m not sure if this is still true. As for Ado (ad0 was his username, Ado is his real name), he was basically a hacker no matter how much people want to claim it’s “impossible” or not true, I will tell you about an incident. He IM’ed me one day, about 3-4 years ago, and asked me what my username on Neopets was. I told him, and he said “Look at your pets BD Weps”. So I went and what did I see equipped to my pet? (I never battle) A SoS and Slumberberry Potion. Needless to say, I was quite shocked myself but happy none the less. Neopets never caught it either. There’s a small glimpse of knowledge regarding those two. (;
There was so much going on back in the ‘Stone Age’, I think a lot of it was overlooked by the users because they were generally happy with the site. Now, a staff member can’t even seem to take a coffee break without someone screaming that they’re not doing their jobs on the Neoboards. There was A LOT of staff showing favouritism toward certain users in the ‘Stone Age’ (i.e. MJ). I’ll openly admit, I was one of those users for a couple of years; a monitor friend of mine would frequently allow me to send her board links to users who were breaking the rules and she would transfer pets or change their species/colour for me whenever I wanted. She later quit to go back to college.
As wrong as it was to accept the favouritism, things like that didn’t really “destroy” Neopets because aside from that, the staff listened to the players and gave them what they wanted in terms of content on the site. Now, it just seems like they want to do what will bring in more users or the most money, regardless of rather it’s what the majority of players want.
Sounds like such an exciting time. I recall playing during that time and there were all these rumours flying back and forth about MJ and ad0 it was insane. There was a little bit of fear from players who didn’t want to be hacked, and a lot hoping that they wouldn’t be the victim of an unruly member with connections (kinda reminds me of the Harry Potter series). These elite players have moved on now, do you still know anyone who started that long ago (aside from myself of course) that still play and are as hardcore as ever?
A lot of people were scared of losing their accounts but they both mainly did what they did because they were trying to make a point. Nothing more. Mari_jhane had a personal score to settle with HRobi (also close friend of the staff), and let’s not even get into that. Lol I do know a few users who have accounts near the 90 month range but any close friends, they’ve only been members about 3-4 years. I would have to say, the oldest friend that I ‘believe’ still plays (but he hasn’t logged in for almost a year) is maddhatter. A lot of my friends from the old days lost their accounts unjustly (which happens a lot more than people realize) and after trying for months to speak to someone and not receive an automated response, they just gave up and quit. One of the many reasons why I truly wish Neopets would improve their customer service. A lot of the older players, in account age and physical age, are leaving because it seems like they’re catering to the younger audience.
Ahh Helen Robinson (HRobi). Possibly the most famous Neopets player of all time. What can you tell us about her?
Honestly, I don’t know a lot about Helen. I have spoken to her on a few occasions and I was previously a member of her guild but promptly kicked out when Helen found out I was friends with Mari_jhane. They both disliked each other immensely. I will say, I don’t have a favourable opinion of Helen from the conversations we had in the past, she was extremely rude even before the MJ issue. We also had a mutual friend, so I had a few stories but since I didn’t experience it first hand, I can’t say rather there is any truth behind them or not and I’m not one for spreading rumours.
Very good. We all know from the past what flame wars can erupt from rumours don’t we? Speaking of trouble, after Neopets left the Stone Age and entered what you coined the Borg Age, you started running into a little bit of trouble yourself. What happened?
Whew, that’s a story and I’ll try to shorten it but still include everything. When I had my monitor friend (previously mentioned) was when all the trouble began. She had offered to invite me to the company picnic if I could get a flight out to CA (I live in KY), and I promptly accepted.
Apparently there is a staff member (who still works there) who isn’t rather fond of me or what I do in my personal life. My account was frozen for alleged “harassment” and when Wendy asked the staff member what happened, he had a few choice words that I cannot repeat. (; Wendy proceeded to unfreeze my account, since she was a monitor and knew a mistake had been made. Within 24 hours, my account was frozen again and Wendy informed me she had a meeting with those above her about her actions. She told me she explained the situation and it was decided that my account would stay frozen. This is partially what moved Wendy to quit sooner than she had planned.
After that incident, I created a new account and it was instantly frozen stating “The automated system does not know why your account was frozen.” I attempted to get it back to no avail. So, I created another account. Frozen instantly. I waited a few days and created another account, Fuzio.
I had Fuzio for about 2 years or more and received my fair share of warnings for being a bit too snarky on the boards. This was around the time that Neopets released the new layout and everyone’s user lookups were messed up. So, I immediately began working on mine and used some coding from a friend who clearly stated anyone could use said coding and NOT give him credit. After a week of having my User Lookup completed, I received a warning for ‘stealing’ my user lookup coding/graphics. I fought it, with proof the owner of the coding gave me permission. Neopets refused to remove the warning from my account. So I went on playing and about 6 months later, a user on the boards felt it was appropriate to swear at me, so I reported it and was frozen for “harassment” because I called the user an idiot. The user? She still has her account to this day.
After that, I fought like crazy to get my account back. I was a Premium Member and went onto my Alias and created a thread on the Charter boards to be met by Greg (flighttime) who was, as usual, extremely rude and sarcastic telling me “You know what you did” (because at the time, I had no clue why I was frozen). He refused to tell me exactly what I did wrong and said I would never be getting my account back and to be thankful I didn’t lose all of my accounts.
So, from that point on, I’ve been having my accounts frozen at random intervals for reasons which are completely false and rather I have proof or not that I never did what they claim, they continually say that they will not return my accounts. It’s just one enormous headache.
After continually attempting to contact Neopets and actually speak to someone about losing my account, I received a warning stating I had been discussing “dating” on the site, which I have never done in my life. Then, immediately after, I received a neomail stating Neopets had reason to believe that I am under the age of 13 and the ages on my accounts have been changed to reflect that.
When I contacted Neopets about this, the “Privacy Manager” stated he issued the authorization to have the age on my account set to under 13 and that it was one step they were taking to barring me from the site completely because I am “not a good Neopian citizen” and have an “obvious displeasure for how we run our customer service” and told me it was best that I find my entertainment elsewhere. I attempted to speak with someone further and all of my attempts were ignored and $15 were refunded to me for Premium and NC Mall purchases.
That’s quite a story right there and still to this day, you still play Neopets. What keeps drawing you back if your accounts keep being frozen?
You know, all of my friends online and in real life, even my parents, have asked me this question. To be honest, I don’t know why I continue to return. It’s idiotic for me to do so when they treat one of their most dedicated players in this manner but I can’t help it. Neopets has been apart of my life for almost 9 years and I am so completely obsessed with Grundos, I couldn’t possibly leave. I have a little Grundo figurine on my desk, I think he’s just the cutest thing. Neopets gives me something to do, it’s kind of like my hobby I guess. I’ve been a member for so long and I know so much of what has happened over the years, I feel it would be such a waste to just never come back. I enjoy helping people and spreading everything I’ve learned over the years to others. (: I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true.
I’m addicted, plain and simple. Haha.
The mark of a true Neopets fan. Do you think the Borg Age has helped wipe out the wide discretion that Neopets monitors had a long time ago to freeze and unfreeze accounts as they see fit? It seems that this was the time marked by Neopets becoming more of a company in addition to the original game, and as such one would expect that the staff would be expected to act in a certain fashion. I’m certainly surprised to hear that your accounts are still being frozen.
I think Neopets, in wanting to become more professional, has completely lost sight of what customer service is truly all about. Neopets is one of the few companies I’ve ever heard of which has only one form of communication with their customer service: a form on their website. Most companies offer a ‘contact us’ form, an email address, a mailing address and a phone number. Neopets likes to control their users, that much is obvious, and this is just another way to do that. One thing that I just find appalling is their turn-around time. Users are LUCKY if they receive a response to their inquiry within 30 days. Most professional companies frown upon any turn-around time over 48 hours, but not Neopets. Their “hundreds” (direct quote from their employment page) of Email Support Staff are slacking, to me there is no excuse to having to wait more than 3 – 4 days to receive a response via email, and an actual written response, not an automated message that is copy and pasted into the email body.
Let’s move onto the Borg Age. What was the biggest change here from the Stone Age?
The biggest change… I would have to say their biggest change would be the content and art. I know that sounds lame, but I look at the old images on my hard drive that I’ve saved over the years and it just amazes me. I honestly never knew what Neopets would become when I first joined, I didn’t really think about it or care. We went from the days of Bruce Forsyth and Macy Gray to the pets we have know, 3D Games on the site, Customization, NC Mall. I think they’ve did a great job with the site, I especially love Key Quest! (I’m a huge board games person) It just seems like user unhappiness over shadows all of this, so many people lose their accounts to scammers, lose a ton of money to a glitch (and Neopets refuses to return lost NP/items even though they have logs of everything and know exactly what you lose), many more have their accounts frozen unfairly, people just get upset and it destroys the good things about the site and makes them no longer enjoy the game.
Very wise words from a player who has had such a long history with Neopets. It seems sometimes we just need to let go and move on and try not to make such a big deal out of things doesn’t it? When I think about the new age and the bog age, what helps me distinguish between the two, is the official departure of Adam Powell and Donna Williams. These two have had such a huge impact on the site (as they were the creators after all). No doubt the game has changed since its inception – some changes I really like such as the 3D games for example. Do you think Neopets will be able to move onto something bigger and better?
Yea, I do think people make far too big of a deal out of Neopets sometimes. I mean, I’ve lost a LOT of hard work numerous times and I would get upset, but it is just a game. I really only play for my friends, I don’t try to earn NP and get everything I want anymore, I don’t have the patience if I’m just going to lose it all again.
I agree, the departure was certainly something which people need to realize says a lot about Neopets Inc. I mean, the original creators of the game specifically stated they left the site because they disagreed with the direction it was heading and were unhappy with ads, ads and more ads. It speaks volumes that they have created their own gaming company, which I follow closely and I’m anxiously awaiting their first game.
Honestly, I really hope Neopets gets past this slump. As unhappy with their customer service as I am, I still love Neopets. It still brings me back each and every day and I still have fun…most of the time. I want great things for Neopets because I see the potential but I hope THEY can see it and they try to bring it out. I really just hope they take a page from Adam and Donna’s book and listen to what they’ve had to say since leaving the company. Listen to your users, if you do, they will be more apt to forgive you if something falls through or isn’t released on time or if mistakes are made. And please please please, work on the customer service. I honestly believe if they improve that aspect of the site, it will jump leaps and bounds in the right direction because most spammers, scammers, cheaters, etc. do so because they’ve unfairly lost an account or a massive amount of NP/items due to a glitch.
Again very wise words and some interesting insights there. So we’ve covered the start and present of Neopets, let’s go to the middle and then finish off with the future. Neopets the Movie… what the?
Ha, they’ve been planning that darn movie for at least 3 or 4 years I believe. I honestly never thought it would happen but I’m not surprised since Viacom took over, I mean they do own Paramount Pictures. 😛 I have always been looking forward to the movie but when I learned of what the plot would be, I have to admit I was extremely disappointed. If I remember correctly, it’s about Jake the Explorer and the Deserted Tomb. No offense, but could we get more Indiana Jones? I was never a fan of those movies but really, don’t create an animated movie about Neopets which so closely compares to another famous movie. There are so many different angles they could have went and it feels like they just chose the easy way out. I heard that it’s heading only to DVD release, not theatre release though, so they may just want to test the waters and see if a theatre release would be worth it in the future. I will still certainly be buying the first copy to hit the shelves in my area. (;
Wahaha. Clearly you were one of the fans when Neopets started merchandising then during the new age. Plushies!
I think ‘fan’ would be a bit of an understatement. The employees as Claire’s and Limited Too! began to know me by name and they would hold the displays, posters and other things to advertise the merchandise in the back for me when they were finished with it. The day anything new was released, I was there first thing in the morning, especially if it was a species/colour I was particularly fond of. I look back and laugh at the money I spent over the years and just how addicted I had become, each week, most of my pay checks would go toward the merchandise. But it made me happy, so I can’t complain. When I went to buy the PS2 game, they hadn’t even opened the boxes in the back yet, but I made them. Lol!
That’s certainly quite the impressive collection you have there. Maybe one day it will be worth a lot of money – that wouldn’t be bad compensation for your dedication to the game now would it? We’ve covered now most of the ages in Neopets, each marked by significant events. Where do you see the future of Neopets heading?
Really, I don’t have a clue where Neopets is headed in the future. They’ve started releasing books, they’re releasing a movie and they already have a console game. I’m not really sure what else they could do, but it seems like they’re always in the forefront of new ideas when it comes to gaming and connecting it to the site. I’m very excited about the Neohomes 2.0, but disappointed at the same time. It appears to be strangely similar to Habbo Hotel as opposed to, say, Google’s Lively Chat, which is more 3D.
I would really like to see more events hosted for Neopets, especially in other places besides CA. It would have been awesome if they kept the actual Trading Card Game and continued with the tournaments around the US. I hope TNT comes up with more ideas to push Neopets into the future but I haven’t a clue how they could accomplish that. I guess it’s a good thing they don’t pay me to think, huh?
Indeed. Thanks Josh for taking us through 10 years at Neopets. It’s been an interesting journey nonetheless and I’m sure a lot of people out there who read this will learn something new. Any final words for all those readers out there?
Ah, final words for people to remember me by. Must think of something insightful and witty. *long pause* Neopets is a game and a place to make friends. I see so many users, even adults, being so snarky and rude all the time. Don’t let Neopets control your life, there was a point where someone would upset me online and it would leek into my real life. Have fun, enjoy Neopets and for gosh sakes, stop abandoning Grundos! They need love too ):
Thanks for letting me share a bit of what I know and have learned over the years. – Kym Huynh