As kids, we remember the thrills of playing our favorite childhood game, where we could dress up our penguin avatars, explore a winter wonderland, and interact with one another through snowball fights. Even as teens, we adored this nostalgic game, still amused by the struggles of trolls being banned for profanity and inspired by the annual Coins for Change charities the game held. Of course, this game is no other than “Club Penguin.”
However, future generations of children will never get to experience these memories since “Club Penguin” has been discontinued as of March 29, 2017. Many older fans are outraged and heartbroken, and some even started petitions to bring the game back.
The massive multiplayer online game, created by New Horizon Interactive, now known as Disney Canada Incorporated, was released on October 24, 2005. Its creator, Lance Priebe, stated that he wanted to create a safe place for children on the Internet by creating a virtual world with no outside advertising. At its earliest state, the game had less than 5,000 users, but it soon expanded immensely. Children were immediately drawn to the simplicity of the fun mini-games, the chat feature, and the freedom that the game allowed. By 2007, “Club Penguin” was trafficked by thousands of players every day.
That same year, “Club Penguin,” along with its parent company, was sold to Disney. Disney made drastic developments, such as adding many more mini-games, complex “parties,” and a fleshed out lore including tales of the pirate Rockhopper and the introduction of the Elite Penguin Force. This caused an even greater increase in the popularity of the game. The franchise then went on to release clothes, plush toys, books, and even spin-off games for mobile devices and the Nintendo DS.
“Club Penguin” was unique in that it created a vast, intricate world meant solely for kids. It was a world for detectives and secret agents who solved brain-puzzling missions and found hidden pins, items similar to badges. It was a world for those who loved pets, as they could spend hours feeding and walking their Puffles, fluffy creatures of different colors and unique personalities. It was also a world for ninjas, who battled each other in a card game and worked their way to a black belt. Parties allowed players to explore new islands and decorated areas, catch ghosts, or even slay dragons. With over 25 mini-games, 40 locations to explore, and 100 parties, “Club Penguin” gave millions of users a grand experience of entertainment and a way to express themselves in penguin form.
One vital aspect of “Club Penguin” was its kid-friendly chat feature, which allowed users to communicate with others and form friendships. While the chat filter turned from being banned for profanity into a meme performed by trolls, the ability to chat was used by some children to its fullest potential. Many were shocked to see penguins voicing their opinions in protest to the recent presidential election. “Not my president” and “My penguin, my choice” became common phrases that one would see throughout the island. In such tumultuous times, the voices of the younger generation have often been ignored or pushed away, being considered immature, yet when kids take to gaming websites to get their opinions across, we must realize their seriousness.
Unfortunately, the number of visitors to the site had been steadily decreasing ever since its peak in late 2010 to early 2011. With the closure of its developer, Disney Interactive Studios, the game was bound to cease development. There were certain aspects of the game that were negatively received by some, such as membership, which players had to buy in order to access all of “Club Penguin’s” features, causing elitism toward non-members. However, the biggest reason for this decline is the fact that young audiences in 2017 have many other forms of entertainment competing for their attention, such as YouTube and Netflix, which have the advantage of more variety in content, and social media sites like Facebook.
Despite the closing of the original “Club Penguin” site and app, Disney hopes to revive interest in the series with a successor in the form of “Club Penguin Island.” The new mobile app attempts to build on the former game, with 3D graphics, a brand new island to explore, and more features such as a level system, blueprints to create clothes, and daily quests. In addition, the app is slightly more story-based, as the game now has “Adventures,” missions given to players by special characters called mascots, such as collecting wood to repair a ship. While it is not exactly the game we grew up playing, the app may serve its purpose by giving future generations the entertainment we had as kids.
As for us older players, “Club Penguin” had a special farewell in its final party before its closure: “Together, we can build an island, create a community, change the world…even tip an iceberg. Waddle on.” While the game is no longer available, our memories of the game will last forever, and we must indeed waddle on forth past this tragedy.