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Falling in Love


by teaspill

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Neopets is many things. Flash games, an economy simulator, a venue for light chat and creative expression – all of these are common and beloved aspects of the site. But regardless of the varied interests we users may have, we all share one trait: We are all neopet-owners. And most neopet owners occasionally fall into a rut in their relationship with their pets. It's too easy to see them as a valued object, an amalgamation of their colour, species, and name with little to love or really make them distinct. Or, at the very least, that's the nightmare we'd like to avoid.

But how does one avoid that nightmare? How can we, as neopet-owners, come to truly and inextricably love our pets? That is the question this article aims to answer. So sit down, grab yourself a Slimesicle, and hold your pet tight as you read.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the secret to falling in love with your pet is the most intuitive thing in the world: Play with your pets. I don't just mean take them to the Merry-Go-Round or play with a Blue Bouncy Ball on the floor (though those can be excellent bonding experiences). There are a million ways to play with your pets, and I'll be covering several of them in turn.

The easiest way to begin paying more attention to your pets is to make them be active while you're restocking or chatting on the boards. If you have side accounts, you could even start spending more time there, or transferring those pets to your main account from time to time. It's a tiny thing, but merely making an effort to acknowledge the existence of your pets by looking at them more often is a great first step towards getting truly attached.

The next step is to include them in everyday Neopets activities like buying your pets new clothes, feeding them interesting foods, or reading them books they'd enjoy. Splurging on exorbitantly expensive wearables for your pets, and seeing them look absolutely perfect as a consequence, is always satisfying. Similarly, noticing that they don't like Orange Chicken, or absolutely love Blandfish at every feeding is a lot of fun (even if it does take place entirely in your imagination). Finally, reading your pets books doesn't just have to be for trophy placement – figuring out what sort of books your pet would like to read, and then buying them for them, is a great way to make your pets truly feel like fleshed-out characters.

Characters, that's a point. I know of nothing in the world that makes me feel more attached to my pets than their characters. This is an easy task as well, particularly because you can start out small. Think of a few adjectives and character quirks, and eventually you'll find yourself forming backstories and imagining your pets walking around inside your head, interacting with each other.

Making a character for your pet is just one step in the maelstrom of artistic expression you can engage in with your pet. Once you've done that, writing stories about them, or poetry from their point of view is a natural step. If you're not a writer, your pet's character can still inform you if you attempt to draw your pet. Trust me; even if you're not an artist, drawing your pet can be a lot of fun. Take your time and start small, and you'll soon find yourself poring over your pet's features for hours on end.

After getting good at any of these artistic past-times, entering them in contests to attempt to win your pets trophies becomes a viable option. If you're a frequent chatter on the Neoboards and a passable artist, the Beauty Contest is an excellent way to earn your pet a trophy to be proud of. If you're a writer as well, you should remember to take a look at the Pet and Petpet Spotlights – they're a great and rarely-remembered way of earning pets trophies. Of course, if you're not much for artistic expression, there is always the Customization Spotlight. Regardless of your method, earning your pets trophies is a wonderful feeling, and something almost any Neopian can do with time, focus, and dedication.

And last of all, raising the numbers on your pet's lookup is a nice way to watch them advance. Whether you're reading them books, feeding them gourmet foods, or sending them on jobs for the Faerieland Employment Agency, there's a feeling of pride and affection that will inevitably arise when you see that your pet has definitively, indisputably accomplished something.

If you choose to raise their battle statistics through training or zapping your pets, you'll find yourself in the sticky mire that inspired me to write this article: The joys of battling with your pet. More on that later.

To return to the immediate point: After trying even a handful of these methods, you may find it disturbingly easy to grow attached to your pets. You may even find yourself falling in love when you didn't see it coming, when you weren't trying, and when you had other plans.

It's happened to me.

I once created a pet with the intention of trading her. Day one, second one, a purge-time impulse creation: Namira. My plan was to train her and trade her as a very well named battle pet with a high custom. And so I did.

She toiled for over a year under my side account's lab ray, suffering zap after zap as I pushed to raise her strength and endurance to spectacular levels. Simultaneously, I trained her level and defense, first at the Swashbuckling Academy, and then at the Mystery Island Training School, to counteract the lab ray's notorious failings as an implement of training.

When I stopped zapping and started advertising, she was a league 9 tank with 165 hit points, a 125 boost for defense, and a 55 boost for strength. Not optimized for either one-player or two-player battling, quite peculiar, but, to me, fascinating and exotic beyond anything I had ever imagined to see in a neopet.

I had never battled with a tank. My old battle pet is a league 13, lightly-trained lab rat. She has 430 hit points, a 300 strength boost, and a 125 defense boost. She berserk attacks while dual-wielding my two heaviest-hitters on most turns. She needs and uses no strategy or subtlety. Simple, thoughtless victories are the way she plays.

And that made Namira's stat-line look incomprehensibly alluring to my jaded, battle-weary eyes. She could use defensive items. Nay, she needed to use defensive items to stay alive in spite of her weak attacks. Her methods were unexplored territory, a mystery to my mind. I wanted to know what it tasted like.

One day, in the midst of advertising her availability, I decided to test her mettle. I sauntered to my main account, borrowed a paltry selection of inexpensive weapons, and hastily conveyed them to my side account. In mere moments, Namira was wielding a Leaf Shield, Ylanas Blaster, and a Hanso Charisma Charm.

And then I took her to the Battledome.

This was the beginning of a decadent spiral. I watched and helped her battle. I witnessed her victories with fist-pumping glee, and I lamented her losses with utter despair. The lamentations led to planning, and subsequent action: I bought her several bottled faeries, trained her to the next strength boost, and even bought her another million-neopoint weapon. In the end, my level 80-some pet took down the Meerca Henchmen and Ryshu the Nimmo.

As I cackled with glee, I realized that I was now resoundingly impressed with my still-up-for-trade pet. Yes, I'd stopped advertising. But she was still up for trade. The notice was on her pet-lookup, and I found myself quite confused about my own desires. Did I love Namira more than I could love any pet she could fetch me? Was I willing to abandon a year of planning and training due to an accidental fall into the sticky mire of affection?

It took me some time – more time than I am happily ready to admit – but in the end I did have to acknowledge a simple fact: I love Namira. I love her strength and her defensive capabilities. I love her name. I even love the soft turquoise underbelly of her zombie Cybunny ears. And I realized something that, I think, is worth stating.

It's easy to fall in love with a pet. It's easy to get attached. The methods are myriad, insidious, and sometimes present themselves as traps you fall into, completely unwitting.

But love's the goal. Affection and attachment are the goals. And when you have a pet you truly love, there's nothing more in Neopia to be desired. So go out and buy your pet a Vampire Apple, or play Kacheek Seek, or send them to the Swashbuckling Academy. I promise that you won't regret it. You might even fall in love.

 
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