Hunting for Avatars: A Newbie's Guide
Have you checked out the Neoboards? If so, you'll notice that each user typically has a shiny, 50x50 animated picture below their name. These avatars are, for many Neopians, a source of angst, longing, and excitement. They are more than just a small image; they are a quest, a calling. And now you, too, can join the Great Avatar Hunt! Though collecting avatars can be quite expensive, getting started is easy, fun and addicting. Don't say I didn't warn you!
Why do avatars (or "avvies," as some call them) even matter? Oh, my dear, they're collectable. Which means that of course, some of us have no choice but to doggedly pursue them to the ends of Neopia. Some people collect stamps, or stocks, or trophies. For others, only an avatar will do. What can I say -- collectibles are addicting. Your user lookup also has a count of how many "secret avatars" you've obtained... perfect for showing off!
Avatars are also great ways to show off your dedication to a particular type of activity on Neopets. Want to flaunt your game-playing skills? Let everyone know that you collect stamps? Show off your crazy luck? Chances are, there's an avatar for you. There are even a bunch just for flaunting your wealth, if that's your style. Unfortunately, you can only show off one avatar at a time, but that's okay; you can switch it up as often as you like. My personal favorite is my Invasion of Meridell avatar... I loved that game, and even if it's been put out to pasture, I feel like the helmeted Moehog that accompanies my Neoboard posts demonstrates my lasting affection for it.
If you are foolhardy and brave enough to join us in this quest, then by all means -- let's begin! Here's the basics you'll need if you want to take part in what I call the Great Avatar Hunt. Good luck!
Choose your targets.
Saying "I want to collect ALL the avatars!" is fun, but a better strategy is to pick a few avatars you think are really cool, and focus on getting those. These are your targets, the avatars that you will spend hours glaring fiercely at your screen in order to corner successfully. Those noble hunters at the very top of the Avatar Hi-Score Table have over 300 avatars, but Altador wasn't built in a day. Unless you are a truly gifted hunter, it will take you a while to rise to the highest ranks of avatar collectors, too, so it's best to start out by picking your battles.
Plus, setting reasonable goals means that you'll have a good number of celebrations to balance out your frustrated rage at how difficult it is to get that lucky 24 at Bilge Dice...
Know your quarry.
While all avatars have different requirements, there are some common themes. Games, pets, clickables, battledome, neopoints/items, and plot-related avatars are a few of these. It can be good to start out with some "easier" themes, like the clickables and cheap item-related avatars, and then move on to harder stuff like game-related avatars.
Look up the avatars you've set your sights on, and know what you're in for. A skilled hunter always prepares in advance. If the avatar will be expensive to obtain, as many are, make sure your bank account can handle it; likewise, be prepared to spend a lot of time, if necessary. On the plus side, the game-related avatars will probably make you quite a few Neopoints as you try to unlock them...
Find a guild of fellow hunters.
Guilds can be a great resource for avatar hunters. Not only is it great to have friends to cheer you on in your avatar quest, but some guilds also help their members obtain avatars. Sometimes this means that there's a guild-owned Evil Blue Fuzzle that gets passed between members; in other cases, it means that people will remind you when a time-sensitive avatar is up for grabs. Regardless, it's great to have friends who are also pursuing obscure avatars -- craziness loves company, and guilds are a great place to find it.
Check out the Avatar boards.
Similarly, you will find your fellow hunters gathering in the Avatars section of the Neoboards. Here, you may find tips and useful information, or you can just gather to commiserate about the ups and downs of the Hunt.
A great rule of thumb for getting avatars is to participate in site events. Plots, the Advent Calendar, special pet days, the Spooky Food Eating Contest... the more involved you are in Neopia, the more likely you are to stumble across a lot of cool avatars! This is probably because TNT wants to encourage us to get involved in site events, and I have to say, it's a great reward for doing so. :)
Practice makes perfect.
For game-based avatars, don't get discouraged! A true hunter knows that when at first you don't succeed... fail, fail, fail, and try again. Some avatars are really difficult to get; that's why they're typically accompanied by prestige, out of respect for the foolhardy Neopians who dedicated themselves to the pursuit. It's not just the game avatars either: many avatars require extraordinary patience. If you do get frustrated, allow yourself to take a break and clear your mind before returning to the hunt.
When you get a new avatar, make sure to try it out! After all that hard work, you may as well let everyone know that, yes, really, you spent way too much time pulling the Lever of Doom. Try out different fonts and color schemes to match you beautiful new avatar!
Enjoy the hunt for its own sake.
This one may seem counterintuitive. Yes, of course it's exciting when you obtain that latest avatar. But remember not to get too caught up in worrying about your avatar count. A true hunter enjoys the chase for its own sake. Even if you never get that elusive avatar, your time has not been wasted. (Or am I just telling myself that to make up for the fact that I STILL don't have the Wheel of Monotony avatar? Hmm....)
I hope that these tips helped! Remember, though avatar collecting can become an expensive obsession, it should be a fun pursuit. Now, excuse me; I have to go improve my Gadsgadsgame score...